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A peaceful protest, thanks to people-powered, police-free streets

Posted by on June 2nd, 2020 at 9:42 am

A mix of skateboard, e-unicycle and bike riders directed traffic and cleared intersections as thousands of marchers walked down Burnside toward downtown last night.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s fourth consecutive night of protests in the name of George Floyd and against racism and police brutality proved that streets are for the people and that when allowed to assemble on them without militarized resistance, streets can be a powerful tool in the fight for democracy and human rights.

In the absence of an aggressive police presence, Black leaders guided thousands of Portlanders in a march from inner southeast, across the Burnside Bridge and into downtown.

I rolled up as the march was headed west on Burnside toward Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.

As protestors walked shoulder-to-shoulder down Burnside, a forward party cleared traffic out of their way and made sure it was safe to cross at intersections. Working as a team, these volunteer traffic monitors would zoom a block or so ahead, bark advice to drivers and look out for any possible hazards. Once downtown, they’d huddle, then scope out various locations and report back.

And they were all riding bikes or electric unicycles.

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Bikes and their riders have a strong place in Portland protest history. In 2011 a group called “Bike Swarm” saw themselves as protectors of Occupy Portland demonstrators. On one decisive night in November, this organized swarm of riders circled around Chapman and Lownsdale parks between protestors and police. The smiling bike riders and their dinging bells helped relieve tensions and provided much-needed support for weary demonstrators.

The powerful utility of bikes was on display again last night. Many people used them to get to the march, to carry their signs, and to move around the city and the protest at will.

While I’m full of anger and sadness about what’s happening in our country, it was heartening to see such a beautiful protest in our city! I hope we can build on it and keep moving forward. #BlackLivesMatter

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Bikeninja
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Bikeninja

This is good to see. There is a lot of talk on the internet that most of the violence is started by paid instigators.Who is doing the paying depends on your point of view it seems. Susan Rice thinks its the Russians, some others think it is the Chinese getting even for the U.S. and UK doing mischief in Hong Kong. Others see the right wing thugs trying to spark a civil war with the cops. Still others see it as some kind of plot to bring down Trump given the failure of Russiagate to accomplish anything. But the important thing is that real Portlanders on their own can protest peacefully. So lets keep the streets peaceful and send the bad actors packing and change the world.

damiene
Subscriber
damiene

I don’t think we need to look at outside actors for this, as we know our own government will do all sorts of heinous things to discredit challenges to power: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Do you have any more contemporary examples? That one is starting to show it’s age. I don’t doubt it happens on occasion, but I am skeptical of the claim that there’s any sort of organized or widespread effort to discredit “challenges” to government power (which the current round of protests do not do in my view.)

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

We won’t find out about all the illegal stuff they are doing right now until all the criminals are dead and can’t be held accountable.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

COINTELPRO was, for those of you who don’t know, and attempt to professionalize the use of coin operated telephony, which, through a partnership between Madison Avenue and shadowy officials deep in the treasury’s paper money division, was eventually overthrown by a scheme of “free” landlines that did not require infernal coins to operate.

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

You must be smoking something really good today. In the interest of accurate information about the COunter INtelligence PROgram: https://vault.fbi.gov/cointel-pro

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

I suspect you’ve been co-opted by the paperists.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

People will do a lot of strange things for free Nikes and Video games.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

To date, I have yet to see an actual “Soros check”, or any proof that right wingers are funded either. Surely there is a money trail that some enterprising journalist has exposed?

Adam
Guest
Adam

It’s so interesting. I’ve noticed a *lot* that the police seem to be the center for any antagonism at protests. It seems that if your anger as a protesting unit is towards the police or other forms of authority, the most obvious way to diffuse the situation is simply to remove the police from that situation. Have them on standby nearby, but out of the way, where they won’t be antagonistic.

Dan
Guest
Dan

“defuse the situation”. Diffuse is how a substance travels through another medium, like tear gas in the air.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Thanks for that Dan. I’ve seen defuse and diffuse get mixed up several times recently, even from reporters who should know better. Admittedly it can be confusing, since an angry crowd could become diffused, or defused, or both … but the meanings of the two words are still discrete (but rarely discreet).

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Why does that anger result in property damage?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

There are always “bad apples”. Just like the police who murder people.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Let’s not forget the actual expression that includes the concept of “bad apples.” It’s “a few bad apples spoil the whole barrel.” And a lot of people think the barrel is pretty rotten right now.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

So we can agree there are bad people on both sides?

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

Sure, but presumption of institutional authority is on only one side, which ups the ante for them and holds them to a higher standard. Unless you want a warlord society, which you can readily find elsewhere.

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

An ongoing paradox of policing is that it’s perceived as protecting (typically white-owned) property over (black) lives. Thus the temptation to thwart the pecking order.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

I hope one day to stop having to quote MLK because what he said about the state of things 50-60 years ago is no longer relevant. The below doesn’t account for all anger/frustration-driven property damage, but probably enough of it that we should pause before we focus on the means of expression instead of the grievance:

I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.

One can object to the violence and destruction and still center the grievances motivating it; way too much news coverage and discussion focuses on whether the protests are peaceful/acceptable enough instead of giving airtime to what people protesting are saying.

For example, when a child throws a tantrum in an effort to get a parent’s attention, parent responses usually fall somewhere on a spectrum defined by these poles:

(note: in using this analogy, I don’t mean to suggest a paternalistic situation or that we black people are children; I am seeking to evoke the power dynamic between a parent and child)

A) The emotionally intelligent parent shows compassion and attempts to understand why the child acts out and tries to meet their child’s need; the method of attention-getting is largely swept under the rug because the parent probably realizes they missed earlier and more subtle bids for attention from the child. The parent commits to healing the breach and being more sensitive in the future.

B) The emotionally unintelligent or fed up parent gets frustrated the child is acting out and hits the child and/or sends them away, either not recognizing the bid for attention or trying to use negative reinforcement to get them to ask for it in a different, more acceptable way.

When more polite bids for attention have gone unacknowledged, no one should be surprised the stronger bids for attention actually get attention—and that they are unpleasant; it’s not like black people and their accomplices haven’t been working to raise awareness and address these issues continuously for the last couple centuries. Rioters finally found something the general populace cares about (preservation of capitalism and police brutality, burning police cars, burning shops, stolen goods), and lo and behold, people are tuning in.

Now, are we going to be emotionally intelligent enough to realize that the protesting and rioting is the language of the unheard and we need to listen and act? Or are we going to ignore/spank/dismiss once more?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Perhaps we can do both?

The few people who set random cars on fire (like the one on SW 3rd) or looted Louis Vuitton purses probably do deserve a spanking, whereas the vast majority who somehow managed not to victimize others should be (and I believe will be/have been) heard.

I believe in holding people accountable for their actions, and this definitely includes police who abuse their power.

Kana O.
Guest
Kana O.

Mmm, I’m much more interested in getting the police and justice system to comply with the social contract we’ve all signed (all equal under the law, due process, innocent until proven otherwise) but that they keep violating (or selectively enforcing based on identity) than I am holding some knuckleheads accountable, especially given that our criminal justice system leaves no one better off—not the criminal, their community, society, nor the taxpayer.

Luckily (and like you say), this last several years of seems to be having impact.

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

I could try to re-say it but Zaid Jilani says it better:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79He5Xl2k2U

Though his kitchen is an effing mess!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Mostly, it’s because a few people are taking advantage of the situation to cause property destruction. I have seen this – in some cases, firsthand – over and over and over again when protests occur.

To some degree, I think the first night or two here in Minneapolis, many nighttime protesters may have encouraged the destruction. Anger was so high, combined with frustration at the lack of results from past peaceful demonstrations, that a lot of people said, “eff it, let it burn,” as I think Kana alluded to in the earlier discussion of this.

However, that sentiment, if it existed at all during the vastly larger peaceful daytime protests, largely evaporated by Thursday night. I think by then many, and by the weekend the overwhelming majority of protesters were stunned at the scale of the destruction, wanted it to stop, and in case after case actively worked to make it stop, especially as it became more clear that the people setting fires were hijacking the movement.

con_tot
Subscriber
con_tot

I was there last night, riding my bike around and taking pictures as well. I felt privileged to be able to participate in a good-natured demonstration against the ugliness that is police brutality and, in particular, the way it impacts black/brown people.

On a more superficial level: the photos in this article are really great, Jonathan. Kudos for capturing the energy of people-powered transportation and showing how it can be leveraged as a form of peaceful dissent. I thought I had captured some great photos, until I saw these!

RudiV
Guest
RudiV

“As protesters walked shoulder to shoulder…”

Funny how the lock down orders still apply in MultCo until June 12… unless you’re rioting… err protesting. Then no lock down or social distancing necessary! The same “progressives” scolding us last week are out marching this week. Kinda demonstrates it was all political theater, but no matter, we’re on to the next crisis!

Lock downs, riots, curfews. Remember Ukrainian impeachment? The good ol’ days!

Ever wonder if maybe you’re being manipulated? < This? This is how liberals *used* to think.

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

You’re saying it was just political theater to take preventive measures in response to COVID-19, which has killed more than 100,000 people in the United States?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Don’t attempt to us logic in your arguments with this one. His responses to news events are purely emotional. Fear, hatred, etc.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

Social distancing did 10x more to slow the spread than hiding in our houses. In fact, hiding in our houses did a great job to increase the spread to families.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Citation needed.

Concordia Cyclist
Guest
Concordia Cyclist

The vast majority were also wearing masks if you hadn’t noticed. You know, those “unmanly” things that convey sympathy for fellow humans as much as they help mitigate the virus spread.

And maybe you haven’t noticed that this protest may have been sparked by the George Floyd murder, but the tinder that has built up was recently added to greatly by an administration and its supporting party members who feed racism on a national scale and that has shown a blatant disregard for the rule of law in all matters.

You cry “hypocrisy” when it’s clear there is a theme of perverted justice running through the things you seem to think are disparate in nature. There is no hypocrisy in their response: its anger built up over the many ways this federal administration has aggressively undermined our democracy and progress as a nation that is inclusive of all.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

And people are worried about wearing CONVID masks when riding a bike. Still not wearing one on Marine drive or anywhere else for that matter. Happy riding!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I had the same attitude until last week, wearing masks in indoor public places but avoiding one while biking, because they seemed to inhibit breathing and fogged up my glasses.

Then last week, as things heated up and I started biking up to check things out and be amongst other people, I resolved that I absolutely had to wear a mask. I dug out my one N95 mask that I had left over from a small demo project at home last year. You know what? Works fine. I can breathe through it much more easily than cheap construction masks or cloth masks. Have worn it for 2-4 hours every day the last several days (ugh, needs washing, huh?) with no problems. I still won’t ride it while riding alone, but for the foreseeable future I’m going to be doing a fair amount of biking and walking in areas where there are gatherings of people, so I’m wearing it.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

ANTIFA was ANTI-Covid before Covid was a thing.

They’d be wearing masks anyway, virus or not.

Jay Dedd
Guest
Jay Dedd

Please establish that it was the “same ‘progressives'” — by, I guess, comparing your super-secret databases.

mark smith
Guest
mark smith

As evidenced below, the progressives have blessed the end of social distancing because it serves their purposes. Never forget how many were scolded, arrested and ridiculed..and downright told they were killing grandma because….wait for it…they got a haircut.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Never forget how many were scolded, arrested and ridiculed..and downright told they were killing grandma because….wait for it…they got a haircut.

I can’t forget because I haven’t heard of anybody being arrested for getting a haircut.

Please post a link.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

It was a good idea given the info at the time, but like many things taken too far and politicized to continue the tribal strife so pervasive in our society.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I found this article expressed it well.

https://www.salon.com/2020/05/27/i-cant-get-past-the-differences-between-the-minneapolis-blm-protest-and-anti-lockdown-protests/

“For another thing, the BLM protesters have a legitimate grievance. They believe people of color should be able to live without the threat of random violence by police, or threats from whiny white ladies who want to break the leash laws in Central Park. The protesters in Minneapolis are both speaking against injustice and actively trying to save lives.

Meanwhile, the anti-lockdown protesters are arguing that your right to live matters less than their immediate desire to hit the Cheesecake Factory after a long day of perusing camo gear at Cabela’s. “

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Neither side has a monopoly on hypocrisy.

dwk
Guest
dwk

very fine people on both sides…..

Tom
Guest
Tom

Hawthorne bridge westbound pathway is closed today but eastbound pathway is open. Closure does not show up Google maps under biking or walking directions, but only for driving directions. This gives the impression that only the traffic lanes would be closed. No note from PBOT in my in-box about any road or path closures. Not a single protester in the area but front line workers on bike or walking still not allowed to cross the eastbound side.

The bikes trying to cross westbound were just jogging over the eastbound side to go westbound. So I’m not sure I see the point unless they are just trying to intentionally create an unsafe situation with counter-flow bike traffic on the same path.

Tom
Guest
Tom

It turns out PPD only shutdown the bridge ramp, not the actual bridge, as many just used the Esplanade connection to access the bridge path unimpeded. The actual bridge is under county control so I’m wondering if the county refused to go along with PPDs plan to shut down a bridge that is miles from the actual protest.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Update: The county bridge web site said the sidewalk should be open on both sides. I notified them that the officer was turning peds and bikes away, and that the sidewalk was blocked by yellow tape at the bridge ramp entrance. Today there is no longer yellow tape blocking the sidewalk, and the new officer guarding the entrance said its “only closed to cars”, and that bikes can use the bridge ramp. Thank you. There is now a big sign that says road close. After turning so many people away, it would be nice to have a sign that says “Pedestrians and bikes okay” or something like that.

Jon
Guest
Jon

At the end of all this anarchy it is going to be even harder to be a business operation in an urban core. The looting and destruction are have to be making it even more expensive to be located in a riot prone area. This is just going to strengthen all the operations like Amazon, big boxes and operations in suburban zones. It is really sad to see. The protesters (not rioters) are completely in the right that things need to change but destroying our urban core is the wrong way to do it. It will be driving out the businesses that the city relies on for tax money to fund the services we all count on.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

The Mayor was very clear in an interview with OPB yesterday that he has no sympathy for burned out business owners. He just dismissed the destruction of businesses, emphasizing that all that matters is the ‘systemic racism’, ‘white privilege’ blah blah blah We hear so many media folks and politicos (even, egad, Republicans) echoing this drivel. I won’t mince words: I don’t think that is the society we live in and just believing it does not make it so. Mayor Wheeler will have no good response when block after block downtown is mostly vacant and city revenues contintue to tank. Portland is actually a good laboratory for the new ‘we don’t need no police’ drumbeat, because we only have to witness what happens when certain laws are ignored, e.g. camping on public property, lack of traffic law enforcement. Expand that to ‘no cops’ and you have Mad Max

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Hyperbole overload.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

He will have a different opinion when it is his house that gets looted.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Not here. People are massively committed to rebuilding, and making reopened businesses stronger than ever. Our fund for East Lake Street businesses has already raised several million dollars, and I hear a ton of commitment to patronize businesses in the area as they open. Despite the waah-waahs from some businesses (in both Portland and Minneapolis) about how “difficult” it is to run a business in the city, with rising minimum wages and plastic-bag bans and whatnot, lots of businesses are staying.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Question: Did the downtown core of Minneapolis (the area with all the second story gerbil tubes) get trashed as well?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

There was some damage to buildings downtown, but nowhere near as extensive as on Lake Street, and most downtown buildings got boarded Friday. Lake is somewhat comparable to Sandy or Powell Boulevard, or 82nd, so the major areas of protest are not that analogous.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

So that’s it? It’s that easy? Just start a fund and we can throw bricks, burn buildings, and loot to our heart’s content? All for justice of course. Problem solved!

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

No, it’s certainly not that easy. Ask the thousands of volunteers on the street, or the thousands more whose lives are messed up because they now live in a food and pharmacy desert, if it’s easy. Almost no one wants the destruction to have occurred. But it can be rebuilt, and it will be rebuilt.

The positive response to team up and put our community back together is one of the most heartwarming things I’ve witnessed in my lifetime, and you have to take a dump on it as if it’s some enabling behavior?

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I can’t say for sure how it will turn out for Portland, but in Minneapolis our urban core will ultimately turn out fine:

https://www.startribune.com/in-minneapolis-a-quiet-army-of-generosity-gains-strength/570970882/

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

In Minneapolis too, a bicycle has been the ideal means for navigating the city during all of this. With lots of constantly changing street closures it can be hard to get around by car, or park anywhere near any kind of gathering. With a bike you can get anywhere in a few minutes, then dismount it and walk with the crowd (about a quarter of whom are doing the same thing).