Portland Pledges its Grievance to the Flag
This is What Democracy Looks Like!
by Josh Frank
March 22, 2003
Portland Oregon -- Several thousand protesters descended upon downtown Portland Thursday afternoon in protest of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Starting out as a peaceful demonstration, protesters blocked incoming and outgoing rush hour traffic, occupying over 7 blocks and two commuter bridges in the Portland area.
The Portland Police Department was clearly not prepared for the number of dissenters that took to the streets. Even though Saturday may have been Portland’s largest protest ever (over 40,000) recorded, Thursday’s proved to be the most creative.
At several key intersections in the downtown area, protesters camped out, chanting anti-war slogans while waving American flags. Only several blocks away a small pro-war rally sponsored by the corporate radio broadcaster, ClearChannel, praised the US attack. But their numbers where dismal compared to the nearby anti-war rally.
After stopping traffic over the Burnside Bridge at 5:30, protesters quickly dispersed, clogging vehicles on the Steel Bridge before taking their grievances over the Willamette River into Southeast Portland on the busy Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
In an Oregon protest first, thousands of anti-war activists, after splitting up, blocked 3 major intersections and stopped traffic along two major freeways. Following several hours of traffic confusion, the protesters gathered back in the downtown off of 3rd and Burnside for an evening candle light vigil.
As always it seems, a few activists took their frustration out on local property, spray painting a federal building, and smashing a few windows, one being a local McDonalds. But no major damages have yet to be found.
Until the early morning hours of Friday, protesters occupied the entrance to the Burnside Bridge from downtown. The congregated group began to disperse slowly, first due to rain, then due to large amounts of pepper spray.
Over thirty people have been arrested, with several activists taken to the hospital for pepper spray and billy club injuries.
No doubt this display of civil disobedience will catch on in future anti-war events; where unpermitted protests cause mass chaos by spreading their capabilities to several parts of the city simultaneously.
As one protester told me, “voting may not be enough, writing our elected officials may not be enough.... coming out into the streets, and reclaiming our democracy may be our last resort. The inconvenience these commuters are having is nothing compared to the inconvenience our bombs are having to Iraqis. I hope more activists find creative ways to disrupt typical behavior, and make Americans think!”
It’s got Portland thinking. We’ll see if more activists follow their lead.
Josh Frank is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org