March 23rd, 2010 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, Cops and Courts

In Which I Try to Cover a Police Protest and Get Kicked out of a Public Park


Well, that didn't last long.

I arrived at Col. Summers Park in Southeast Portland at 6 p.m. to cover what was billed as a "Convergence & March to Oppose Yesterday's Police Killing." That killing, of course, being the fatal police shooting Monday in Hoyt Arboretum of a person who has been identified only as a 58-year-old white male.

In the park I found about 70 people gathered on the grass. Some were eating bowls of vegetarian lasagna, pasta salad, greens and other goodies served out of large pots nearby.

The crowd was black bloc with a strong hint of hippie. The same type of folks who made up the most visible protesters in the 1999 Battle of Seattle. I didn't fit in with my short hair, brown shirt and blue jeans, but I hung out.

The group sat on the grass and discussed what to do in response to the "police murder of one of our fellow citizens," as one man put it.

No one gave their name as they were speaking to the crowd. One woman urged the group to make this not a one-off protest but a long-term effort. Another woman who described herself as a medic pleaded with the crowd not to endanger the group during their march tonight to an unidentified police station.

Meanwhile I did the same as I do covering any protest — took notes, snapped a few pictures.

That didn't go over too well.

One man began pointing at me. Another asked me to identify myself. I told them my name and my newspaper. A man in short-cropped hair suggested I should fuck off. Twice.

Another man who had been acting as a self-described "facilitator" for the group then asked for a show of hands on whether "the corporate media" should be allowed to stay. (The company I work for controls an empire of two alternative-newsweeklies.)

The first vote was about 50-50, and I was pretty impressed with myself. Then the facilitator asked for a tie-breaker. On the second vote, only one woman I saw voted in favor of allowing me to stay. Everyone else who raised their hands — and it was most of the group — voted me off the island.

I'm glad they didn't do this kind of thing in middle school. No, wait — I think they actually did.

So, I was ordered to leave — from a public park. But not to worry, the "facilitator" said I would be forwarded a communication from the group at a later date. That seemed OK. Until another man pointed out that all 70 people in the group would have to agree on the contents of said communication before it was sent.

I'm sure it would have been a stimulating press release, but I fear now it may never get to me.

At this point a cameraman from Fox 12 showed up with camera rolling. And suddenly I felt like the coolest kid in school. They ran him out of the park without even staging a democratic vote on the issue.

No matter. As we exited, a kindly man with a black mask over his mouth — he introduced himself as a local radio host — explained that some people just aren't comfortable with the media.

"These kids really want to be respected," he said, "because they really have something they're fighting for."

He declined to give his name. But he may not have realized that the Fox camera was rolling the whole time he spoke to us.

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