I have never seen Jamie Partridge in anything other than an eager state of mind. He is the soul of Portland Community and Postal Workers United, the group conducting a long-running campaign of nonviolent civil resistance to the privatization (that is, to the selling off to the wealthy what was our inheritance from our forefathers) of the U.S. Postal Service.
We got together, some 15 of us, at the Burrito Bar at 9th and N.W. Hoyt, a block to the west of the main Post Office building in Portland, at the foot of the Broadway Bridge. The retired postal worker whom my long-lived ladies of the Eastside Democratic Club describe as “the doctor’s son,” on account of his father, a politically well-connected and active physician who campaigned for universal health care a generation ago, presided. Perhaps because he sensed a certain degree of frustration on the part of the USPS authorities over the arrest-less outcome of our September action, Jamie told us we were not, as had been originally envisaged, planning to puncture the secure area cordon in our effort to display commitment. Rather, we were simply, as John Schweibert put it in his following speech to the troops (hands were raised to indicate willingness to get arrested: the count was seven, Your Correspondent immediately making reference to the Yul Brynner movie), planning to treat the third-floor lobby as a waiting room without padded furniture, and we would wait there in the area open to the public until either our arrest for not leaving or until Erica Brix agreed to a person-to-person meeting with our organization.
I have a written record to the effect that our group decamped en masse at 12:25 pm; the elevators had not been, as we had worried, put out of action prior to our arrival, and we all walked safe and sound into the third-floor lobby from the elevator. We were not met at the (locked) door separating the lobby from the secure zone of the Postal Service offices. We waited.
So you get the picture, right? We’re still more than a dozen people, waiting peacefully — hell, our meetings are held at The Peace House, for cryin’ out loud. And this joker comes in from the stairwell, and tells us we’re all going to leave. So retired reverend Schweibert, in his quiet, self-controlled voice, says we’re here seeking an appointment with the District Director, to discuss no-bid contracts to the amounts of hundreds of thousands of dollars, signed by her subordinates, while her other subordinate tells us that nothing has been decided.
“Ain’t gonna happen,” intones the husky, athletic-clad intruder. “I’m escorting you out.”
“Ain’t gonna happen,”replied the unflappable John Schweibert, and he resisted the (what I call, in lieu of some less neutral term) joker when the latter grabbed him by the rather professorial jacket that the minister sartorially favors. One of our several women shrieked and shook the joker, beseeching him not so to treat a distinguished figure of the pacificist community; joker responded by swiping her with his arm. Her friend, Jack Herbert, stepped up to joker on behalf of his female friend, who had just been sent flying, and was himself tossed, head-first, across the room. Jack landed in, and broke in half, a potted plant. Ben Poe was the next to feel the wrath of the joker, as it were (John Schweibert had long before been thrown to the floor, where we gazed at him in alarm). Ben waded in to protect his friend Jack, and the joker responded with a knee to the groin.
I am just telling you what happened. The joker missed and raised a welt, which will be weeks healing, on Ben Poe’s upper thigh. For good measure he smashed Ben’s hand against the wall, leaving a read trail of blood.
Your Intrepid Reporter was not wading into this. He said nothing and did little, for after poor Ben got taken down the joker seemed to shift his bullying from assault, real physical knocking people who do nothing aggressive to the floor or the walls, to a verbal roaring, during which he assured us he was a federal postal inspector with power to arrest.
We of course mildly observed that he was a bully who had just assaulted several of us, one of whom was still bleeding. More than one of us was on cell phones, reporting an ongoing act of police brutality; probably that was the key that turned the joker, a sworn peace officer (as one used to term the office) who could be seen to have knocked down four people who raised not a hand in their own defense, from physically abusive to (merely) verbally so.
Your friend and mine, Joe Anybody, chose this moment to take the elevator down, keeping his documentary record of the Postal Inspector Bash safe for posterity.