Iraq war protest leads to pepper spray, arrest

Iraq war protest leads to pepper spray, arrest

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Police used pepper spray on demonstrators protesting the Iraq war in downtown Portland on its fifth anniversary. The demonstrators later hopped a train and headed for a military recruitment center across town.

Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said Shawn Biggers, 23, was arrested Wednesday and charged with assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer after he allegedly kicked a policeman in the knee.

Schmautz said police used "a little pepper spray."

A group of about 100 demonstrators headed away from the confrontation toward a plaza for a rally, accompanied by police on bicycles, horseback and motorcycles. They then piled onto a MAX light rail train to a shopping center located near a recruiting station. A string of police motorcycles and a van of police in riot gear followed the train.

"Sorry, no room for bikes," one of the riders told an officer who looked ready to board.

They marched from the Lloyd Center to the recruiting center, where a diminished group blew horns, beat drums and chanted, "tear it down" and "end the silence, stop the violence." Passing cars honked and waved, some impolitely.

Some protesters wore bandanna masks, carried black flags and identified themselves as anarchists, an established counterculture movement in Oregon, or as members of Students for a Democratic Society, a strident anti-war group that flourished mostly in the 1960s and 1970s on many college campuses.

A smaller demonstration earlier Wednesday went to the offices of Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Gordon Smith, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Ore. All are on record as favoring withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, as are the state's other three Democratic congressmen.

One member of the smaller march, Nancy Kurkinen of Portland, a member of Families for Peace, acknowledged Oregon's Congressional opposition to the war.

"So, let's do something about it; they are in a position to do things we can't do," she said. "Talk is cheap. This is a $700 billion war."

The Oregon Legislature and several city councils have passed resolutions demanding an immediate or phased withdrawal of American troops.

The official state count lists 104 Oregonians or people with close ties to the state killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. A contingent of about 3,500 Oregon National Guard troops is on notice that it likely will be sent to Iraq next spring.

Margaret Strum, of Salem, whose husband already has served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Oregon National Guard, is scheduled to go with the deployment next year.

"I support the soldiers serving our country," she said Wednesday as she prepared to leave for a vigil in Salem. "But not illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the process.

"The government is not serving the military well when it takes us into ill-conceived and illegal invasions."

She declined to give her husband's name or military specialty.

"This is not about him," she said. "I don't want to rock his boat more than Iraq has rocked it already." 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)