PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland, City of Roses, won a proud distinction last month. It is the first municipality in the nation to pull out of the Justice Department’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a clear rejection of the Bush administration’s politics of fear.

“I think the City Council and Mayor (Tom) Potter are so courageous,” said Alan Graf, a National Lawyer’s Guild lawyer who serves as interim director of the Portland-based Northwest Center for Constitutional Rights (NCCR).

This reporter intervewed Graf by cell-phone while he vacationed with his grandchildren on the Oregon coast. The mayor and City Council, he said, stood up to tremendous pressure in terminating ties to the JTTF. The council vote was 4 to 1.

“This is a message to the Bush Administration that Portland is determined to defend our civil and constitutional rights,” Graf said. “Since Potter served for seven years as Portland’s chief of police, he was in a strong position to take this stand. I was so proud that I bought boxes of chocolates and delivered them to the mayor and each of the council members who voted to kick the FBI out of Portland.”

Ironically, the NCCR was born from a recent victory by victims of Portland police brutality. The 11 men and women had filed a lawsuit accusing the Portland Police Department of pepper spraying them on two occasions when President George W. Bush visited Portland for fundraisers and political rallies.

A federal judge, two weeks ago, ordered Portland to pay more than $800,000 in lawyers fees and damages for the brutality. Many of the plaintiffs then turned over their cash awards to help found the NCCR.

Graf said he was present as a legal observer when the police attacked the demonstrators August 22, 2002 and again in Mar. 2003. “I was pepper sprayed myself,” he said. “This was a totally peaceful demonstration. There were people in wheelchairs, little kids blowing bubbles. And all of a sudden it was Darth Vader and the Evil Empire. The police just advanced and attacked us with pepper spray. A lot of people were hurt.”

He added, “I have four grandchildren. What kind of nation do we want to leave them? The horror of war and repression that is being foisted upon us and the rest of the world?”

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The readiness of the plaintiffs to turn over part or all of their damage awards to start the NCCR, “proves just how deeply committed these people are to protecting our civil liberties and civil rights,” Graf said. He gave half his earnings from the case, which consumed 3,900 hours of research and litigation for a team of lawyers.

“The police gave as their reason for attacking us that the Republican donors were having trouble gettting through the crowd of protesters to attend the fund raiser,” Graf said. “But the police had no trouble identifying these wealthy Republicans. They stood out like manure in a flower bed.”

As for the JTTF controversy, he said, the immediate cause of the dispute was the demand by Potter and Portland Chief of Police Derrick Foxworth that they be granted the same “top secret” clearance as the Portland police officers assigned to the FBI-directed Task Force. Without that full access, there would be no way to insure the JTTF operates within the bounds of Oregon law and the state Constitution, they argued.

Robert Jordan, the FBI’s highest ranking agent in Portland, told a news conference the demand is “not feasible or reasonable” since no other mayor in the 100 cities and towns with JTTF teams has been granted top secret clearance.

David Fidanque, director of the Oregon branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, retorted, “There is ample evidence that several FBI task forces elsewhere have targeted individuals because of their political or religious affiliations.”

Almost a year after Portland lawyer Brandon Mayfield was cleared of any involvement in terrorism, Fidanque added, “Portland officials still don’t know what, if any, involvement Portland police had in the investigation.”

He was referring to the arrest of Mayfield, a convert to Islam, on bogus charges that he was involved in the bombing of the passenger train in Madrid that killed hundreds. He was arrested by the FBI and held for weeks incommunicado despite warnings by Spanish officials that Mayfield was innocent.

Portland had been a participant in the JTTF since 1997 but the issue loomed large after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft rammed the USA Patriot Act through, opening the way for nationwide racial, political and religious surveillance and profiling in the name of “war on terrorism.” Many cities, including Portland, have since passed resolutions of non-cooperation with the Patriot Act.

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