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Another Portland Blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

 

This is what democracy ...something ...something...

It seems like it's been years since Portland's last full-blown, anti-war protest or maybe I haven't been paying attention. Back in spring of 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War, downtown hosted a march every few weeks, each regularly drawing upwards of 30,000 protesters. One in particular descended into chaos as a group of demonstrators staged a sit-in on the Burnside Bridge and spent part of the evening dancing in the middle of I-84. I attended as many of them as I could, if only for the photo opps. Despite Portland's "weird" rep, it's not everyday that tens of thousands march through the streets, some of dressed as death personified or wielding blood-soaked dove puppets.




If anything, yesterday's protest felt like a class reunion. Even many of the signs were the same, dusted off after years spent in attics and closets around town. Has this war really been going for four years now? The homemade "Big Brother is Watching You" sign, complete with a creepy image of Big Brother himself? Somewhere towards the back of the line near three bedsheet doves I'm pretty sure were regulars back in the day. And the "radical cheerleaders" and the giant Bush doll? Maybe they were up towards the front.

Organizers expected a crowd of 30,000 but various media outlets placed yesterday's crowd at somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000. I attended with my mother and younger sister, who spent the car ride and walk to the starting point bickering over the relevance of the entire thing. My sister's argument: demonstrations like this accomplish little and that a letter-writing campaign to local congressmen and state senators would prove more effective. Within seconds of hitting the park blocks we encountered a tent full of volunteers urging marchers to do just that. We filled out a few postcards and sent them on their way. Figuring we had fulfilled our obligation, she urged us to break ranks and veer off towards Stumptown Coffee. My mother, a veteran of anti-Vietnam demonstrations, remained staunchly determined to stick with the crowd at least as far as Pioneer Place.




It was hard not to notice that 80% of the crowd was over 40 as we slogged towards 4th Avenue. Make what you will of this. Does today's youth prefer to protest via the internet, through blogging, posting, etc? Are they apathetic? Do they have their hearts set on Obama magically making everything better in a few years? Or have they, unlike their elders, realized that no amount of outrage or Bush puppets will yank this country out of its current quagmire? Well, I'm not qualified to cough-up a theory here. After all, I only tagged along to people watch...






...and for the opportunity to watch local anarchists inevitably hijack the spotlight and subvert the day's good vibes. Sometime after the main event, we ran into a crowd of fifty black-clad protesters clogging a street near Nordstrom. They were in the middle of a stare-down with a row of riot cops as we passed through. We missed this incident by a few minutes after I failed to convince the family to stick around for a evening chock full of pepper spray, arrests and flag-burning.

It was fun, everybody. See ya' at the 10th-anniversary protest in 2013! That's sure to be off the hook!

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