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 prodcaster, ClearChannel, praised the US attack. But their numbers where dismle compared to the nearby anti-war rally.
After stopping traffic over the Burnside Bridge at 5:30, protesters quickly dispersed, glogging vehicles on another bridge before taking their grievances over the Willamette River into Southeast Portland.
In an Oregon protest first, thousands of anti-war activists, after splitting up, blocked 3 major intersections and stopped traffic along two major interstates. Following several hours of this, the protesters gatherd back in the downtown area 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.
At 11pm the protesters are still occupying the entrance to the Burnside Bridge from downtown. Police in riot gear are monitering the situation. Several local news stations are reporting the crowd is growing slowly. Over thrity people have been arrested, with several activists taken to the hospital for pepper spray and billy club injuries.
No doubt this display of civil disobidiance will catch on in future anti-war events; where unpermited protests cause mass chaos by spreading their capibities to several parts of the city simutaneously.
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 inconvienance these commuters are having is nothing compared to the inconvienance our bombs are having to Iraqis. I hope more activists find creative ways to disrupt typical behavior, and make Americans think!”
She may be right. It’s got Portland thinking. We’ll see if more activists follow their lead.
JOSH FRANK is a 24-year-old writer and activist living in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org