Protests in Portland, Oregon

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Portland, Oregon has an extended history of street activism and has seen many notable protests.[1][2]


Portland's first organized demonstration was held in 1857.[3]

19th century[edit]

Women organized in the late 19th century around several issues. The temperence movement was especially active in Portland.[4][5] Throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest woman suffrage was brought to the ballot five times before it was finally established in 1912.[6] The movement began with Abigail Scott Duniway persuading Susan B. Anthony to join her for a tour of thousands of miles, speaking to people across the Pacific Northwest, in the early 1970s. Duniway would later articulate her non-confrontational approach, stating that it was important to win over men (whose votes must be secured in order to effect change) with a lighthearted, humorous approach: "Men like to be coaxed. They will not be driven."[7]

The Direct Legislation League brought direct democracy to Oregon in the late 19th century.

1900 to 1970[edit]

Beatrice Morrow Cannady, shortly after founding the Portland chapter of the NAACP and joining the editorial staff of The Advocate, organized Portland's protest to the racist film The Birth of a Nation in 1915.[8] The protests resulted in a city ordinance banning films that incite racial hatred.[9][10]

In the early 1960s, journalists at the Oregonian and the Oregon Journal protested labor conditions, along with journalists around the country. They formed the newspaper The Portland Reporter, which was well received during its five year run, and undercut the business of its competitors, driven by a strong campaign to persuade readers to cancel their Oregonian subscriptions, and to buy stock in the new paper. Striking workers engaged in protest marches among other tactics. The National Labor Relations Board ultimately ruled the strike illegal.[11]

By the 1970s, national protest of the Vietnam War was peaking. Oregon had long been the site of opposition to the war; U.S. senator Wayne Morse opposed military intervention in Vietnam as early as the 1950s, and was one of only two senators to oppose the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing military action. U.S. president Richard Nixon planned to visit Portland in 1970. Some, including governor Tom McCall, predicted violent anti-war protests in the city, and planned a rock music festival in remote Milo McIver State Park to distract from efforts to protest in the city. The resulting festival, called Vortex I, became the only state-sponsored rock festival in U.S. history.

1970s and 1980s[edit]

March Against Racism arriving at King Neighborhood Facility, April 4, 1981. Photo from The Portland Advocate front page story from May 1981.

In 1970, a plan implemented by Portland school superintendent Robert Blanchard called for busing Black students to schools in predominantly white districts, and the closure of schools in Black neighborhoods. The Portland chapter of the National Black United Front emerged as the principal adversary of the school board at that time, implementing an array of protest tactics.[12]

The Black United Front organized a "March Against Racism" on April 4, 1981, with an estimated crowd of 1,500 people, 70% of whom were Black. The march was held in conjunction with similar marches in 37 cities across the United States.[13] The march, which occurred less than a month after an incident in which Portland police officers threw dead possums in front of a Black-owned business in Portland, was one of several large demonstrations in Portland.[14][15] The following year, Oregon voters approved the first public police review committee in Portland with Ballot Measure 51.[12]

The brutal murder of Mulugeta Seraw in 1988 by the East Side White Pride gang further galvanized anti-racist protests in Portland, prompting further protests.[16]

The Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, Oregon's only commercial nuclear power facility, was the subject of protests from its initial installation in the early 1970s until its decommissioning in 1992.

1990s and 2000s[edit]


Notable recent demonstrations include Hands Across Hawthorne, which was held in May 2011, and Occupy Portland, which began in October 2011. The 2016 riots were a reaction to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. The Women's March was held the day after Trump's inauguration in conjunction with the 2017 Women's March. Subsequent protests during Trump's presidency included the March for Science and Trump Free Speech Rally in 2017. In a retrospective of the city's protests from November 2016 to November 2017, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of The Oregonian wrote: "Portland's convulsive protests thrust the city into the national spotlight as they often descended into violence and chaos even as most demonstrators remained peaceful... [T]he churn of marches, demonstrations and rallies has become enduring fiber in the fabric of the city. The protests spanned issues – immigrant rights, homelessness, racism, police accountability, free speech. They drew students, parents, anarchists and Trump supporters."[22]

The March for Our Lives was held in 2018 and the End Domestic Terrorism rally was held in 2019. 2020 saw the George Floyd protests, Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage, and Red House eviction defense. Portland saw protests following the election of Joe Biden.[23] As of March 2021 the U.S. Department of Justice has dismissed 31 of the 90 protest cases resulting from protests in downtown Portland during the summer, including a mix of misdemeanor and felony charges.[24]

March 2021 saw Portland police responding forcefully to protesters at the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse.[25] The protests spread over two nights and were described by protestors as involving an extension of a protest over the expansion of an oil pipeline, the dismantling of the security fence in front of the Courthouse, and the murder of George Floyd. On the first night (March 12) Federal officers deployed impact munitions, tear gas, flash-bang grenades and smoke bombs at a group of a few dozen protesters who had gathered at the Hatfield U.S. Courthouse and was setting fires and smashing windows. The second night police surrounded a crowd of over 100 protesters using a process known as kettling detaining them for blocking traffic. They used pepper spray on two people outside the perimeter who were confronting the police about this tactic. Spent containers of a potentially deadly gas that had been used by the police in earlier demonstrations were also found. [26]

On October 13, 2021, Portland Police reported that "a group of around 100 anarchists caused substantial damage to businesses and government buildings in downtown Portland Tuesday night" (Oct. 12). Participants broke numerous windows and "35 separate locations were targeted, including banks, retail stores, coffee shops, and government buildings." Police stated that some group members laid down in front of police vehicles to attempt to prevent police response, and that they believe that some people involved in criminal activity were changing clothes to stymie efforts to identify them.[27][28] The cost of the damage was later estimated to be at least $500,000. Although police officers did give direction to the group over a loudspeaker to disperse and a Mobile Field Force moved in, police did not directly intervene to stop the vandalism. Portland Police Bureau officials said that this was due to legislation which restricts the tools they can use to stop people causing such destruction, and the lack of clarity on the bill.[29]

On November 19, 2021, law enforcement in Portland declared a riot as approximately 200 demonstrators protested the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, who killed two people and injured another in Wisconsin. Protesters were reportedly yelling anti-police chants.and throwing objects at police, such as urine, water bottles and batteries, and the rear window of one patrol car was smashed. .Windows on buildings were also broken and doors of city facilities were damaged, and there were trash and debris fires in the streets. Protesters began to engage in erecting street barricades using fencing they tore down and construction signs. The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office said a riot was declared after protesters began focusing on and “tampering with” a roll-up gate at the Justice Center. Some protesters had begun moving toward the entrance of the jail and had put large tree branches in the way to stop the gate from closing. Several people were given citations but only one person who had an outstanding warrant from another matter was arrested. By about 11 p.m. the crowd had dispersed.[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Baker, Mike (July 1, 2019). "In Portland, Milkshakes, a Punch and #HimToo Refresh Police Criticism". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  2. ^ Perry, Douglas. "'Little Beirut' legacy: 21 of the most memorable protests in Portland history". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Voorhees, Arlo (February 20, 2017). "Takin' It to the Streets: Portland's Protest History". Portland Monthly. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  4. ^ Frances Fuller Victor, The Women's War with Whisky
  5. ^ Clark, Malcolm H., Jr. (1957). "The War on the Webfoot Salon" . Oregon Historical Quarterly. 58.
  6. ^ "Abigail Scott Duniway (1834-1915)". Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  7. ^ "Duniway, Abigail Scott (1834-1915)". Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  8. ^ Taylor, Quintard. "Beatrice Morrow Cannady (1889–1974)". Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  9. ^ "First Female Black Lawyer". Statesman Journal. 1994-01-20. p. 27. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  10. ^ "Pictures of Race Hatred Likely to be Barred". The Oregon Daily Journal. 1918-03-25. p. 8. Retrieved 2021-10-30.
  11. ^ "The Portland Reporter". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2021-11-16.
  12. ^ a b Millner, Darrell. "Blacks in Oregon". Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  13. ^ Smith, Pam (May 1981). "BUF Takes to the Streets". The Advocate.
  14. ^ Patail, Marty (September 26, 2020). "The Possums, the Police, and the Burger Barn". Portland Monthly. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  15. ^ Rodman, Monica (September 30, 2020). "Portland police threw dead possums at her family's restaurant in 1981. Now she's running for mayor". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  16. ^ Denson, Bryan (2014-11-13). "1998 story: Legacy of a hate crime: Mulugeta Seraw's death a decade ago avenged". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  17. ^ McCall, William (August 19, 2003). "'Little Beirut' nickname has stuck". Associated Press. Retrieved September 16, 2013.
  18. ^ "Anatomy of a Police Shooting". Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  19. ^ "Community creates new memorial for Kendra James who was killed by police in 2003". KATU News. 2018-05-07. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  20. ^ Bernstein, Maxine (2020-08-22). "Kendra James' mother to attend March on Washington, 17 years after daughter was killed by Portland police". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  21. ^ Levinson, Jonathan. "No indictment for Portland officer who killed Michael Ray Townsend". Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 2021-10-29.
  22. ^ Kavanaugh, Shane Dixon. "Portland's year of protests: Did they matter?". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  23. ^ Baker, Mike; Eligon, John (January 21, 2021). "They're Breaking Glass and Criticizing Biden. From the Left". The New York Times. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  24. ^ Iboshi, Kyle (2 March 2021). "Feds quietly dismiss dozens of Portland protest cases". KGW8. KGW-TV. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  25. ^ Calicchio, Dom (14 March 2021). "Portland courthouse turns back into fortress after riots spike again". Fox News. Retrieved 25 March 2021.
  26. ^ Ramakrishna, Jayati (March 13, 2021). "Police detain more than 100 Portland protesters in apparent kettling". Advance Local Media. Retrieved 14 March 2021.
  27. ^ "Anarchists Damage Businesses Downtown, Investigations Underway". Portland Police Bureau. Media Relations. October 13, 2021. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  28. ^ Reaume, Genevieve (October 13, 2021). "Anarchists damage dozens of buildings overnight in downtown Portland, police say". Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. Retrieved 14 October 2021.
  29. ^ Cline, Sara (October 16, 2021). "'Lawless city?' Worry after Portland police don't stop chaos". ABC News Network. Associated Press. Retrieved 17 October 2021.
  30. ^ KOIN 6 News Staff (Nov 20, 2021). "Portland Rittenhouse riot: Windows smashed, 1 arrest". Nexstar Media Inc. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  31. ^ Associated Press (November 21, 2021). "Windows smashed in downtown Portland Rittenhouse protest". MediaNews Group, Inc. Retrieved 28 November 2021.

External links[edit]