[Note: This post was submitted by BikePortland Subscriber Kiel Johnson (a.k.a. “Go By Bike”) through our Subscriber Post system. We think it deserves a wider reach so we’ve posted it here on the Front Page. Remember, if you are a subscriber you are also a contributor! We would love to amplify your voice and share your experiences with a wider audience. Sign up here. – Jonathan]
What does mass resistance look like in 2017 Portland? The marches we saw over this weekend were the largest since the Vietnam War, unless of course, you follow “alternate facts”. If you look at the history of resistance in the world, it is constantly changing. Resistance must conform to the technology and public spaces of that period. Martin Luther King used television and the American Revolution used pamphlets.
But what will mass resistance look like in a city of highly informed people with access to more technology in their pocket than NASA used to get to the moon? Combine that with a city that has been building more public spaces with bicycle, pedestrian, and transit access faster (although not fast enough) than any other time in the history of cities. Over the next four years we will find out what this resistance looks like but here are a couple of thoughts on what could be important to these new movements.
Phoenix has 2.5 times our population yet we had 5 times the number of marchers. There is no place for 100,000 people to go in Phoenix and no way for them all to get there.
Just for a minute imagine if every one of those 100,000 people who attended Portland’s Saturdays march drove by themselves. Talk about disruptive! It simply would have been impossible. Also imagine that Portland had kept its highway instead of building Waterfront Park. There would have been no place for protesters to go. Phoenix has 2.5 times our population yet we had 5 times the number of marchers. There is no place for 100,000 people to go in Phoenix and no way for them all to get there.
I believe that in the resistance of the 21st century the bicycle will play a crucial role.
People bicycling to large marches are simply the most efficient and easiest way to get the most number of people to attend. The tools that we have developed during Pedalpalooza are the tools we will need to use to create effective resistance. Shift’s Pedalpalooza — a month-long festival of 300+ free bike events by and for the entire community — has been the training ground for a huge number of potential future march leaders. The Naked Bike Ride has taught us how to lead a huge group of people and the BBQ grills many have built onto their bikes can be used to feed those marchers. The sound systems we have built on cargo bikes will amplify the music that transforms a park or street into a place of resistance. With this background, the marches of the future will not be monotonous shouting, “whose streets, our streets” over and over and over again, because that can be both annoying and uninspiring. These marches will be creative expressions that are engaging and thought provoking built of the back of the bike fun movement.
Technology is a double-sided blade. At its best, it allows for the diffusion of power. A dude can start a blog about bikes for free and influence the city as effectively as a non-profit with a million dollar budget. What is exciting is that this power is accessible to all individuals, not just cisgender men. In the next four years we are going to see an entire half of the population, women, who have been historically left out of decision making process, organizing and participating. We will have ethnic groups and people of different backgrounds being able to participate. Marches will look less like a group of angry agro dudes dressed in black ready to scare people. Instead marches will get tweets from the police department congratulating them on how well organized and peaceful they are. Resistance by destroying stuff just is not effective right now.
I am excited for what a new generation of resistance will look like and the leaders that it will create.
After the snowstorm our new city councilor Chloe Eudaly started a Facebook chat asking what the city could have done better. She got over 83 responses and she engaged with those responders. Meanwhile, Dan Saltzman’s, who runs PBOT, only Facebook activity over the last year has been to update his cover and profile photo. Amanda Fritz might spend $350,000 “talking” to neighborhood associations about what the city is doing about homelessness but for free Chloe just engaged an entire open house of citizens about how our city can work better.
Something that needs to happen locally is the overthrow of the neighborhood association system. They are too time consuming, not representative, and have a false sense of power that destroys community and encourages reaction instead of positive action. I plan to write more on this topic later.
The other day, my wife, Kate and I were watching various Youtube stars. These stars are people who have made a living by having a somewhat popular Youtube channel about cooking, health, movies, politics, or just random thoughts. We are both very tech savvy but we realized that even our generation, folks who are 30, would not have really thought of using Youtube the same way people born 5 years before us have. The resistance of the 21st century will be led by young people because they think about new media in ways other generations just cannot. To quote a Nobel Laureate, “Your old road is rapidly agin’ Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand.” The Youtube stars are coming for you and with the speed that technology is changing that old road is aging a lot faster.
I am excited for what a new generation of resistance will look like and the leaders that it will create. I think for the first time we will have strong young female leaders from all different backgrounds. The diversity of the 21st century resistance will be its strength. What is crucial is that people in cities continue to demand that we create the public space and infrastructure for this resistance to happen. If we do not the scary dudes in black might take over.