On Monday, a man with a black bandana tied across his face broke from a crowd of protesters and ran towards the glass walls of Portland's World Trade Center. He quickly spray-painted a greasy anarchist "A" on the window in red before disappearing back into the crowd.
By mid-day Monday, about 300 had gathered around the World Trade Center a few blocks from the riverfront, and demanded to see the Italian consulate on the tenth floor. Chanting, "If you take one of us on, you take all of us on," the crowd ostensibly gathered in order to deliver a petition to the Italian consulate demanding an investigation into the death of Carlo Giuliani, an Italian protester killed last week in Genoa while rallying outside the G8 summit. Shot in the face by a revolver, the death has triggered widespread outrage about police brutality, as well as their insensitivity towards protester's desires to have their voices heard in the ongoing debate over globalization.
Although protests escalated a year ago in Portland into full-scale altercations, Monday's protest remained relatively civil. One man shouting through a bullhorn was asked politely by an officer to move from the pavilion onto the public sidewalk, where free speech knows few bounds. A few protesters clogged the Trade Center's lobby, and were tolerated with only casual annoyance by police.
Although the flashpoint and many of the rallying cries were about Giuliani, at the core of the protest was an overriding concern about economic globalization. Like the WTO riots in Seattle, as well as more recent demonstrations surrounding GATT, there is a heartfelt anxiety that multinational corporations have run roughshod over individual rights. There is also an immediate concern that corporations--and not democratically elected governments--are the deal-makers and rule-makers of the 21st century.
Although many of the messages about globalization were lost amid chanting and minor scuffles with horseback police, several protesters pointed out that the event was a collaborative effort between members of the Pacific Green Party and the Liberation Collective. Such synchronicity, they pointed out, shows a growing strength and cohesiveness to political concerns over globalization.
After about 45 minutes of chanting, drum-beating, and milling around, a security guard took the letter protesters brought; the security guard promised to deliver it to the Italian consulate. Shortly after that anti-climatic resolution, most protesters dispersed into the sunny afternoon and shuffling lunch-hour crowd.
A stalwart group of 30 or so protesters, however, locked arms, blocked downtown traffic, and marched back towards Pioneer Square. Police singled out two men and wrestled them to the ground. (Both were cited for disorderly conduct and released later that afternoon.) Spurned on by the arrests, tensions heated up as protesters stood nose to nuzzle with horseback cops, but evaporated just as quickly.
Monday's protest came on the heels of isolated rallies and civil disobedience over the most recent high-level political meeting over global trade. On Friday, a man stormed through the Portland Building and onto its empty rooftop. There, he unfurled several banners and an American flag. One banner read "Stop the Genocide"; another featured the FTAA acronym with a red slash through it.
Sam Adams, Mayor Katz's chief of staff, tried to coax the man from the roof, while several police tried to smash through the door he had barricaded. But after negotiating temporary permission to stay through the evening, police stopped trying to bust onto the rooftop. With little fanfare and no struggle, the protester was arrested a few hours later. Leaving the rooftop, he remarked how cordial the police had been.
Next Saturday, August 4, the Progressive Action Conference will take place at the Memorial Coliseum from 11 am-5 pm. Among others addressing issues of globalization, Jello Biafra and Ralph Nader will speak.