If you've been to a protest in Portland recently, you may have looked up and seen a message projected onto a building—statements like "Families belong in communities not detention camps," or "Where are the children?" or "NRA enables domestic terrorists."
You've seen the work of PEST and probably not even realized it.
It's actually the work of two men, who agreed to speak with WW on the condition they be quoted mononymously. Harlan and Mike are retirees turned activists, who focus on issues like the environment and gun reform, and most recently have turned to immigrant rights and the abolition of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They go out under cover of darkness and project political statements on buildings and any other available surface—and once the USS Portland—with a spotlight and custom plates.
"It's important to resist so we don't go willingly into the darkness," Mike says when asked why the duo spend their golden years setting up demonstrations in the middle of the night. "I can't just play golf anymore."
The two met after a mission to take a school bus that had been carefully insulated down to the protests at Standing Rock in 2016. Harlan, who was newer to activism at the time, becomes teary-eyed as he remembers arriving.
"It was the most spectacular scene I ever saw," he says. "There were people from all over the world."
As for the projection gig, it just sort of fell into their laps. They got their first spotlight from a fellow activist, and have since upgraded to a lighter, quieter machine.
They are modest about their contributions to Portland. They say that while they are doing something that is technically legal—light can't be considered graffiti or trespassing—others are truly putting themselves at risk for a good cause.
But PEST is not about to stop. The two plan to do as much as they can to make people start paying attention to the issues they care so deeply about.
"We're all looking for that silver bullet. How do we turn this thing around?" Mike says. "I may be completely crazy, [but] I don't think so. There's nothing more important I can do."
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