Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Mid-day Portland War Protests

I work in downtown Portland, and today I went to the Pioneer Square area during my lunch break. On the way there I noticed some uniformed security guards standing outside certain buildings like jewelry stores and banks, implying to me that someone thought there might be vandalism or looting. I got to Pioneer Square around 12:40pm, and in the square there were some pro-war demonstrators, maybe a dozen of them. Over along 6th Avenue a few hundred anti-war demonstrators milled around.

There were also around 20 bicycle police, some police in partial riot gear, a vehicle with around 12 police in full riot gear, some uniformed Tri-Met workers, some motorcycle police, and various other police. I'd guess that the total number of police in the general area numbered 50 or more.

6th Avenue was blocked to bus traffic for around 15 minutes, although it was not clear to me who was responsible for this, the demonstrators or police. MAX trains continued to move through the intersection. There were many bystanders and observers in the area, numbering in the hundreds. Of course, even on a normal day without demonstrations of any kind, many people would be in the area of Pioneer square at lunch time, so this was not unusual, but many people had obviously moved to positions where they could best observe the "action." Quite a few observers had still cameras or video cameras, and others were describing the events over their cell phones.

Compared with the demonstration on the 20th, which seemed very laid back, this one felt more chaotic and edgy. Many bystanders seemed somewhat hostile. Bystanders jeered at protesters or debated with them, but on the other hand I also heard them boo and hiss at police, and complain loudly that police were blocking off certain areas. It seemed kind of weird that there was more hostility coming from bystanders than from participants. I left the area around 1pm.

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