Portland May Day: The view from the back of the march

This was originally published in the The Oregonian as a guest opinion on May 21, 2017 and is an part of a series related to attacks on the Portland May Day demonstration by the Portland PD. For related articles see the links below.

By Ayme S. Ueda


May Day was a festive showing of solidarity, bringing together a coalition of families and organizations fighting for the rights of indigenous peoples, immigrants, labor, tenants, Black liberation, disabled folk and others. The black bloc was intentionally keeping distance from the larger march ahead, and people throughout were proudly chanting everything from ‘Immigrants are welcome here’ to ‘Anti-capitalista!’

Not one single participant in the march came to harm by a person tossing a Pepsi can at fully armored riot cops. None of the cops were injured.

What did cause fear, panic and harm was how the Portland Police decided to react. They announced that the permit for the largely peaceful, family-attended march was being immediately revoked and that anyone in the street would be subject to arrest.

Confusion hit and the march came to a sudden halt. Never in the history of this widely-attended celebration has its permit been revoked. The front of the march couldn’t clearly hear what was being announced, so news of it spread through hasty word of mouth. Some left the march, but most were understandably confused and upset, and they kept moving.

Soon after, and with no provocation, police began deploying tear gas canisters and flash-bang grenades. Complete panic broke loose. Black bloc’ers attempted to defend the march and escape. Others ran ahead to avoid chemical clouds and batons. Black bloc’ers lit a fire between marchers and riot cops, attempting to hold a space to keep people safe from police violence. Everyone at that point was coughing and covering their faces, trying to crowd onto sidewalks and to find friends or family.

Those running to link up with friends or evade attack had flash-bang grenades thrown at them. A group of riot cops armed with batons charged the black bloc. At this point a group of people were detained, while the rest fleed. Only at this point were a burst of things broken, spray-painted and slashed.

The claim that cops “swiftly ended the riot” or “protected the demonstration from violence” is absurd. The police only provoked rioting. They attacked an unarmed group of a thousand. Without a doubt, those responsible for instigating and escalating violence that day were the Portland Police.

As anarchists we celebrate May Day as an international day of recognition of working class and liberation movements throughout history. We believe in building empowered communities that have a direct say in every aspect of their lives, from schools and workplaces to housing and development. We believe that all wealth and resources should be held by the people who create them. Those who currently control society’s wealth will never willingly allow its equitable distribution.

As we see today, decades of struggle and progress can be signed away in moments. The only way of achieving lasting liberation for the poor and working class around the world is by building revolutionary movements, creating alternative social structures, and working together to create a world where people’s needs and well-being are valued over corporate greed and profit.

Ayme S. Ueda is a member of the Portland Black Rose Anarchist Federation/Federacion Anarquista Rosa Negra. She lives in Southeast Portland.

What do Anarchists really want? – Letter to the Editor

When the Riot Cops Attack: Repression and Solidarity in Portland’s May Day – An on-the-ground account of the Portland May Day march and police repression

May Day Portland: What Do Anarchists Really Want?

Portland May Day: The view from the back of the march