"The Disco Trike is a prisoner of war," says Bike Swarm organizer and internet TV host Dan Kaufman, whose highly distinctive tricycle—equipped with a sound system—was impounded last night during a downtown protest in solidarity with Tahrir Square. The golden trike and accompanying crowd of bikes and dance party tunes has been a regular part of Occupy Portland protests.
Last night's protest started out mildly: According to protesters, about 75 people gathered in Pioneer Square to share speeches and food on the anniversary of Egypt's uprising. At about 6pm, the group then decided to stage an unpermitted march through downtown, heading up SW Broadway flanked by police. Because the march had no permit, protesters legally had to stick to the sidewalk, but as some took to the street, police officers edged them back. As the march continued to Portland State University and city hall, police began enforcing jaywalking laws, handing out several citations, say marchers. As red lights and citations split up the crowd, the mood got tense and antsy.
"At city hall I turned up Bob Marley music, it totally chilled everyone out," says Kaufman. "I felt some of the cops even gave me a nod of, 'Oh, that's cool.'"
But things quickly got un-chill as the crowd marched around the fenced-in Lownsdale Park and Chapman Square and set up on the Elk statute in the middle of Main Street, shouting, "Whose parks?! Our parks!" Several mounted police in riot gear as well as an estimated two dozen officers on bikes rolled up to the protest and began issuing citations and making arrests.
Kaufman had stopped playing music at that point, but he was swiftly surrounded by officers who handcuffed him, cited him for "unlawful operation of sound producing equipment" and impounded his sparkly tricycle and video camera. Later, officers returned the camera and Kaufman posted a video of the incident to his online bike TV show, Crank My Chain (the protest starts at minute 18 of that video and is interspersed throughout the rest of the video, between international news and occasional rants).
"What if the police had just let these people do their march? It would have just been 75 people marching through the street, nothing bad would have happened," says Kaufman.
The crowd continued marching between city hall and the Justice Center for several hours, setting up a drum circle before slowly dispersing. An account of the protest is up at PortlandOccupier.org as well as the Oregonian.
I have not yet confirmed the number of arrests and citations, but the Oregonian had the tally at four arrests last night for disorderly conduct and interfering with police. Meanwhile, Disco Trike is on lockdown until Kaufman's court date in mid-February.
UPDATE 1:45PM— Police confirm that there were six arrests last night.