November 19th, 2009 By JAMES PITKIN | News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics

Notes from the Protest: Al Gore and Teabaggers Descend on Portland

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As promised, this "near-naked Mother Earth" was outside Al Gore's talk in Portland last night, asking the former vice president to bolster his green beliefs by going vegetarian.

Amber Tegantvoort, a 22-year-old from Seattle, made her demands on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"He has talked about how a vegan diet is the best way to stop global warming," Tegantvoort told WW. "I would like him to try it."

She was one of hundreds of protesters outside the Keller Auditorium last night prior to Gore's 7:30 p.m. talk.

As left-wingers heckling a progressive Democrat, the PETA contingent was a bit of an anomaly. Otherwise, the protesters were divided into two camps occupying opposite sides of Southwest 3rd Avenue in front of the auditorium.

For Portlanders already aware of climate-change science, the interaction between those two groups — and the bewildered reaction of the well-heeled progressives filing in to hear Gore's $45-a-head talk — gave far more insight into the obstacles facing our planet than Gore's 90-minute speech provided.

Along the east side of the street, on the steps and sidewalk in front of the auditorium, were several dozen pro-environment Gore supporters. With a small handful of exceptions, they were mostly carrying ready-made signs printed by well-funded groups like Greenpeace and the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Far more colorful were people on the west side of the street, atop the Keller Fountain and along the sidewalk. There, hundreds of ramped-up Teabaggers and assorted right-wingers held a rally featuring a rock band and a speaker from the libertarian Cascade Policy Institute.

The rally seemed tightly organized, but when questioned by WW, several of the most prominent protesters denied they were paid to attend.

"Absolutely not," said Greg Halvorson of North Portland, who was wearing right-wing buttons and carrying a sign that said Climate Change: The Religion of Fools.

Halvorson said he was there "just to support the truth on climate change and defeat the rhetoric by Gore."

After rallying on the Keller Fountain, the Teabaggers lined 3rd Avenue to wave their signs and shout at the lefties in front of the auditorium. They also cheered wildly when a gas-guzzling oversized pickup passed the crowd.

Most of the Teabaggers we spoke to said they were from the suburbs. As they railed about freedom and vowed to pray for environmentalists, the Portland liberals who were arriving to hear Gore's talk were visibly uncomfortable.

Ellen Huffman of Northeast Portland said she was surprised at the vehemence and turnout of the Teabag crowd.

"I would hate to sound naive," Huffman told WW. "I should have expected it, but it's such a divisive issue."

As noted by several of the conservatives protesters, they'd taken the time to make their own signs, as opposed to the lefties waving banners handed out by progressive political groups.

Here's our photo collection of Teabagger sign wisdom:

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