About a hundred protestors shouting “hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” disrupted a townhall meeting in Portland of Senator Ron Wyden, where 100 year old Dario Raschio was to receive medals he earned during World War II.
Raschio — who looks about 70, not 100 — was chagrined by the interruption, but recovered quickly.
Shortly after Wyden began speaking, though, protesters erupted in the back of the room, shouting “hands-up, don’t shoot!” More than 100 pushed through the doors, banged on the windows from outside and hoisted signs.
Raschio and his daughter, Pam Brown of Portland, had a front-row seat to the spectacle. Raschio’s smile faded.
Demonstrators across the country have used “don’t shoot” and “hands up” as rallying cries following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, last fall. “I can’t breathe” references the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who died in July following a chokehold by a New York City police officer.
The medal presentation was to be the first event at a Wyden town hall, one of several the senator, D-Oregon, is holding around the state this week. After 15 minutes of shouting, Wyden persuaded the group to stop and let him proceed with the medal presentation.
Raschio’s smile returned as Wyden presented him with a frame filled with medals. He was awarded the U.S. Naval Aviator Badge, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the “Ruptured Duck” award and the U.S. Navy Honorable discharge pin.
He was also given a flag flown over the U.S Capitol.
“It is never too later for Oregon and America to remember one of our heroes,” Wyden said.
Indeed, Raschio joined the Navy at age 27 and piloted observational planes. He was once shot down in the Pacific and rescued by the timely arrival of a destroyer.
But Raschio had a message for the protestors:
As he grabbed the mic to speak, more shouts came from the back of the room, demanding the military exit from Iraq.
The feisty centenarian quickly responded, “Give me a chance” which brought chuckles from the audience. He further chastised the shouters, saying “Let’s show a little respect for this occasion,” to which the crowd applauded.
He accepted the medals on behalf of those who died in WWII and ended his short speech by saying, “God bless America. And you people that are here for a cause, whatever it might be—show respect to Sen. Wyden.”
Wyden took back the mic, and followed up, “One of the reasons that we can come here today and be heard and express our views is because of veterans like Dario.”
But before Raschio could even sit down the unrest resumed. A protester at the front of the room announced that “for 4.5 minutes we are going to take time to pay respect to everybody who has been killed by police in this nation.”
With that, the chanting began again. At 3:15, after waiting 45 minutes for the meeting to begin, organizers called it off.
I could go on a rant and chastise the protestors for ruining the special day of a 100 year old veteran, but the anti-cop agitator’s actions speak louder and clearer than any commentary I could add.
I will say this: If the protestors don’t realize that, with their actions in Portland, they damaged their cause with the ordinary people they should be counting on to support them to reform the police and the criminal justice system, then they prove themselves to be little better than ignorant hot heads — ill-mannered and boorish.
A few more incidents like this and the public will be demanding that the protestors leave the stage and never come back.