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A few words from the editor, September 2002

A visit from George W. and the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks are the two big items as this issue goes to press. George will be visiting southern Oregon to talk about his new forest plan, undoubtedly cutting edge stuff. He’ll also be dropping by Portland to help raise even more money for Senator Gordon Smith — not that Gordo needs it considering the moribund state of the Bradbury campaign. Progressive Portland is gearing up for the traditional welcome we reserve for our presidents: large, angry crowds and lots of creative ways of communicating our feelings for the guy living in the White House at the moment. I’m hoping George’s appearance as president rather than candidate will bring back the “reverse peristalsis league,” a group that truly gave their all protesting George Sr.

No matter how much we enjoy tweaking the commander-in-chief’s nose during the upcoming visit, we must also remember the progress that has been made by the those controlling George W.

No, we haven’t been rounded up into camps yet, but between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept. 11, 2002 the Bush administration has made significant inroads into our constitutional rights — often by just refusing comply with the law in many cases. Non-citizens are being held in camps without access to legal counsel. The Office of Homeland Security is less and less funny as more and more data about citizens’ lives is consolidated in government hands. Most frightening of all, local law enforcement agencies around the nation are being federalized, breaking down the separation between federal and local authority that has served as a check on either becoming too powerful over its citizens.

The Portland Joint Terrorism Task Force — which comes up for reauthorization this month — is just one example of this. In a city where traditional crime remains a problem, our local police are being siphoned off to pursue terrorists (a government euphemism for those who oppose the present administration). For the past year, task force officers have been surveilling activists and political groups, running people through grand juries and house visits. Now the task force has arrested three of four “eco-terrorists” they allege are responsible for burning a truck in order to stop logging at Eagle Creek.

Even where the feds aren’t directly involved, police leadership has shown a willingness to send local officers goosestepping behind their federal brothers. Mayor Katz has shown all the restraint of a three-year-old in a Toys-R-Us store when it comes to militarizing, politicizing and federalizing our police. Your politics too far left? Vera doesn’t mind if the PJTTF starts watching you. Like to express your political views in public — perhaps taking up too much space on the sidewalk? Vera has a new set of regulations about what positions you can assume while on the boardwalk (standing — good; squatting or reclining — bad).

Historically, fascism took root where local authority acted as an accomplice in bringing about the new order. Recent studies of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy suggest the new organs of repression and terror were far smaller than originally thought — the work of oppressing the population was happening in large part thanks to cooperation by local judges, police, mayors, and other public officials.

Which brings me back to the George Bush protest coming up.
I intend to be there and vent my anger at the venal little man serving as front for a dangerous cabal of elites. In some ways it is therapy. But I’m not about to confuse it with the real struggle.

Our ability to stop Bush (or more accurately those behind him) is limited so long as our strategy consists solely of symbolic acts of resistance. If we are serious about stopping the Bush agenda, we need to fight on ground of our own choosing and where we have a real chance of winning — if we’ve done our homework, that is. In other words — as you’ve read many times in this column over the past few years — we must be waging local campaigns that will create the mass necessary for creating real power. We must be creating opportunities to break down the barriers between natural allies so we don’t see the ugliness that took place at the recent ILWU rally (check out our stories on page 1 and 5 about this). If we do that, we might see a much-changed environment when it Sept. 11, 2003 rolls around.


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Last Updated: January 29, 2003