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Portlanders join thousands in call for peace

By Dave Mazza

Shoppers and workers in Portland's Lloyd Center district took a break on a sunny Saturday afternoon to watch more than 1,200 Portlanders march through the neighborhood calling for peace. The April 20 march was organized by Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, and other local groups to coincide with an international day of action called by peace activists and other progressives in the Western Hemisphere and Europe who are seeking an end to U.S. and Israeli violence.

The event started with a rally in northeast Portlandıs Holladay Park near Lloyd Center. A number of speakers outlined the shameful history of U.S. support of Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people ‹ over 30 years of invasions, occupations, killings, and other human rights violations. Despite the tremendous power facing the Palestinian people, they would prevail in the end asserted Mazen Malik, one of the organizers of the demonstration. Malik also lashed out at the hypocrisy of U.S. diplomatic efforts that put the responsibility for ending the violence entirely on the shoulders of Yasser Arafat.

"I don't see the Israeli government being cornered in two rooms and being asked to stop the violence," he stated.

Catherine Thommason of Physicians for Social Responsibility questioned the entire logic of the Bush administration's "war on terrorism."

"Terrorism is a strategy," Thommason told the crowd. "You can't bomb a strategy and go home."

The strongest response came for organizer's Will Seaman's call to action. Seaman reminded those present that the history of the U.S. is a history of imperialism and genocide that has always required itizens to stand up and resist.

On Seaman's closing call for action, the demonstrators began moving towards Multnomah Boulevard, escorted by over a dozen bicycle-mounted police officers. Motorcycle officers were also on hand to block intersections, as were a number of squad cars. All officers were dressed in normal street uniforms rather than riot gear and the general tenor of police-crowd relations remained friendly through most of the march.

One early exception was an attempt by police to arrest a marcher they believed had a weapon. According to several marchers who were present, someone called out from the street that a young male was armed, prompting officers to seize him, throw him to the ground and begin searching and cuffinghim. Several demonstrators moved around the officers, demanding they let the young man go since he clearly did have a weapon. After a few tense moments the officers complied.

The remainder of the march was without incident. Demonstrators paused at an armed forces recruiting center and at the Immigration and Naturalization Services offices on Broadway to discuss the role both played in the current violence. The march ended in Pioneer Courthouse Square where several hundred other demonstrators were awaiting the arrival of the marchers.

-Dave Mazza

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