My thought upon first seeing an announcement about yesterday's impeachment march was that I would attend more in the spirit of being an observer than as a participant. The mission would be to take photos and write a quasi-journalistic report on it for the blog. While I believe that events of the past two weeks leave House Democrats, and any Republicans with a claim to honor and integrity, no choice but to pursue the impeachment process through to the end, I remain skeptical about the efficacy of impeachment and not optimistic that this will end well.
That skepticism extends to public protests. Huge demonstrations in cities across the country could have a real impact; minimal turnouts would be dismissed as caterwauling by a radical fringe bent on overturning the results of the 2016 presidential election. The dismissal would be neither fair nor accurate, but too many Americans would buy the narrative.
I have not found an estimate of the size of yesterday's turnout and have no gift for that sort of thing myself. Our numbers were not massive, perhaps in the low hundreds, nothing like last month's climate strike demonstrations, but we were considerably more than the usual suspects.
The event was organized by Stand on Every Corner PDX and Nasty Women Get Shit Done PDX and billed as a peaceful, nonviolent march. The groups obtained a permit for the gathering at Terry Schunk Plaza, a small park across 4th Avenue from Portland City Hall. The march was a legal sidewalk march without a permit. This was made clear in promotional material and emphasized by speakers at the rally who reminded demonstrators to stay on the sidewalk and not interfere with traffic. Guidance was given not to engage with individuals who might take issue with the protest, should any be encountered. ACLU observers and march monitors were on hand, including at each intersection to remind marchers to obey traffic signals. All of this contributed to a peaceful, respectful demonstration that came off without incident, for which event organizers and participants alike deserve credit.
A sizable crowd was already assembled when I arrived at the park a few minutes before the two o'clock start time on a partly cloudy Sunday afternoon with the temperature hovering around 60 degrees.
People were sitting on the brick steps, milling about, mingling in small groups, and taking photos. Many held signs denouncing Trump and calling for his impeachment. A band played. The mood was serious and for some even somber, appropriate to the gravity of the constitutional crisis that grips the nation.
I pulled off my sweater, pulled out my
camera, and began taking photos. Kirsten, a woman I know from Indivisible Oregon activities, spotted me and we chatted a bit, sharing our concerns about how all this will turn out. She said straight out that she is worried and nodded in agreement when I speculated about the unlikely event of a Senate conviction on the charges of impeachment. Would Trump leave office willingly? How would the more hot-headed and well-armed of his partisans react? The same holds for the 2020 election. Would he acknowledge defeat? We broke off when a woman approached and greeted Kirsten, who handed me her phone and asked if I could take a photo of the two of them, which of course I was happy to do. Perhaps I should have asked Kirsten to take a photo of me with my camera. But would I think of that? No.
Infants in strollers, young people with signs they made themselves, mothers, fathers, couples, white-haired ancients of my generation and older, grandmothers, grandfathers, people with bikes and scooters, a man in a wheelchair, and this being Portland of course a horn man in a kilt all stood together to stand up for our constitutional republic, present out of a sense of duty and civic responsibility. As events unfolded I came to think of myself as a participant too.
US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, scheduled to testify for the House impeachment inquiry this week, happens to own six hotels in Portland. His qualifications for his position include a $1 million donation to fund Trump's inauguration.
The march swung by Sondland's Heathman Hotel and circled the block several times but did not interfere with the coming and going of hotel guests, who were able to freely enter and exit the building while marchers chanted for Sondland to tell the truth.
Once more we did what we can do, standing with others in public spaces to make our voices heard, contacting our representatives in Congress, bearing witness through whatever venue we have open to us. Will our efforts have an effect? Will that effect be one that we desire? The answers are as uncertain as ever.
The president's offenses, obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress were good enough for articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon. Each is applicable to Trump, the first documented by the Mueller report and the president's own public pronouncements, the second alleged in the whistleblower report, corroborated by the transcript of the perfect phone call, and repeated in public calls for Ukraine and China to investigate a political opponent on fabricated charges of corruption, and the last arising from refusal to cooperate with or recognize the legitimacy of the House inquiry, as laid out in the zany letter from the Counsel to the President. Each of these is a betrayal of public trust for which the constitutional remedy is impeachment, conviction, and removal from office.
These offenses are so egregious and for the most part so flagrant that nothing short of impeachment is a sufficient rebuke. I say this recognizing full well the political risks that go with impeachment and fearful of the consequences if the Senate fails to follow up on impeachment with a conviction. This is where I stand.
Keep the faith.