Peace and Justice Works
Update: Oregonian runs op-ed by PJW 4/23/18
MEDIA IGNORES PROTEST AGAINST $2 BILLION WARSHIP IN PORTLAND
by Dan Handelman, Peace and Justice Works
On Saturday, April 21, the USS Portland was officially commissioned at the
Port of Portland on the west side of the Willamette River. Directly across
from the estimated 6000 people at the commissioning ceremony, activists
erected a 20 foot wide, 7 foot tall banner reading "No War."
All four TV stations and at least three local newspapers covered the
commissioning ceremony. Only one paper--
-- noted there was
a demonstration on the west side by anti-war activists.
The papers and TV stations seemed to be deliberately cropping their
photos to ignore the giant banner which was clearly visible from the
ship's vantage point.
The photographer reports that the navy crew was joking about how in another time and place they would have blown away the demonstrators.
In March, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler proclaimed April 21 to be "USS Portland Day" to honor the giant warship's commissioning. This "amphibious landing dock" has two anti-air missile systems, two 30MM anti-surface guns, nine 50 caliber anti-surface machine guns, and according to Naval Today, an experimental laser weapon. Peace and Justice Works (PJW) asked the Mayor to withhold the proclamation seeing as in 2012, Portland City Council adopted a policy for redirecting funds from wars to human needs. Several of our Mayors have supported similar resolutions at the National Conference of Mayors. One resolution passed in 2017 asks cities to direct department heads to consider what they could accomplish if money now being spent on the military were redirected for local use. It called attention to the fact that even "fractions of the ... military budget could provide free, top-quality education from pre-school through college, end hunger and starvation on earth, convert the U.S. to clean energy, provide clean drinking water everywhere it's needed on the planet, build fast trains between all major U.S. cities."
The proclamation states that the USS Portland will "protect our nations [sic] interests but also provide aid during emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes or other disasters." When Iraq was under United States and United Nations sanctions, our country refused to let in hundreds of items the Iraqi people desperately needed, including tires for their ambulances. The federal government claimed those items were "dual use" for both civilian and military. Just as it was a morally imprecise stretch to prevent tires from reaching the Iraqi public because they might be used for military purposes, it is a stretch in the other direction to praise a warship because it may someday be used for humanitarian relief efforts. Mayor Wheeler echoed his contention that the ship was for humanitarian purposes in his comments at the ceremony.
A little research turned up the cost of this floating behemoth-- two billion dollars. The commissioning ceremony itself is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and is predictably (but dishonorably) being supported by dozens of companies who profit from war including Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and Insitu (which have plants in Oregon) and Wilsonville's FLIR Systems (which makes infrared devices to help target "the enemy").
When warships visit our waterfront during the Rose Festival, we are now met with signs that say "No Trespassing-- US Navy Restricted Area-- USE OF FORCE AUTHORIZED."
It is unfortunate that the Navy has decided to name such a warship after our City. Given the current international tensions, Portland should refrain from praising military spending when our housing, roads, parks, schools and other critical infrastructure are under-funded and crumbling, and given the US military's role as the world's largest institutional driver of climate change. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
* RT (formerly known as Russia Today) also covered the west side protest.
Compare these images:
NOTE: This was the first action funded by PJW's Ann Huntwork Fund for Creative Action
UPDATE: The Oregonian ran our op-ed piece about the ship on Monday, April 23, the day after the warship left Portland.
(PJW's banner-click to enlarge)
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
Page posted April 22, 2018, updated April 24, 2018