By Caleb Diehl and Tyler Wayne Patterson /// Editor-In-Chief and Web & Social Media Manager
Tuesday, Nov. 25
Protesters choked the I-5 off-ramp leading to SE Stark around 7:30 p.m. tonight, chanting, “stay together, stay tight.” Awash in flashing red and blue lights, they marched through the warm and cloudless night beneath a knot of freeway overpasses. Around the turn, the Morrison Bridge came into view, and below it, parked on the ramp, an armored white police van. Past a grassy divider to the crowd’s right, the freeway snaked North. In front of the divider was the sidewalk, lined by a squadron of bike police. “This is the Portland Police Bureau,” two loudspeakers atop the van blared, “Do not block the freeway or you will be arrested.”
The crowd continued to chant as it marched past the van. Some protesters banged on the sides. Then, the chant shifted to the rallying cry of Americans across the nation outraged by the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
The ramp was a thicket of raised hands. The four brutal syllables came louder each time: “hands up, don’t shoot. hands up, don’t shoot.” A line of mounted police reigned in their horses to block the freeway. Others barricaded the sidewalk with their motorcycles. Suddenly, an eruption. Protesters surged past police, swarmed the divider, and leapt over a ledge onto the freeway. Gridlocked traffic mingled with bodies. A SWAT team in full riot gear charged out from SE Washington St, wielding batons as they jogged across the off-ramp and took the divider. One of them cradled a tear gas gun. I-5 became a tangled mess of police and protesters.
Lewis & Clark students joined around 300 demonstrators on the march, which began at 4 p.m. on the steps of the Justice Center at 3rd and Madison. Police used pepper spray and made at least three arrests.
“I’m angry, and I have a lot of questions,” said Kelsey Gray (’15). “It makes me itch in a way that disturbs me.”
In the same fashion as dozens of rallies from New York to Los Angeles, the Portland crowd began its march down SW 3rd St at around 6 p.m. It turned right on Yamhill, left on 2nd. After marching past Voodoo Doughnuts, demonstrators turned right onto Burnside. On the East side of the Burnside Bridge, organizers stopped and led a chant in the middle of the intersection of Burnside and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The crowd continued its march down SE Grand, and turned on SE Stark, where they tried to occupy the freeway.
Following the protest
Though the crowd was peppered with anarchists, who yelled into the ears of the police and blocked cars, the protest was largely peaceful. When a slim teenager in a blue hoodie and a Guy Fawkes mask stood in front of a car turning onto Martin Luther King, some protesters pulled him away, shouting, “he needs to get to the hospital.” An older man in the same mask put a hand on his shoulder, reminding him, “this is about non-violence.”
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On SE Grand, demonstrators marched the wrong way down the one-way street, facing glares from headlights and exasperated drivers. Some drivers threw up their hands in disgust, others in solidarity. A black woman in a grey Dodge Journey chanted along, pumping her hands up and down.
After police cleared the freeway, the crowd packed the staircase to the Morrison Bridge. They would cross to the West side of the Willamette, where the march continued until 10 p.m.
On the grassy triangle beneath Morrison, five or six people in Guy Fawkes masks huddled around a black man on his knees. A woman put on blue latex gloves. Someone doused his face with a water bottle. He twisted in pain and clutched his head in his hands.
Protest in action