Oregon Violence Surprises Bush Team
The violent demonstrations against President Bush caught White House planners by surprise, a presidential spokesman said Friday.
It’s not unusual for presidents to be confronted by small protests when visiting outside Washington. But demonstrations that result in the kind of skirmishes with police that erupted here Thursday night have been rare.
“We did not have any inkling” that such a protest would occur, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters.
More than 1,000 people turned out to scream anti-Bush slogans, tag buildings with graffiti and challenge police at barricades around the hotel where the president held a fund-raiser for Sen. Gordon Smith.
Among other issues, the protesters said they were upset with Bush’s plan to relax environmental standards for logging, a possible war with Iraq, the U.S. stance on the Middle East and what they called rampant government corruption.
The group blocked buildings, and Republican donors trying to get to the hotel were taunted and jostled. Many had to be escorted in by police, who later used pepper spray and rubber bullets on the crowd. Six people were arrested.
Oregon, especially Portland and Eugene, have a tradition of demonstrations. Bush’s father, former President George Bush, used to refer to Portland as “Little Beirut” because of the protesters he encountered during his visits.
Officials with the National Lawyer’s Guild asked Mayor Vera Katz to fire Police Chief Mark Kroeker, claiming Thursday’s actions by police were “atrocities against humanity.”