A troublemaker leaves town
Self-proclaimed hippie lawyer Alan Graf, who has spent more than a decade busting the chops of the Portland police and other figures of authority, has announced that he's leaving Portland in a couple of months. He's heading off to Tennessee to live on a commune -- the milieu from which he came to Portland many years ago to attend law school here.
Graf's numerous projects on the Rose City leftie scene have included an active role in the local National Lawyers Guild chapter; lawsuits, protests, and lobbying against police overrreaching and in favor of greater citizen review powers; a talk show on KBOO radio known as "Law Squawk"; and loads of miscellaneous efforts on behalf of people who have little or no money to pay for the services of an attorney. He won a big case against the Portland police stemming from the pepper-spraying of protesters at various anti-W. street scenes in 2002 and 2003. And he and his Northwest Constitutional Rights Center were recently honored by the state's trial lawyers, who bestowed on Graf their annual Arthur H. Bryant Public Justice Award.
For a paying job, he's done a lot of work on Social Security issues, representing folks whose benefit claims in the Social Security system have needed attention. Graf is the co-author of the Oregon State Bar book entitled "Perfecting Your Social Security Claim," a useful primer on Social Security law.
That's not all he's written. He's got his life story, and lots more, posted on his website (hippielawyer.com) in a section called "I Inhaled." Passages like these could keep me busy for hours:
Recently, here in Portland, an activist was there with a camera, at the right place and the right time. A demonstration in support of Mumia Abdul Jamal was just winding down. This is the time in a protest, when the cops are likely to create the most mischief. The cops had just arrested one protestor who wandered off by himself for littering, that is, the protestor dropped a flower on the pavement. The Portland mounted police, surrounded this "heinous criminal" and dragged him off to jail to protect the community against such further aggression. A fellow standing by went over to question the actions of the cops. Big mistake. The mounties surrounded this second fellow and suddenly a cop on foot, sprinted from behind and grabbed this fellow's arm and twisted him to the ground.
In the process, the cop broke the protestor's arm in what is termed a spiral fracture. That's when the bones twist like a twig and snap in multiple places. The protestor screamed in pain and the cop grabbed him by the arm that was broken and dragged him off to the local dungeon.
Guess what? Some alert soul, got the whole thing on video. Unfortunately, that is the kind of stuff that you want to capture. In order to do that, you have to basically follow the cops and get a feel for which cops are the most likely to do that sort of sh*t.
If you are a protestor and you get arrested, do not resist, actively or passively. First, as the Borg once said (or will say), resistance is futile. This guys are bigger, stronger, more hopped up on testosterone, and have guns and other weapons which they won't hesitate to use, if given the excuse. Give them your name, and not anything else. Ask to call your lawyer. And write your lawyers name on your arm in indelible ink. It may be the most important thing you ever did. I guarantee that jail or prison is not a picnic. I don't care what some folks say about it being a spiritual experience. If you want a spiritual experience, go out to the woods, the trees are a hell of a lot gentler than a corrections officer.
We was headed towards the city, hitchhiking in from the Island.
It was me and Anne and my guitar. We hopped a ride from a friendly hippy type dude in a VW bug, Anne getting in the front and me in the back with guitar on my lap. We started to drive and suddenly this car comes out of this street all unexpected and slam, the car hits us and the next thing I know I am lying there in the back of the car and a cop is peering into the window of the VW. He looks at me and says "got any drugs on you?"---Well, I don't know why he would say such a thing. After all just because my hair was half way down my back and I had a shirt on with a big serpent in the middle of it and boots up to my knees and beads on my head and around my neck and a guitar on my lap---- its a wonder that this officer would ask me if I had some drugs on me, as I was bleeding to death internally, because my spleen had just exploded from the impact of my guitar hitting it. So, I was lying there dying and I said-"no, I don't" and he turned away to check something out which later turned out to be the driver who had flown out the window of the car and landed about twenty feet from the car.
So, suddenly this thought occurs to me, "sh*t, I do have some acid in my pocket." So I painfully reach into my pocket and throw a couple of hits of good blotter out the window. I then pass out and wake up in the hospital where this doctor is asking me if he has permission to operate on me. I say "yes" and pass out again. Turns out, they had to remove my spleen, drain out all the blood, sew me up and cut me open again when the first operation didn't work. It was nip and tuck there for a while. But hey, once they got me out of the operating room, they put me into intensive care with all sorts of tubes and wires coming out of me. But every now and then when I would regain consciousness, I would find out some really cool things, like the guy next to me in intensive care had been stepped on by an elephant, so I didn't have it too bad after all.Graf has been in the middle of some nasty battles over the years. But as far as I can see he has stayed cool, treated everyone with respect, and retained his marvellous sense of humor through it all.
For the amount of acid I had been taking and the lack of care I had been giving my body, my recovery was pretty remarkable. Once I decided I wanted to get out of that damn hospital, I was able to leave about two weeks later after the accident. You know I was pretty close to death, but during those times, I don't remember ever feeling worried or panicky that my end was near. It might have been the drugs.
People like this don't show up in Portland every day. We'll be poorer, if perhaps a bit calmer, without him.