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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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