A peaceful, legal feeling for May Day
Unbeknown to organizers, a permit was issued for parade
This year's May Day parade was legal after all.
After organizers insisted that they would not seek a city permit for the event, former Portland City Council member Mike Lindberg at the last minute obtained a permit for the event.
Cynthia Warren, special events coordinator with the city's Bureau of Licenses, said she found the signed application awaiting her when she came back from lunch at 2 p.m. Wednesday. It was dated the previous day, April 30.
Lindberg left the country Wednesday morning for a vacation in Greece and could not be reached for comment. He was not assuming any liability for the parade since the council last year changed the rules involving insurance for 'pedestrian only' events.
Jodi Darby, the event organizer, said she and others were unaware of Lindberg's action. At the end of the march, one activist had shouted to the crowd: 'The city said we needed permission. We showed them we can come out here and do what we want without getting permission.'
Darby said Thursday morning that she was 'shocked' to hear about Lindberg's action but said it didn't have much bearing on the peaceful outcome of the event.
'It was because of (the marchers) that everything went well,' she said. 'It wasn't because somebody decided to take out a permit for us.'
Othan than the permit issue, there was little drama at Wednesday evening's march. Darby said the parade attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 people waving signs for dozens of political causes. They even provided a couple of moments of lively street theater.
Unlike two years ago, there were no arrests or major injuries. During the May Day 2000 event, demonstrators clashed with police officers who used pepper spray, deployed beanbag guns and used the mounted patrol. Police made 20 arrests, and 23 citizens made formal complaints about police conduct.
This year, like last year, police rode the route on bicycles and blocked traffic with motorcycles. Officers in riot gear waited out of sight in case violence erupted.
'I think they were very cooperative and flexible with the marchers,' Martin Gonzalez, chairman of the American Friends Services Committee, said of the police.
A multifaceted protest
Issues represented included raising the minimum wage, stopping genetically engineered foods and ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.
Demonstrators marched in a winding route from the North Park Blocks to Northwest 21st Avenue and back down West Burnside Street, stopping outside the Immigration and Naturalization Service office to protest the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that removes labor rights from undocumented immigrant workers.
'They work, invisible to the working class, but their work brings food to the country,' Gonzalez said.
They stopped outside the Taco Bell on West Burnside Street to call for a boycott of the restaurant, staging a street theater performance that denounced low wages of migrant farm workers who pick the chain's tomatoes. They also stopped outside the Fred Meyer store to cheer for their labor union.
Others had unofficial causes. Daniel, a 22-year-old dressed in black, said he marched 'in remembrance of workers' struggles of the past and in celebration of resistance to capitalism and subordination to capital.'
Jeffrey Archer, a 30-year-old self-described pagan traveling through Portland, said he came out for the parade to 'celebrate the wellspring of life and freedom, from the old European ways.'
Darby, the organizer, said the various issues and concern about police activity distracted from the main point of May Day: 'Now that it's not going to be hyped up as 'Possible Police Confrontation Day,' we'll be able to start doing outreach about what it is to be workers and fighting for workers' rights.'
Shelley Cotrell, a Willamette Industries information systems specialist, carried a sign reading, 'Ask not what you have done for the corporation, ask what the corporation has done for you.' Cotrell said she was marching on behalf of Willamette workers expected to be displaced from the Weyerhaeuser-Willamette merger.
'We're all kind of waiting to be outsourced, downsized, whatever they'll call it,' she said. 'Workers in the corporate world see oppression in different ways.