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Are We Brave Enough to Be a Democracy?
September 6, 2002
By Peter Buckley

I'm 45 years old, have three kids, my wife and I work full time jobs, we own our home and pay taxes, and I'm the Democratic candidate for Congress in Oregon's District Two.

On Thursday, August 22, I went to Central Point, Oregon, to express my opposition to the current policies of our government. I was placed in a dirt compound behind a six foot cyclone fence and had the gate shut in my face.

The occasion was a visit from President George W. Bush to the district I am a candidate in. Mr. Bush was scheduled to speak to 5000 invited guests. The guests were all people in agreement with the current policies of our government. They were invited for that very reason. They were politely ushered into the arena where Mr. Bush's speech was to be given. The people in opposition to the current policies of our government were ushered by the police into a dirt compound behind a six foot cyclone fence.

I have to say that I had a very hard time believing this was actually happening. This is not the America I believe in, am working for and want to leave to my sons.

I wasn't alone behind the fence. There were several hundred of us. There were a good number of young activists, of course, who were protesting Mr. Bush's very sorry record on environmental issues. But there were also a good number of senior citizens and middle aged folks like me who simply wished to state our opposition to Mr. Bush's economic policies that are doing so much damage to our country, or our opposition to his lust for war with Iraq. We were crammed together in the dirt behind the fence, with the temperatures rising and no possible way to express our views.

We tried to discuss the situation with the young cop who was on the other side of the gate. He had his orders, we understood that, and he kept repeating that we had to be behind the fence for the president's security.

The arena in which Mr. Bush was to speak was well over 200 yards away. Riot police stood a few dozen yards away from our compound, spread a few feet apart, nightsticks and tear gas guns in their hands. I looked around our compound and at the woman in her early 70s standing next to me. I didn't feel particularly dangerous at the moment, and I couldn't see anyone else who looked particularly dangerous, either. We simply did not and do not agree with the current policies of our government and wished to express our opposition.

We were not to be allowed to. We were not to be allowed anywhere near any kind of position where the president, or the media which follows him, would see or hear us.

This is not America. This is not the land of the free and the home of the brave. This is some other country. I'm a patriotic American. I want the country I was raised to believe in, a country strong enough for political discourse and debate, with leaders courageous and decent enough to have the willingness to listen to all citizens, not just those who parrot their own views.

We're moving in the wrong direction, it's as simple as that. What happened in Central Point, and what is happening everywhere Mr. Bush goes, is wrong. The effort being made to hide political opposition in this country is more than cowardly. It's un-American.

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