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Will May Day 2010 again be Cops Gone Wild or a Quiet Case of Overtime Run Amok?

The only real question is will the police stay true to form and grotesquely overreact to minor provocations?
May Day in Portland !
May Day in Portland !
If you thought last month's downtown antipolice protests were intense, brother you better grab your Circle-A banner tight and cinch up that black bandana one more time. That's because the latest edition of May Day in Portland is right around the corner. It's sure to be Stumptown's most chaotic and fierce anti-establishment face-off in years.

Predictions are always tricky. But I'm betting May 1, 2010 goes down alongside other dramatic Rose City protests, including May Day 2000 (about 20 arrests as police break up demonstrators before union workers induce cops to back off); August 22, 2002 (anti-Bush demo attacked by police resulting in many injuries, plus court decision of $300,000 and legal costs against the city); March 19-20, 2003 (the start of the Iraq invasion moves protesters to paralyze downtown and disrupt I-5); May Day 2006 (tens of thousands of marchers in 22-block formation in solidarity with nationwide general strikes and marches for immigrant rights); and March 18, 2007 (widespread outrage as anarchists burn US soldier in effigy at the South Park Blocks).

Of course, the fatal police shootings of Aaron Campbell and Jack Dale Collins have set off the latest rounds of contentious protests. And Portland's finest apparently need no help in continuing to run down their public image with revelations the past few days about off-duty cop road rage - including two incidents by no less than the former president of the police union Scott Westerman.

Talk about shooting yourself in the collective foot.

Red-letter dates aside, local anarchists and black bloc-ers may not even wait til Saturday, May 1 to hit the streets again. Seems like every TV and radio newscast are daily doses of tense anticipation, waiting for that all too familiar lede: "And today in Portland there was another officer-involved shooting, this time . . ." Should any similar police shooting occur, it will be another downtown melee, the perfect opportunity for the Popo to pepper spray, baton charge, riot gun, and choke hold demonstrators guilty of usually nothing more than pushing over newsstands and screaming profanity laced class-war diatribes.

I've witnessed these violent police tactics up close on more than a few occasions, especially during the Great Police Riot of August 22, 2002 beside the Portland Hilton on Taylor street as George W. Bush personally raked in campaign cash for former Oregon Senator Gordon Smith. Bush actually saw the several thousand peaceful and raucous protesters from his limousine, though not the chaotic aftermath as military-style police blasted through assembled masses of women, children and seniors, in addition to the more garden variety antiwar protesters.

Perhaps local and federal authorities let loose the snarling dogs of carnivorous capitalism simply because they were more than a little embarrassed and angry that this Portland demonstration was one of the nation's first large anti-government protest after the 9/11 attacks.

Ya just gotta love "Little Beirut," no matter what the era or issue.

And in case you didn't know, International May Day demonstrations in support of workers and their global struggles for a better life started right here in America, most notably as an 1886 march and general strike for the eight-hour work day in Chicago. Ever since, May 1 has always been the true Labor Day.

Again, predicting noteworthy local demonstrations is an unscientific exercise at best. Portland's turnout for the February 15, 2003 International Peace Day run-up to the Iraq invasion was a no-show compared to other important peace capitals around the world when millions hit the streets. Nevertheless, smart local hedge funds are doubling down and betting the Popo will be out in overwhelming force on the downtown streets for May Day 2010, no matter how many or how few peaceful demonstrators make a stand.

The only real question is will the police stay true to form and grotesquely overreact to minor provocations?

Whether it's a case of Cops Gone Wild (like the 2002 anti-Bush demo) or a quiet case of Overtime Run Amok (so many cops lined the May Day 2007 route that it looked like the entire PPB, ironically a union outfit, had decided to stand in solidarity with the international labor movement) is anybody's guess. []

Lawrence J. Maushard is a journalist and author living in southeast Portland planning to participate in this year's May Day demonstrations.

May Day history 27.Apr.2010 01:01

Working Class Mama

There is no reason to believe that cops will be heavy handed. May Day 2000 is the only one in 10 years that has been attacked. Granted, that year was a surprise. Police had collected faulty intelligence from a CIU agent with an outrageous imagination. They were told that Portland's May Day was "going to be another really big one like Seattle". The fact that only 1,000 showed should've been their first clue that something was wrong with their info. 2001 had twice the numbers & no permit & no police violence. I don't think it is a good idea to be sensationalizing the potential for police violence before a march. It gets the cops excited & scares off people that don't want to get injured.

May Day isn't just about commemorating the struggle for the 8 hr day. It is to remember the atrocities committed by the police & government on that day over 124 years ago. Anarchists organized a general strike and rally for the 8hr day in Haymarket square. Once the rally began to disperse the police attacked the crowd. A pipe bomb went off & killed a cop. Then the police opened fire, injuring mostly each other. 8 Anarchists were rounded up whether they'd been there or not. 4 were hung for being Anarchists & 1 Louis Lingg robbed them of the satisfaction with a bit of dynamite he'd smuggled in his hair. Several of the Haymarket Martyrs were also immigrants. Word of this went all around the world and now May Day is even bigger in other countries than it is here. It is still observed, as you said, as the true labor day.