The Event and The Senator
Saturday May 25 at 11 a. m. PST, concerned citizens and food activists around the world will sip freshly-juiced, locally-grown, organic fruits and vegetables on the way to their local March Against Monsanto venues. Organizers plan 421 synchronized, family-friendly rallies across six continents to increase public awareness about the infiltration of GMOâ€™s into the global food supply and to protest biotech-giant, agri-corporate, Monsantoâ€™s, alarming influence over the federal legislative process.
Portland, Ore. local, Tiffany Ayers, a first-time organizer and food activist and her small cadre of volunteers and friends has been tirelessly working on the logistics and promotion for Portlandâ€™s event which will begin at 11 a.m. in Halladay Park. â€śSuccess (for this rally) will look like more public awareness of GMOâ€™s,â€ť reports Ayers, adding in “increased public pressure on legislators to create mandatory labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms.”
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is also concerned about Monsantoâ€™s involvement in food legislation. According to Ayers, the Senatorâ€™s office contacted her and asked if todayâ€™s rally could also promote his online signature-gathering campaign. Merkleyâ€™s goal is to force a vote in the United States Congress to repeal the â€śMonsanto Protection Act.â€ť
For security reasons, Juan, Senator Merkleyâ€™s receptionist was unable to confirm whether the Senator planned on attending todayâ€™s march. He was also unable to speak to the Senatorâ€™s knowledge of allegations that Missouri Senator Roy Blunt worked with Monsanto to craft the legislation in question, stating, â€śYou can find the Senatorâ€™s opinions on his website.â€ť
In preparation for todayâ€™s event, Ayers filed a â€śSpecial Event / Special Use Permitâ€ť with the Cityâ€™s Parks and Recreation Department. Applying for a permit for a special event with the City of Portland is a process that eventually involves law enforcement. â€śWe want to work with the police to make sure this is a peaceful event,â€ť Ayers says.
Photo of Portland Public Information Officer, Sergeant Pete Simpson is from http://connectedcops.net/2011/06/30/portland-or-police-bureau-embracing-social-media/
â€śIt has nothing to do with free speech or the content of the gathering,â€ť Sergeant Pete Simpson, the Portland Police Bureauâ€™s Public Information Officer emphasized in a phone interview late Friday afternoon. He is addressing criticism he has heard from protestors that frequently accompanies the requirement for groups who gather to get permits to do so. â€ś(The permit) is all about logistics,â€ť Simpson continues. â€śIf we know the location, the number of people, and the proposed route, we are better able to work with organizers to adjust routes to take traffic into consideration.”
Simpson explains that police have a duty to uphold all citizensâ€™ rights: not just event attendeesâ€™ rights. â€śWe also need to consider the rights of citizens who want to be able to drive on roads that may be blocked by unorganized assemblies,â€ť he reasons.
Not all events are as organized as Ayersâ€™ and not all event organizers apply for a permit. â€śWhen we hear about groups that are gathering and have not filed for permits, or groups that have content that has been historically confrontational, we have red flags from Jump Street,â€ť Simpson says.
Not filing for a permit is an indication to law enforcement that organizers donâ€™t intend to work with them cooperatively to manage the flow of people, and it puts law enforcement on alert that there may be trouble brewing. Simpson cites anti-police brutality marches and anti-corporate marches as examples of previous marches that have led to property damage in the City of Portland.
The Safety Tutorial
Simpson reports that he had been on the March Against Monsanto Facebook page and had seen the threads from parents asking if the event was going to be safe for children. He reports that he has no indication of threat whatsoever about this morningâ€™s march, adding: “We get the issue. This is global.”
Video captured by Sue Edmunson on May 25, 2013 at Holladay Park in Portland, Oregon
According to Simpson, trouble-makers thrive in the anonymity of a crowd; they can become emboldened and confrontational and put other people at risk. He offered the following general tips for individuals and families to remain safe in public gatherings:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention.
- Be on the lookout for alarming behavior. If people start putting on masks, carrying sticks, or shouting obscenities, itâ€™s time to get your family out of that area.
- If the speakersâ€™ content changes from what you came to hear and the crowd begins to feel confrontational, move away.
- Stick with groups of people you know and feel safe with.
- Report suspicious activity to law enforcement. Alert, intelligent crowds are the best deterrent to trouble.
â€śCrowd behavior can be a funny thing,â€ť Simpson explains. â€śPeople gather because they feel passionately about something and they want to express that, but people can get caught up in it. Use common sense and pay attention.â€ť