Last Tuesday, or perhaps it was Wednesday, I was riding my bicycle home down Alder St. While passing The Lorax, I noticed a man strapped to a light post, climbing up. He was perhaps 25 feet high. He seemed intent on his task, sliding the straps and pulling himself up.
I rode past, not thinking much about it. Then, Thursday afternoon, I saw a press release with his picture in front of the capitol building. He is part way up a flagpole with a banner hanging under him that reads, “Schools or trees? We want both.” According to OregonLive.com, Perry Graham, who climbed the flagpole in Salem, is a member of the Cascadia Forest Defenders. On their website, the group expresses their desire for Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Land Board to “decouple public school funding from state forest management.”
The land board approved a plan for the Elliott State Forest last October which notably increases logging and clear-cutting with the revenue contributing to the Common School Fund.
By chance, I met Perry at a friend’s house about two hours ago. He, our mutual friend, and other friends were hanging out, discussing our midterm woes and other things when he brought up a photograph one of his fellow protesters took using his phone.
Myself: ”That was you? I saw you practicing the other day!”
Graham: “On Alder?”
Myself: “Yeah! How high were you in the picture?”
Graham: “Probably about 60-70 feet.”
Myself: “How was that?”
Graham: “It was really surreal. I strapped myself to the pole and I was like, ‘Oh fuck, I’m on the pole. Oh fuck, I’m climbing up. Oh fuck, there’s a cop right there.’ ”
Myself: “What were their reactions?”
Graham: “I didn’t talk to them. I had a liaison communicating information.”
Myself: “Oh, I see. Was that because you were so high up that they couldn’t, like hear you without yelling? Or because you didn’t want to talk to the cops?”
Graham: “I mean, kind of both”
Myself: “Right. So, how long did you train for this?”
Graham: “I practiced for about 5 weeks before and pretty intensely the last week.”
Perry Thompson Graham, 23, climbed about 80-feet up the pole at 7:45 a.m. He stayed aloft for about 90 minutes before he came down voluntarily.[...] After his arrest, Graham was taken to the Marion County Jail. He will be charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and criminal mischief, according to a police press release.ell, Wednesday morning, climbs flag pole in front of the capital building in Salem.
The flag was still hanging when Graham descended the flag pole. Apparently, rented equipment was needed to remove Graham’s protest banner from the flagpole.