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May 2002

Perhaps it was Venezuela. What happened there was truly remarkable. The United States and the corrupt elites it so loves to support thought they had removed a large thorn from their collective side. With the help of the army they had deposed a president who had won the support of the people by refusing to force-feed Venezuelans the same deadly economic formula that had nearby Argentina in the throws of crisis. They had contained this dangerous virus that refused to reorganize the economy to suit the needs of transnational corporations. Or so they thought. In two historic days the people of Venezuela let the world know that there is an alternative to passively accepting a future of poverty, misery and servititude. Working Venezuelans did that by turning out into the streets and bringing the nation to a halt. Two days later - after considerable embarassed back-pedaling by the Bush administration and his rich Venezuelan pals - President Chavez was back in power and suddenly no longer a public pariah.

Perhaps it was such a dramatic demonstration of collective action that put some steam back in Portland's activist scene. Over the past several weeks Portland's progressive community has been responding in growing numbers to the U.S.-sponsored violence in Central Asia and the Middle East. Pioneer Courthouse Square has been filled with people whose families are in the front lines of the struggle against Israeli aggression. On April 20, the peace movement and its supporters mobilized over 1,200 people in a spirited march through the city. Portland Peaceful Response hadn't shown that level of energy and militancy since the first few days of its existence.

There was another important aspect of the past month - those most exposed to the violence and repression are starting to come to the forefront. On April 18, Sisters in Action for Power demonstrated along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. against the war. Young women of color stood along the curb calling on motorists to consider the policies of the Bush administration and who was being killed - or asked to do the killing - in this most recent and rotten imperialist adventure. At the A20 march, Palestinians were present in much larger numbers and leaders of their community were present to frame the issue in a way the rest of us cannot. It is the sign of a movement that is starting to mature and grow.

But those aren't the only signs for which we should be grateful. There is much activity elsewhere in the city in recent weeks.

Our city politics are showing more vitality with at least one viable challenger in the race for city council. Peter Alexander may have thrown his hat in the ring at the last minute, but he has not let his late start slow him down. He's popping up everywhere - even taking the stage at Michael Moore's recent appearance in Portland - to tell voters they should be getting more from city hall than they currently are. The Alliance doesn't endorse candidates, but we have to say the energy Alexander is demonstrating is a welcome change from the usual torpor of council elections where most candidates face no real challenger.

Police accountability has also caught its second wind this spring. Although the effort to qualify an initiative to create an independent civilian police review board failed, those involved in that fight have not let defeat end the struggle. They are turning their political action committee into a community organization that will continue to work to end police misconduct and bring real community control over the police (check out their general meeting on May 9; see the community calendar).

People are organizing to fight back against the most abhorrent aspects of corporate-dominated media. Paul Allen's KXL radio station is being taken to task for profiting from the hate spewing from station shock jock Michael Savage - a coward who sits in his sound booth, comparing immigrants to geese who, once let in, defecate all over the country. The new campaign (see our Active Community section) is taking aim at where corporate media is most vulnerable - at the advertisers to finance programs like Savage Nation. Whether it is Venezuela, the end of winter darkness, or the alignment of the planets (this week there was just such a planetary event), the sap seems to be flowing again in Portland's Left. We need to make sure that continues to happen in the coming months because the challenges we face are considerable. But as the supporters of President Chavez reminds us, through collective struggle, even the most haughty and powerful forces can be defeated. It is our task to build our movement, to nurture new and diverse leadership, and create the same sort of environment as they did - one where the seemingly impossible can happen.

-Dave Mazza

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