Saturday, November 24, 2012
By Bryan Denson
Rob Ranta gathered with a regular Friday night group of peace-and-justice demonstrators to decry the FBI stings that jailed, among others, Mohamed Mohamud, 21. Bryan Denson/The Oregonian
About a dozen peace protesters gathered at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square tonight, as they have every Friday for eleven years -- this time with a new message: "Free Mohamed Mohamud."
It was nearly two years ago that FBI agents arrested Mohamud, accusing him of attempting to ignite explosives at the city's holiday tree lighting ceremony.
Mohamud, now 21, was taken down in an FBI terrorism sting -- one of many across the United States after 9/11 -- and is now in jail awaiting trial in January for allegedly attempting to ignite a weapon of mass destruction.
The bomb, as it happens, was a harmless fake rigged by FBI techs and presented to Mohamud by two undercover operatives posing as terrorists. The faux explosive was loaded into a van parked about 100 yards from where the protesters now stood.
Portland's 28th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland featured a 75 foot Douglas-fir tree. Eilise Ward/The Oregonian
"We were here for the protest that night," said demonstrator Dan Handelman, who is affiliated with Portland Cop Watch and Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, co-sponsors of tonight's protest.
Protesters have demonstrated at the square every Friday night since November 2001, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, they said.
Handelman, standing in a steady rain, said he believes the FBI set up the Somali-American, then a teenager, helping him hatch a phony terrorism plot.
"This so-called plot," he said, "was used as an excuse by Portland to de facto join the (FBI's) Joint Terrorism Task Force."
The government has consistently denied that the FBI set Mohamud up and rebutted accusations that their suspect's arrest had any bearing on efforts to get Portland police to rejoin the task force that they once took part in.
The FBI declined, through a spokeswoman, to comment on tonight's protest.