Volunteers from SURJ decorated Shemanski park with messages of solidarity
Volunteers from SURJ decorated Shemanski park with messages of solidarity Claire Holley

As I'm sure everyone in Portland (and most of the country) knows, yesterday's May Day rally and march quickly devolved into a chaotic "riot" at the hands of anarchists/antifa/black bloc/whatever they've decided to call themselves now. You can check out our coverage of the event here and here.

I'm not interested in giving more press to those who continually co-opt organized and well-meaning rallies and marches in the name of their own aims.

What I am interested in is the very successful and peaceful rally that preempted the rioting—and the message it brought before things took a turn.

The Portland May Day Coalition organized the event, bringing together nearly 50 organizations at Shemanski Park to provide resources, information, and entertainment.

Things kicked off around 1 pm with a nearly hour long performance by the Portland Aztec Dancers.

After the performance concluded, speakers from a variety of organizations and perspectives took the stage. The speakers were hosted by Angelica Lim, of GABRIELA Portland, and Marco Mejía from Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice.

Mejía began by asking the crowd a question. "We need to mention something very important," he said. "Do you remember what happened 525 years ago?"

After a few shouts from onlookers, he answered his own question: "Conquest, invasion, genocide. We have been fighting for 525 years."

Many of the speakers focused on the fact that worker and immigrant rights have increased dramatically in the last five centuries, but there is still much more work to be done.

Next, Portland emcee and activist Mic Crenshaw stopped by to perform a song and pump up the crowd.

The speakers who followed touched on a variety of topics including Native American rights and abuses, the commercialization of the prison system, home care workers, ICE, and more.

There was refreshingly little talk about old Donald Trump throughout the speeches. Jamila Osman, an English teacher, writer, and Muslim woman originally from Somalia, announced, "Trump's America is Obama's America, is Bush's America, is Bill Clinton's America. And it would've been Hillary Clinton's America or Bernie Sanders' America."

"Our fight is not against Donald Trump," she explained. "Our fight is against capitalism. Imperialism. Islamophobia. Our fight is against the forces that would destroy our planet."

There was also a ton of awesome resources and information available at tables throughout the park.

A volunteer from Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), Claire Bosworth, emphasized how important it is for white people to show up for events like this one. "[White people] obviously don't have the answers, but we need to get our people together," she explained. "Especially in a city like Portland where there are a lot of white folks."

Carolina Iraheta of Verde (a non-profit serving the Cully neighborhood) offered similar sentiments of the inspiring multicultural nature of May Day. She urged people to keep fighting, in part because of her personal connection to immigrant and workers' rights. "I come from a family that has been really involved in the labor movement, and I've seen how much work has gone into it. Nothing has been given to us."

For the latest in information about rallies, marches, and political events, consult the Mercury's RESISTANCE & SOLIDARITY calendar. Want to publicize an event? Send the info to calendar@portlandmercury.com.