Despite the cancellation of today's City Council hearing on whether Portland should rejoin the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, about 70 protesters still turned out at City Hall this afternoon to oppose the city's participation in the JTTF.
Chanting "No secrets, no spies, we want our civil rights" and carrying signs reading "Stop FBI Harassment," protesters said participation in the JTTF could jeopardize Americans' civil liberties. They voiced particular fears about FBI infiltration of advocacy and minority groups, including peace and environmental activists and Muslim communities.
Protesters also expressed frustration at City Council repeatedly delaying a vote on whether Portland should rejoin the JTTF. The vote was originally scheduled for Feb. 24, then postponed to today. And then on Tuesday, March 8, Mayor Sam Adams canceled today's hearing, noting in a news release that there had been "significant new input" from the feds that required more analysis. Protesters didn't buy this excuse.
"They moved it in order to spread out the opposition," said Philip Kaufman of the Oregon Progressive Party, one of the rally's sponsors. "They're trying to disorganize us."
Protesters also circulated petitions vowing to campaign against any city commissioners who vote to rejoin the JTTF. The demonstrators entered City Hall at 1:30 pm—about an hour in to the rally—with the aim of hand-delivering these petitions. There, they were met by city Commissioner Randy Leonard, who told them the public hearing had been delayed after increased signs of cooperation from the FBI on finding a solution that would not require Portland rejoining the JTTF.
Leonard, who has opposed Portland's participation in the JTTF, then gave the protesters some advice—perhaps in an attempt to dispel the crowd.
"We've received hundreds of very thoughtful emails," he said. "We encourage thoughtful emails."