3/20/03 marked a significant day and night of protest for the citizens of Portland, Oregon. Critical mass traveled through Portland, from the West to East Side and back again. With the exception of one arrest and at least six bikes being run over, we successfully jammed the streets wherever the mass went. The first arrest was on Morrison St. downtown, where a rider was yanked off his bike for riding through a red light, forced to the ground and shackled while cops puffed their chests and yelled for the bikers to move on (see mandown.jpeg). After this first instance of police hostility, the aggression came from distressed motorists. Our procession went over the Hawthorne Bridge and onto north bound 99, Grand St. At the intersection of the Morrision Bridge, a riot cop squad watched passively as a silver ford f-350 monster truck advanced on our ranks. Apparently maddened by the slow pace of our traffic, he surged forward into our group. Several riders stopped infront of the truck but still he pushed forward, eventually knocking riders over and running over a bike. License plate number obtained, we asked the police to do their duty, but they simply ignored their job descriptions.
Our ride continued north on Grand St, with a quick detour through the parking garage of the Lloyd Mall and movie theatre. Next we road back west across the Broadway bridge, where we encountered the second act of motorist violence. At the base of the Broadway Bridge off ramp we had taken control of both lanes. A BMW beamer in the oncoming lane refused to slow down for safety. Bikers were passing the car on both sides when the driver revved the engine and drove forward with speed through several riders. Again riders jumped and fell away just in time to avoid being run over by the car, but at least five bikes were destroyed by the attempted assault on the bicyclists.
Back at the Burnside sit-in we rallied, deciding that with the Police occupied, we should stage some civil disobedience to further distract the cops form other protests. It was time to jam the 405 freeway. We took the Everett Street on ramp, going southbound to the Ross Island Bridge Exit. As we massed up, the energy was at an all-time high with both excitement and anxiety. With hoots, hollers, bells ringing and lights blinking we blocked the traffic and massed onto the freeway. As we dismounted and walked our bikes at a slow pace, I felt the most exciting sensation of both freedom and joy! "OUR STREETS!" "BIKES NOT BOMBS!" "PEDALS FOR PEACE!" we chanted (see 405 bikeblockade.jpeg). Trucks passing in the other direction blared their horns, people waved and cheered, while others jeered us- "Go home stupid hippies!" "We are home!" we shouted back. This is our city and our country, and standing up to let your voice be heard is the most democratic and patriotic thing you can do.
On the freeway we encountered more vehicular violence as two trucks pushed their way through our ranks and passed us by driving over a median into an off ramp, and then back over the median onto the 405. For the third time bicyclists had to abandon their rides to avoid being injured by the vehicles. Some seriously angry people out there.
About half way to the PSU off ramp we heard the sirens and knew the cops were on us. Half the group split up the bank to the right of the freeway, scrambling through grass and thickets, then over fences and guardrails seeking escape from the Portland storm troopers. I jumped over a guardrail onto the off ramp from eastbound highway 26, then biked into the town, passing several cruisers on their way to the freeway. Turning back across an overpass, I looked down to see several cruisers stopped on the 405, arresting bicyclists.
This was my first critical mass ride, and I will defiantly be back to ride again. In the face of the piles of rhetoric the Bush administration is shitting out, their blatant disregard for both US and international law, and the increasing onslaught of information about their wrongdoings, action seems like the only way to engage change. Be it sit-ins, marches, writings, bike rallies or civil disobedience, I want to congratulate each and every participant for standing up for their rights and duties as Americans to excercise their power to enact change.