11,500 Portlanders gathered downtown today as part of the nationwide NOT IN OUR NAME campaign to demand No War in Iraq. Cloudy grey skies were offset by a multitude of colorful signs and banners, loud drums and chants, and an energetic spirit. The crowd assembled in the South Park blocks for speeches and music and then marched through downtown to Terry Schrunk Plaza, in front of the Federal Building, for more of the same. |
A comrade and I ran out ahead of the march and picked a corner to count from. We were there for over forty minutes while people passed by in a seemingly endless stream. This is where we came up with the number 11,500. Word on the street is that AP was saying 4,400 and Jim Redden from the Portland Tribune was saying 5,000 or 6,000 (after activists talked him up from 4,500). Did either of these lazy corporate reporters stake out an intersection and patiently watch the whole time? I doubt it.
At this particular intersection the drivers in front (all female) were excited about the march and we gave them "Attack Iraq? NO!" stickers. They waved them and cheered to everyone as they went by. When it became clear that the march was going to take awhile, one of them got out of her car and sat on the hood. At one point, an angry driver (male) tried to turn out into the street where people were marching. I got in front of his truck and boy, was he ornery about it. "We've got a permit," I told him. "You've gotta wait." After about 15 minutes two bike cops came up. The lady cop told me I couldn't do what I was doing and I told her I was stopping this guy from doing something that would be unsafe to the people in the streets. She agreed but said it wasn't up to me to do that. She said she would handle it from there. What ended up happening was that he had to back up around the corner where he came from, and then the cops made all the cars on that sidestreet back up and go another way. The two female driver supporters both stayed though, and kept cheering. It was great. I'm not really in favor of permits -- it is just our right to be in the streets, but it was useful in this situation, I admit. Otherwise I suppose I would've had to have gotten a ticket for obstructing traffic.
There's so much to say and show about this beautiful day in Portland and I am hoping some other reports will pop up on the newswire soon because I want to see what else happened. One more quick story, though:
When the rally in the Plaza was winding down, a brave young man (16, according to someone who knew him) climbed up on the peak above the door of City Hall with a "NO WAR" sign. A crowd gathered to cheer him on and threw a pair of goggles up there in case the police decided to pepper-spray him out. After about 15 minutes he came down into the welcoming arms of the throng, which then surrounded him to keep him from being arrested or cited. This same crowd turned into about 50 and we took the streets. We marched down Fourth, up another street (Stark?) to Broadway, and back to the Park Blocks and back into downtown. 50 isn't many people but it's enough to take a street. There was no police harrassment of this action, though several to many drivers were upset. One of them nudged into me with his car when a couple of us were blocking an intersection, and then nudged me again harder. Three or four other marchers came over immediately and the situation de-escalated. I snapped a photo of his license plate, which I will post later. I didn't see the end of this march, so hopefully someone else will post how it ended. I hope no one got arrested or cited.
All in all, it was a beautiful day in Portland. Seeing so many people hit the streets to say NO to WAR was inspiring. I had tears in my eyes for a big chunk of time, I was so pleasantly overwhelmed by the number of faces. Hopefully, this turn-out in Portland today can help inspire NOT IN OUR NAME actions coming up in other cities in the next couple days!