Homeless groups march against war

By Israel Bayer
staff writer
April 1, 2003 issue of street roots

A spirited group of 30 men, women and children from five organizations gathered on March 15 to draw attention to the war against the poor in Portland, while joining in solidarity with the anti-war march that drew nearly 30,000 people protesting U.S. military action in Iraq.

A loose-knit coalition, including members of Dignity Village, Join, Sisters of the Road Cafe, street roots and spearheaded by crossroads, has been formed to organize a contingency of homeless and low-income people across class lines to start marching in the anti-war rallies.

"When I talk to people in Old Town and in our community who are experiencing homeless and poverty, more and more people are making connections between military spending abroad and the lack of funding on the home front," says Jamie Manuel, community organizer at crossroads. Manuel went on to say that Sisters of the Road and crossroads are non-violent organizations against not only this war, but all war.

On March 20, 3,500 activists brought the city of Portland to a standstill by outflanking police and practicing guerrilla-style civil-disobedience to protest the war in Iraq. The event resulted in 135 arrests.

Some homeless people joined in and voiced opposition to the coalition's pre-emptive strike. It was reported to street roots that several homeless bystanders were swept from sleeping spots during the event and that at least one homeless resident was shot at by the Portland police with rubber bullets in Old Town/Chinatown.

Desmond Hardison, a formerly homeless Vietnam veteran, said, "It's justifiable to be protesting. We're not going to keep our backs turned anymore. We have to make a stand. I think it's terrible. Having been in Vietnam in 1968-69 in the 101st Airborne, I know a lot of those kids won't be coming back. Some of these kids won't be able to see their 21st birthday.

"We're giving $15 billion to Turkey for a base we can attack Iraq from , and then we're turning around and cutting vet benefits. That's wrong and we won't remain silent."