"No less-lethal use of force is used to disperse crowds or is deployed at a
crowd," the recommendation states.
Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker and Assistant Chief Greg Clark, the incident
commander during Bush's appearance at a Republican fund-raiser at the Hilton Portland,
dismissed much of the criticism Friday. They commended the bureau and the four
assisting police agencies for helping them achieve their goal of protecting the
president without serious injury or property damage.
"When we're dealing with a presidential visit, we have to draw very definite lines,
and if people cross them, we have to react," Clark said.
no time did I ever hear a command. They just indiscriminately started spraying
into the crowd.
editor of Street Roots newspaper
Beaverton Police Chief Dave Bishop, who had 22 officers positioned with Portland
police around the hotel's perimeter, conceded, though, that police failed to provide
a safe corridor for donors to enter the hotel, likely contributing to some of
"We overlooked that in our planning, and it's one of the things we're discussing
in our debriefing," Bishop said.
Nearly 500 officers were deployed for Bush's arrival at the airport, motorcade
into downtown and stay at the Hilton. Outside the hotel, where about 1,300 demonstrators
assembled, squads of officers from Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Oregon State
Police assisted Portland's 72-member Rapid Response Team.
And that's where the problems occurred.
Shortly before 5 p.m., as politicians and others arrived, demonstrators who
approached from Southwest Fifth Avenue and Taylor Street were pressed against
parking lot walls, unable to maneuver. Police, who had kept protesters a half-block
from each side of the hotel, tried to move the crowd farther away.
First, they pushed with batons and yelled orders to disperse, they said. But
when the crowd didn't move, they sprayed canisters of pepper spray. Many protesters
said they never heard the orders and that the spray affected children and others
who were there peacefully.
"At no time did I ever hear a command," said Patty Annis, editor of Street
Roots newspaper. "They just indiscriminately started spraying into the crowd."
Clark said donors arriving from the north, south and west sides of the hotel
had no problems. He said the bureau did not want to restrict entry to one spot
to avoid drawing greater attention to attendees. "These people got through. They
were a little bit disheveled," he said. "We were relatively successful, but not
Mark Polin, a demonstrator from Bellingham, Wash., said protesters paid for
the police's poor planning. "They had no contingency plans," Polin said. "We are
not to be blamed for that."
Things grew more tense when three police cars with reserve groups of officers
tried to move through the crowd and inside the barricades to safeguard the cars
from potential vandalism, Clark said. But as they drove into the crowd -- which
police recognize might not have been the smartest move -- some demonstrators leaped
on top of one car and banged on its windows.
And that's when police started shooting.
Clark said police fired the rubber munitions, which he described as more accurate
than beanbag shots, to protect officers in the car.
"It was an officer rescue"
Two Portland officers fired rubber sting-ball rounds from 37 mm single-shot
guns at the people who had leaped onto the car, their police reports said. A third
officer fired a rubber baton, or projectile, from a Sage gun at a protester who
was about to hurl a cylindrical object at police, the report said. The rubber
sting-balls are generally fired at the ground, then bounce in a skip-shot and
can strike several people during their flight, officers said. The Sage gun projectiles
are considered target-specific. Police are instructed not to fire a Sage gun at
a target less than 10 feet away; no minimum is set for the sting-ball shots.
"They followed the rules of engagement," Clark said. "It was an officer rescue.
Those were not used for crowd dispersal."
However, Cmdr. Dave Benson, who supervises the Rapid Response Team as head
of the bureau's tactical operations, described the sting-ball rounds as an effective
way to "move a crowd."
The bureau's May Day Follow-up Report, dated Jan. 18, 2001, states that "less-lethal
force is not used to disperse crowds" and only deployed "at a specific individual
who is committing a criminal act." That language has not been added to the bureau's
general orders on less-lethal force.
Assistant Chief Derrick Foxworth, who oversees the tactical units, said, "I
don't believe there's any conflict, and the use of those guns were appropriate
in these situations."
On Thursday night, officers were instructed not to use less-lethal force without
the approval of Clark or Central Precinct Cmdr. Rosie Sizer -- unless officers
thought there was imminent danger to officer safety or significant property damage,
Clark said. Sergeants supervising Rapid Response Team squads gave the commands
to fire, he said.
At least 40 people who marched to Mayor Vera Katz's office Friday morning decried
the use of rubber bullets. They demanded Kroeker's resignation and greater police
"No IDs, and firing upon the citizens of Portland. That's not democracy," said
Alan Graf, chairman of the Portland chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
Level of force called "absurd"
Beaverton police also fired less-lethal munitions Thursday at a different
spot later in the night. Police declared a state of emergency at Southwest Broadway,
outside the Heathman Hotel, where they said protesters pushed against barricades
and threw objects at police. Members of Beaverton's police squad then fired pepper-spray
balls, striking some protesters and sending pepper spray lofting into the crowd.
"To use that sort of force is absurd," said Mike Pullmann, 29, a Portland State
University researcher who was at the police line and refused to move, linking
arms with others in an act of civil disobedience. Pullmann was struck several
times. He pointed out the red welts on his body as he stood with others Friday
outside City Hall.
"I want to see Mayor Katz fire Chief Kroeker. He's a violent influence on our
city," Pullmann said.
Kroeker, who initially said he thought only Beaverton officers fired rubber
munitions, clarified his view Friday.
"It's not this agency, or that. We have a unified command. In totality, I'm
pleased with the way it went," Kroeker said, speaking briefly before leaving the
bureau to attend a totem-pole blessing at a city park.
Protests surprise Bush officials
A presidential spokesman said Friday that the protests blindsided White House
"We did not have any inkling" that such a level of protest would greet Bush,
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters traveling with the president.
However, an agent with the Secret Service office in Portland said the demonstration
should have come as no surprise.
"We knew there were going to be protesters," he said, declining to give his
name. "The president's staff was well-informed."
Clark said the bureau told the Secret Service that things were "looking bad"
because of the bureau's inability to connect with protesters before Thursday and
because protest Web sites appeared to grow more intense.
Clark said the bureau will compile an after-action report reviewing the response.
Katz said she thinks police acted professionally and will meet with the chief
Monday afternoon to get a more in-depth account of their actions.
Five people were arrested, accused of disorderly conduct, failure to disperse
or interfering with police. A sixth was cited for urinating in public.
"Any time we do operations like this, we're in a continuous improvement mode,"
© 2002 OregonLive.com