One hundred people lay dead on the ground. Well, actually, they were just pretending to be dead. This was the die-in Saturday in Pioneer Square, an event organized by local peace activists from several organizations to mark the death of more than 3,000 American soldiers as well as hundreds of thousands of civilians in the Iraq war.
At noon, Rev. John Schweibert of the United Methodist Peace House in Northeast Portland kicked off the event by reading a poem, which many complained they could not hear because Schweibert did not use a microphone.
Many people—between 75 and 100 by most counts—then laid down on the cold, brick floor of Portland's living room and played dead for a few minutes before standing up again.
“I was hoping that everyone would lie and be quiet for a while, but it didn't happen,” said Olivia Watt, 85, of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. “I felt it would be more effective if everyone had laid down absolutely silent for an hour or as long as they could stand it, but it was a good event,” she said.
Linda Wiener, who helped to organize the die-in, explained the abbreviated protest saying, “We planned for a very short event because we [thought] it was going to be awful weather.” The clear but cold day was a pleasant surprise, she said.
Later on, a smaller group of about 50 people laid down on the square for about a half hour. Among them was Maya Zwerling, 15. “I'm here because 3,000 people have died and it's not OK,” she said. “I had nothing to do on a Saturday. I might as well do something productive.”
After the event was essentially over, many people were still milling around the square carrying signs and talking to fellow activists. It was a peaceful, low-key event, but for a small group of self-described “student anarchists,” who brought a large banner that read “Fuck the Troops” into the square around 1:00pm.
“Well, if they want to choose to go in the military, that's their choice and if they want to choose to kill women and children, that's their choice. I don't support that and I don't support that choice,” explained a young woman, who wished to remain anonymous, while holding up one end of the hand-painted banner.
There was a heated exchange between the students holding the “Fuck the Troops” banner and a man who identified himself as a veteran. A security guard stepped in briefly, but no physical violence ensued.
“This [banner] is just the biggest insult to this demonstration and to all the people who have put a lot of work into this,” said Steve Keller, 45. “I think they should be forced to do their own demonstrations. They shouldn't hijack other demonstrations.”