Sad March, Happy Mass
If you were underwhelmed by the march, you should have seen our Critical Mass.
Boy was I sour to find out that we have a monkey king for another four years. Not content to stand idly by and mope, I checked out the street actions here in Portland. At 5pm, citizens gathered in Pioneer Square and began marching soon afterwards. They departed to the echoing jeers of the 9 or 10 Bush supporters who stood atop the ampitheater seating. I watched two yokels beat up a Kerry sign. I even began cheering them on. "Yeah buddy! Get that big ol' sign! Woo hoo! That'll learn um! Woo yeah! Beat it up s'more! No, kick it like a man! Yea-yuh! Amerika rocks ass! Now you're a ma-yon, a ma-yon ma-yon ma-yon!" They responded in kind, whooping and hollering like chimps, figuring I sympathized. Other yokels joined, gang banging the paperboard sign, kicking, yelling stuff about dumb ol' lesbian liberals and whatnot, only to turn around and see that Sam the Cheerleader was now staring at their sorry asses, shaking his head in somber disapproval with a smirk across his face only Dick Cheney could love. I guess they realized how stupid they looked, because they left the sign alone after that and went home or under the Crazy Person Bridge or whatever.
By "official" accounts, the crowd quickly grew to at least 1000 strong. There were families, cyclists, teachers, punks, anarchists, gay pride folk, Code Pink , and of course lots and lots of riot cops (or as a friend of mine calls them, beetles). They had all their toys out, so as to justify their purpose on the county budget. Tear gas canisters, pepper spray, horses, motorcycles, and my personal favorite, the AMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER! Yup. They were ready for anything. And they took care of the marchers with efficiency I have not witnessed since my fun fun time in DC back in 2000. Marchers were quickly cordoned off, block by block. Suspected trolls were planted, sending crowds to different convergence points until nobody knew what the hell was going on. Black block were the first to notice this and take action. "We're going to take over the Burnside Bridge! Let's go people! Who's streets? Our streets! Yay!" Problem was, most folks showed up to march, let the cameras know they were present and pissed, then go home early for comfort food and hot cocoa. They were not into civil disobedience, or worse, getting hit with pepper spray.
I ran into some cyclivist (my new coined phrase... do you like it? I do.) friends who were mixing up some rum and coke at the bus station. I figured the movement would survive without me for a little while, so I joined them for refreshments. As black-clad girls with mace in their eyes ran screaming past us, we sipped our concoctions at the Tri-Met Bus Stop and Tavern, talking the politics of activism. Seeing as how the street march (really, sidewalk march) had lacked spirit all night and had pretty much gone to hell at that point, we decided to change tactics. Finish our drinks, and go to Critical Mass.
Our arrival at CM was greeted with little fanfare. Many folks in the Park Blocks had spent the last couple hours, like us, dredging down the sidewalk murmuring chants of dissent. Food Not Bombs was there to provide much needed nutrition. Chewing my kale like cud in order to wash down the bean and noodle concoction (LOL, FNB), I surveyed the park. More people were arriving, but no one knew what was going on. I joined my cyclivist friends on the grass. We all concurred that this demonstration was just as mopey as the last one. So, we mused, what the hell are we going to do about it? Strategize.
In the interests of CM's continuing success, I will not disclose all the details of our strategy. Suffice to say, we avoided the initial police escort that traditionally harasses CM. We proceeded to overtake most major roads on the east side, growing from 50 to 70 bikes strong, picking up curious cyclists all the way. We were even joined by a couple of skateboarders. We cruised by a pack of motorcycle cops that were inside a Wendy's choking down post-protester-pounding bacon double cheeseburgers (Biggie Sized, I'm sure.) Had my view been better, I'm certain there would be cola visibly spewing from all their snouts as they saw us pedal by, chanting with enthusiasm and ringing our bike bells. Finally, after nearly 2 hours of harassment free riding, the fuzz caught up with us.
"Critical Mass!" the loudspeaker blared, "We are not in the mood for this crap tonight. Cease and desist. This is your only warning!"
Not bloody likely. The response mantra was "Scatter! Ride your bikes! Ride everywhere that cop cars cannot! Reconvene! Reconvene!"
Cruisers came out of nowhere, peeling up on intersections. Like flies in a shit storm, bikes took to sidewalks. Bikes took to parking lots. Bike took the wrong way down Broadway. Utter madness for John Q. Motorist. Total hell for Johnny Law. Unlike their cohorts still spraying and arresting marchers on the west side, these burger munching flunkies had no bikes or motorcycles. Just big dumb giant cars. Ha-Ha!
We did reconvene. Post evasion, our numbers were halved (I'm hoping no one got popped and that everyone made it home safe). But 30 bikes were all we needed for one quick takeover of the west side (it's all about symmetry, you know). After a most satisfactory ride, we settled in for a couple of cheap pints at Ankeny's and shared smiles. There was much discussion about the future of CM. We all agreed that what started out as a dubious protest had blossomed into one of the finest examples of a Mass in about two years.
There is light at the end of this dismal tunnel my friends. Stay Pissed! Wednesday night was only the beginning of the rebirth. Bike fun can make a difference. Let's keep these wheels of fire rolling.
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