Republicans seek to balance the scale during protests

When more than 2,000 people marched through Portland to protest President George W. Bush’s inauguration yesterday, Portland State’s College Republicans decided they would march too. They marched to stand by the reason they formed: to create a space for a voice they believed was unheard.

"There was no representation of what I believed in," said Brian Danielson, president of the College Republicans.

"This whole protest is to show people there’s a democratic point," Roger Wert, another College Republican, said.

Holding signs parodying those of anti-Bush demonstrators, the College Republicans set off down PSU’s Park Blocks, ending up the corner of Southwest Broadway Avenue and Yamhill Street, meeting with more Republicans to form a small group of over 30. They were ready to meet the anti-Bush demonstrators walking up Broadway.

Police rode up on motorcycles and bicycles, bystanders waited on the sidewalks, soon drums were heard and eventually the protesters emerged, walking up the middle of the street. They varied in age, but the majority were young, and they marched without fear.

The Republicans stood in a corner, proudly holding up their pro-Bush signs, and they faced the large crowd and moved along with them. The confrontation between the two groups was peaceful, with verbal arguments as the only exchange.

"You guys think you’re patriots, you’re nothing worse than imperialists," said one anti-Bush protester to the Bush supporters. Another said, "Respect for President Bush, hah!"

Sarah Long, a 20-year-old Portland Community College student and Republican, said that whatever President Bush decides, she will stand by it. As for what liberals think, "there are things they are against, I understand that," she said.

The group of Republicans eventually began to move with the anti-Bush protesters, both sides proudly proclaiming their differing viewpoints.

Fourteen-year-old Rachel Koppes was having dinner with her parents when the demonstrators passed by. Her sister and she stepped outside to watch.

"It’s cool that people can get their ideas out there," she said. "I think it’s amazing how people care enough to get their ideas out there."

The demonstrators stopped traffic, eventually meeting at Chapman Square at Southwest Third Avenue and Salmon Street.

Night had fallen and 300 police joined them, trying to move the crowd into the square. A young man and woman were arrested for sitting on the ground in the middle of the street, and protesters faced the police that had lined up on horses and bikes.

"It’s almost like they torment each other," a police lieutenant observed.

Cindy McEnroe, a member of the downtown Unitarian church, said that the Northwest is a haven for people who have strong political beliefs and who have the courage and integrity to act on those beliefs.

McEnroe said that regardless of opinion what draws the opposing sides together is that there has been a shift from despair to responsibility and action.

"We’re a community of people who have a sense of responsibility for people … I think that’s what it means to be a responsible citizen."