Activist reflects on his role in protest Danny Peterson | 1/16/2019, 6 a.m.
Jordan LeDoux accidentally signed up as coordinator if a protest was needed to defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigation of President Trump and Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. LeDoux had already been involved in political actions, but took it to a new level when he got the call last November in response to the resignation of Jeff Sessions and Trump’s appointment of Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. PHOTO BY DANNY PETERSON
Most of us have mistakenly clicked on an unwanted option while online shopping or doing other activities on the web, usually a minor inconvenience and easily corrected. But for Jordan LeDoux, a misplaced click sent him down the path to reluctantly organizing the local chapter of a national protest in support of maintaining the integrity of a special counsel investigation into ties between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. It all started when LeDoux, a computer programmer from Portland, signed up for the political group MoveOn’s rapid response tool. LeDoux clicked on Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland on a digital map on the MoveOn website, thinking he was marking his location should a future protest be held in the Rose City, he told the Portland Observer. But rather than marking himself as a potential participant, LeDoux inadvertently signaled he was volunteering to organize and host the event should it be needed. He said he didn’t really realize what he had signed up until a few months later, when he got “some emails about tips for organizers, things like that,” he said. “I looked at the thing that I created and realized that there were over 2,000 people signed up. And at that point I was like, well, I really have to do basic organizing,” LeDoux said. Luckily “basic organizing” was part of his pedigree due to being a key figurehead in the Occupy Portland movement against economic inequality years prior. MoveOn’s rapid response tool was designed to get triggered if certain “red lines” were crossed, which included things like Mueller being fired or his investigation being fundamentally compromised. Pre-planned, nationwide protests were designed to take place within 24 hours of the “triggering” event. Emails would immediately be sent out and MoveOn subscribers would be asked to join the demonstrations. That “red line” was crossed in November with the appointment of acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in the wake of Jeff Sessions’ resignation under pressure from Trump. Whitaker had been publicly critical of the Mueller investigation and refused to recuse himself from the probe as Sessions did. LeDoux received a text message from the national organization informing him the rapid response tool was triggered and he worked to get the word out to people in the Portland area on the email list, asking them to show up to demonstrate the next day. In the months prior, he had already reached out to City Hall, including Mayor Ted Wheeler and the City Commissioners, the Portland Police Department, and several elected officials to give them a heads up about the possibility of a demonstration, LeDoux said. He set up plans with the city for protest locations, road closures and other ways to minimize any impacts on both TriMet and traffic. Thanks to that preparation, the protests went off without a hitch and nearly 1,000 people gathered at Tom McCall Waterfront Park the evening of Nov. 8 calling on the Trump Administration not to interfere with Mueller’s abilities to carry out his investigation.
Oregon’s Democratic Senator Ron Wyden spoke to the crowd that evening, also urging support for Meuller’s independence. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Sen. Jeff Merkley also released statements of support. No one was injured and no violence occurred at the event, thanks in part to LeDoux’s insistence during the planning stages that protesters not violate any local ordinances. He said he wanted to make sure the protest remain absolutely focused on protecting American democracy and the rule of law, and not about anyone’s feelings toward local figures, the police, or so on. In a Reddit post, he told supporters if the protest happens, “It will be much bigger than that.” LeDoux added that the narrow focus was also designed to cast a wider net of potential participants, from across the political spectrum. “You can be extremely conservative and still be uncomfortable with the idea of the justice system being subverted,” he said. “Violating local ordinances would have been a distraction. It would have definitely generated a police response, but the local police and government weren’t the issue. All of that energy needed to remain focused on the Department of Justice and the Mueller investigation.” The efforts were the latest in a long line of political activism by LeDoux, including working communications and social media during the Occupy Portland demonstrations and campaigning for Bernie Sanders during his 2016 presidential campaign. In 2007, he was an activist and supporter of Libertarian Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, helping create a website that drew donations that broke a single-day internet fund-raising record for the political candidate. Conceived to coincide with the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, LeDoux said the effort would later be co-opted by establishment Republicans to form the “Tea Party” movement in 2009. By the time LeDoux joined the Occupy Portland movement, which was at the time the largest Occupy encampment on the West Coast, the experience had transformed him from a centrist Libertarian to a Socialist, he said. For LeDoux, the greatest takeaway of his “accidental organizing” and the other experiences he’s had in the battles for social justice was the realization that the actions or inactions of individuals can have a surprising and rippling impact on others. “I take away the importance of showing up,” he said. This story was updated to include more accurate information of the elected officials who attended the protest.