A Tale of Two Protests: Shut Down the Corporations in Portland and Tucson
Protesters in Portland, Oregon, and Tucson, Arizona, faced very different weather when they hit the streets yesterday, but they had one thing in common: they were among 70 cities nationwide where Occupy activists and others spoke out against members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose decades-long history of authoring and pushing pro-corporate legislation through the nation’s statehouses has been criticized for strangling political and economic participation across the country.
“ALEC, a registered nonprofit with a board of trustees that reads like a Fortune 500 list, allows 1%ers to push legislation representing corporate interests,” said Dana Balicki of Occupy Wall Street in a statement released before the protests. “This is legislation laundering.”
The national day of protest, known as Shut Down the Corporations or F29, was originally called by Occupy Portland.
In downtown Portland, hundreds of marchers closed the streets as they chanted at the doorsteps of ALEC members McDonald’s and Verizon and ALEC supporter ConocoPhillips, as well as the regional headquarters of Wells Fargo, which is a major shareholder in 20-year ALEC member and for-profit detention company Corrections Corporation of America, which reportedly left ALEC last year. The three-hour march also made stops at the offices of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon and The Oregonian, the state’s largest daily newspaper.
“A-L-E-C doesn’t spell democracy!” according to Woodrow Broadnax. Broadnax is running for Congress as a Pacific Green Party candidate in longtime Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s district. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
(Photo: Alissa Bohling)
(Photo: Alissa Bohling)
(Photo: Alissa Bohling)
Tensions between demonstrators and police appeared low for most of the largely peaceful march. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
The crowd gathers below the two-blocks-long Wells Fargo complex’s sky bridge connecting its data processing center and its 40-story tower across the street to hear a statement by Angelah Hill (not pictured), a homeowner fighting foreclosure. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
Soon after the crowd moved west to the street in front of the Wells Fargo tower’s entrance, riot police arrived and ordered them onto the sidewalk. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
A member of the New Cascadia Clown Army offers a lollipop to a state trooper during the short but tense standoff that ensued. “We are exploring how we can be conflict mediators,” another clown army member who identified himself as Sergeant Bongo said later, comparing the police officers’ uniforms to his own beige bodysuit and prosthetic beer belly. “We all wear different costumes.” (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
Protesters were soon allowed to resume the march in the street, where it had taken place for most of the approximately two hours since it began. The reason behind the timing for the enforcement was unclear. The police bureau told a local television station that three people who chained themselves together inside Wells Fargo were arrested. (At the start of the march, Portland organizer David Osborn said he had word of eight arrests at an F29 protest at the Connecticut headquarters of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer; ten at a Washington, DC, protest against the industrial agriculture company Monsanto; and one or two arrests at demonstrations targeting Walmart in California.)
“Tell the truth!” That was the message F29 protesters delivered, over and over, in front of the state’s largest daily newspaper, The Oregonian. A facilities manager and security contractor stationed at the entrance could not comment, but said a reporter would come down to field questions. No one was available for comment when the marchers departed several minutes later. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
His corsage isn’t the only thing that’s a little sideways. This man, who identified himself as Joseph Hill, claimed to be Regence’s public relations director in his speech on the steps of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon. “We are proud to announce that we are resigning from ALEC,” he said to the crowd before meeting with the media. “Regence is committed to finding ways to extend health care to all Americans.” Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon is not a known ALEC member or supporter. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association donated $10,000 to ALEC in 2011, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana gave ALEC $5,000 in 2010. (Photo: Alissa Bohling)
A February protest in Portland means rain. Action Lab Arts members Chapman Clark, Sonya Montenegro, Katherine Ball and Katelyn Hale designed the yellow umbrellas for Portland’s F29 with images inspired by several famous eyes. From left to right: The dollar bill’s all-seeing eye, Martin Luther King, Burmese dissident politician Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, civil and human rights activist Ella Baker and Indian food sovereignty leader Vandana Shiva. “We were thinking of people who were keeping an eye out to see where injustice is happening,” said Ball. (Photo: Action Lab Arts)
Against ALEC In Tucson
Activists in Tucson made an early morning visit to the local transportation headquarters of G4s, an ALEC member and private prison security firm that cashes in on the war on illegal immigration. The protesters peacefully blockaded the entrance, preventing buses from leaving to perform their daily task of transferring migrants from detention facilities and deporting them across the border.
(Photo: Shachaf Polakow/Activestills.com)
Two activists locked their arms together and prevented the G4S buses from leaving for about two hours. G4S workers were forced to cut down their own fence to get buses around the blockade. After buses began leaving, the two protesters negotiated with police and unlocked. Both were later released from custody and cited for blocking a sidewalk.
(Photo: Shachaf Polakow/Activestills.com)>
As a member of ALEC, G4S can help put prison-privatizing legislation in the hands of state lawmakers. ALEC-linked lawmakers have successfully pushed for prison privatization in states like Arizona and Ohio.
In 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy released 800 model bills and resolutions written by ALEC, which pairs conservative lawmakers with corporate lobbyists to write the model legislation. The model bills include dozens related to crime, prisons and immigration, and are available to state lawmakers for a small fee.
The protesters said companies like G4S are more concerned about turning a profit than protecting the human rights of the migrants they detain and deport on a daily basis.
“G4S profits additionally from the private management of prisons, into which thousands of people are streamlined daily by the US prison-industrial complex and its corporate, governmental and military investors,” said Ben Lorber, a supporter of the action.
About 50 people, including several Occupy supporters, turned out for a Shut Down the Corporations march in downtown Tucson Wednesday afternoon.