Portland, Ore., police use pepper spray on protesters at demonstration against Bush

Friday, August 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Riot police used pepper spray and struck some demonstrators with batons after ordering hundreds of people to leave a protest near a hotel where President Bush attended a fund-raiser.

Protesters hammered on the hoods of police cars as pepper spray wafted through the air. Protesting Bush's foreign policy, they chanted ``Drop Bush, Not Bombs.''

Bush supporters in formal attire were jostled and taunted by protesters as they arrived for a fund-raiser for the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith. After elbowing through the demonstrators, they were checked by Secret Service agents before they were allowed inside the hotel.

Brian Schmautz, spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said protesters threw things at the police.

Protesters at one point pushed down a barricade and a female police officer who was standing behind it, Groepper said. The officer sprained or broke her wrist falling down, and two patrol cars were damaged, Groepper said.

Police ordered about 500 protesters to move. Riot police wearing helmets then walked into the area, pushing activists with their batons. Some activists fell. Police then fired aerosol canisters of pepper spray at the protesters.

Police also used pepper spray after about 150 demonstrators blocked vehicle access to Morrison Bridge.

Five protesters were arrested through the afternoon, police spokesman Henry Groepper said.

Many of the protesters criticized a new forest initiative announced earlier in the day by Bush that would make it easier for timber companies to cut wood from fire-prone national forests.

``The new policy is classic doublespeak,'' said Kenneth Kreuschu, 24, of Cascadia Forest Alliance. ``It has been shown time and again that more cutting leads to more fire. The new policy is a hoax.''

Some of the activists were worried about a possible war with Iraq.

``I don't think any American boys' lives are worth a barrel of oil,'' said Rob Moitoza, 57, who carried a sign that said: ``Vets Against Bush.''

Moitoza said he served two years in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War and fears a much worse conflict if U.S. troops are sent to Iraq.

``If he (Bush) starts a war against Iraq, it will be to get re-elected. All he cares about is wealth and power,'' Moitoza said.

Before flying to Portland from Medford, Bush was taken to a still-smoldering fire.

About a dozen protesters dotted Bush's motorcade route. Some waved signs saying, ``No attack of Iraq. You can't fix Daddy's mistake'' and ``More forests, less Bush.''

The demonstrators along the route were far outnumbered by people waiting at the ends of their driveways who held signs saying ``We love you'' and ``We support you.''