June 29th, 2010 5:33 pm | by MATTHEW KORFHAGE News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, CLEAN UP, Politics

A Prologue to Protest

In Defense of Animals protest 1

For about the umptieth time over the past 12 years, 30 or 40 protesters from the Portland Animal Defense League gathered Monday, June 28, outside the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton (an outjut of Oregon Health & Science University) to protest that institution's maltreatment of monkeys in medical and psychological experiments. This particular protest was fairly widely reported in the press, largely because the protest generated about five arrests after protesters chained themselves together and blocked access into the campus.

Less widely reported was the same group's activity of the day before—Sunday, June 27. About 30 protesters holding the same signs and unfurled banner gathered in front of the home of OHSU researcher Kathy Grant's home on Southeast Division Street. The intention was most likely intimidation, a we-know-where-you-live sort of menace.

But the protesters were so apple-cheeked, so uniformly young, so polite and obviously well-raised, that the overall effect was that of an itinerant school group who just happened to be sporting anarchy patches and vegan-positive T-shirts. The protest chants were belted out as joyfully as campfire songs, and as they strolled past on one of their laps around Dr. Grant's block one of the protesters smiled visibly beneath his bandanna, and waved merrily.

In Defense of Animals protest 3

Police attention, as one might expect, was not forthcoming. Grant did not appear to be at home—her house was very dark—and the neighbors' interest appeared to be mostly bemused or paternal. One protester asked me in a soft voice to write my representative about OHSU's research, while another informed me that Kathy Grant's research on primates was not only cruel but a "waste of taxpayer money" because she biopsied drunken monkeys only to prove the obvious fact that alcohol causes liver damage—not exactly a radicalized argument. (It's also not quite accurate; even a cursory websearch shows Grant to be a neuroscientist interested in studying the biological mechanisms behind alcohol addiction.)

Protest of this sort generally thrives on attention and visibility; it is not there to change minds but simply to assert and re-assert a viewpoint as existing at all. A protest with no audience—which this one almost was—should technically not be much fun. But still, on this mostly lonely block, in front of an empty house, with its only real audience a pack of lookie-loos from a full-on pig roast down the street, the kids all still looked pretty happy to be there. They were the nicest pack of protesters I'd ever seen. Even the MURDER LIVES HERE and oh-so-twee KATHY GRANT MAKES MONKEYS SUFFER—written on the sidewalk in pink and purple and green pastel chalk—were all a little bit... well... cute.

Whether Grant found it amusing when she arrived home, or whether the protesters would have been quite so polite if they'd seen the carnage in the backyard at the local pig roast (at which your faithful correspondent was happily ensconced), are perhaps other questions altogether.

Pig Roast in Southeast Portland
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