Answering a national call-out by Ferguson organizers to fill the streets with marchers similar to solidarity actions carried out in Washington DC this weekend, Portland organizers were quick to set up their own action Monday. On Saturday, reports coming out of Ferguson via the New York Times and other sources cited a call to shut down freeways on Labor Day in protest of the killing of Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson.
A previous Ferguson solidarity march in Portland saw hundreds of protestors amass outside a police precinct, then take over Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. During that march, police stayed well out of sight. Quoted after the fact, Portland’s North Precinct commander Mike Leloff stated, “There’s no good that can come from engagement over a street. No good was to come from saying ‘You all need to leave the street now.’”
A Labor Day of Rage press statement addressed Commander Leloff’s sentiment, “Last month the police decided to ignore the protestors. The organizers are hoping for the same response, which at least speaks to recognition of responsibility. There is no reason for the traditional heavy-handed responses to a peaceful protest. In solidarity with the people of Ferguson and victims of police brutality everywhere, including Portland, a diverse coalition of community members will be taking to the streets as an act of civil disobedience.”
Around 1pm Monday, a crowd began to assemble near the Lloyd Center mall at Holladay park. Once there were about 100 people present, a few speakers rallied the crowd together to give a few brief instructions before the crowd began a march. Moving from the park onto NE Multnomah st, the group wasted no time on the sidewalk, moving directly into the road. A police officer in a cruiser drove by and shouted to stay out of the street. A livestreamer could be heard shouting back, “Stop killing black people!”
Marching only a few blocks down Multnomah, the march then entered the Lloyd Center mall itself, where chants of ‘Hands up! Don’t shoot!‘ echoed throughout the massive 3-story structure. Shoppers cheered approval as the crowd made their way through the mall.
Above images courtesy Maya Rotem.
Exiting Lloyd center, the march paused briefly to regroup before spilling out onto NE Broadway, a wide traffic artery with four travel lanes and two parking lanes. The march fanned out, taking up as much room as possible. No motorized vehicles were allowed to pass.
Moving slowly, the crowd proceeded west all the way to the I-5 freeway. Here, the march stopped as some last minute decisions were made. There had been talk of occupying the Broadway bridge. Then, at the last second, the decision was made to instead turn and block the on-ramp to the I-5 coming off of N. Williams ave.
Here, the crowd sat down, arms in the air, continuing to chant, “Four and a half minutes, four and a half hours! Michael Brown, rest in power!” referencing the call to block freeways for just a fraction of the time Michael Brown’s body was left in the street by Ferguson police.
The Portland protesters, however, stayed longer than 4.5 minutes. Drivers began impatiently honking. A street medic in the crowd announced that police were on their way.
Finally, the crowd relented, and moved away from their position blocking the freeway. Some motorists angrily revved their engines as they raced down the now open on-ramp. Others rolled by slowly, honking in solidarity, hands in the air.
In the parking lot of a gas station nearby, the crowd cheered. Another successful, safe action of street protest had been achieved. Wisely, the police never did show up. Perhaps Portland law enforcement is getting the message that killing teenagers of color won’t be tolerated in any community. Hopefully, other police departments start following suit.
More media via Twitter here: #DontShootPdX
UPDATE: Full livestream of action below.
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All images copyright Hart Noecker except where otherwise noted.