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 GMO’s into the global food supply and to protest biotech-giant, agri-corporate, Monsanto’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 Portland’s event which will begin at 11 a.m. in Halladay Park. “Success (for this rally) will look like more public awareness of GMO’s,” 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 Monsanto’s involvement in food legislation. According to Ayers, the Senator’s office contacted her and asked if today’s rally could also promote his online signature-gathering campaign. Merkley’s goal is to force a vote in the United States Congress to repeal the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
For security reasons, Juan, Senator Merkley’s receptionist was unable to confirm whether the Senator planned on attending today’s march. He was also unable to speak to the Senator’s knowledge of allegations that Missouri Senator Roy Blunt worked with Monsanto to craft the legislation in question, stating, “You can find the Senator’s opinions on his website.”
In preparation for today’s event, Ayers filed a “Special Event / Special Use Permit” with the City’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. “We want to work with the police to make sure this is a peaceful event,” 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/
“It has nothing to do with free speech or the content of the gathering,” Sergeant Pete Simpson, the Portland Police Bureau’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. “(The permit) is all about logistics,” Simpson continues. “If 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 citizens’ rights: not just event attendees’ rights. “We also need to consider the rights of citizens who want to be able to drive on roads that may be blocked by unorganized assemblies,” he reasons.
Not all events are as organized as Ayers’ and not all event organizers apply for a permit. “When 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,” Simpson says.
Not filing for a permit is an indication to law enforcement that organizers don’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 morning’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, it’s time to get your family out of that area.
- If the speakers’ 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.
“Crowd behavior can be a funny thing,” Simpson explains. “People 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.”