by Joshua Frank
American Reporter Correspondent'
March 21, 2003
PORTLAND, Ore., March 21, 2003 -- Several thousand protesters descended upon downtown Portland Thursday afternoon and stayed until some were arrested Friday morning in the second major protest of the U.S. invasion of Iraq here since last Saturday.
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, headed by former LAPD deputy chief Mark Kroeker, was clearly not prepared for the number of dissenters that took to the streets. Even though Saturday's 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 antiwar slogans while waving American flags.
Several blocks away, a much smaller pro-war rally sponsored by the corporate radio broadcaster, ClearChannel, praised the coaltion attack.
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 antiwar activists, after splitting up, blocked 3 major intersections and stopped traffic along two major freeways. Following several hours of traffic confusion, the protesters gathered downtown near of 3rd and Burnside at twilgiht for a candlelight vigil.
Some activists took their frustration out on local property, spray-painting a federal building and smashing several windows, one at a local McDonalds. No major damage was reported. Portland and Eugene, Ore., are both home to anarchist groups that frequently disrupt peace marches that owuld otherwise be peaceful.
Potesters occupied the entrance to the Burnside Bridge from downtown Until the early morning hours of Friday. The group then began to disperse slowly, first due to rain, then due to copious amounts of pepper spray fired by police. More than 30 people were arrested, and several activists taken to the hospital for injuries.
Such civil disobedience may catch on at future antiwar events. Un-permited protests can cause mass chaos by spreading their resources out among several key areas of the city simultaneously.
As one protester said, "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."
Josh Frank is a journalist based in Portland, whose work appears on Counterpunch.org and in Impact Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org