Portland: “The Story, Last Night, Wasn’t the Broken Windows”

This passerby has awesome interviews. 

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Facebook Article. Oct 12:

By Jess E. Hadden

Yesterday afternoon, via Facebook, I heard about a solidarity march, being organized by an autonomous group. The reason: Leah from the Red & Black Cafe was being imprisoned for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. I didn’t personally know Leah, but philosophically I supported the stand she was taking against the Federal government’s witch-hunt, targeting activists.

So, I hit “share,” passing the invitation along.

I observed the march as it approached SE Hawthorne Blvd, via 35th Ave. Since I did not recognize the people in the march (it’s hard to recognize a black bloc, especially at night, without my glasses) — and since I myself wear very bright colors — I decided to watch while maintaining a distance. Technical difficulties prevented me from livestreaming, but I still wanted to be able to report the real story.

As the marchers took the east-bound lanes of Hawthorne, I watched a growing crowd of curious people, in regular attire, following the march along the sidewalk, and inquiring about this unexpected sight.

Then, I heard, rather than saw, the sound of glass shattering. Immediately, the disastrous anti-police brutality march of last February 6th came to mind, when Occupy Portland and an autonomous group mixed like oil & water. I expected to see marchers, locals, and lookie-loos arguing and fighting with one another over tactics, and the definition of “violence.”

But that’s not what I saw. I saw the windows of Umpqua Bank — a bank that tries to present a local image, but really isn’t — smashed. And to my astonishment, I saw regular people, watching from sidewalks & bars, cheering. I found myself no longer observing the march, so much as I was observing the people observing the march.

Smash. Wells Fargo. Smash. Chase Bank. Smash. US Bank. Cheers, each time, from regular people, watching. As I passed the tables outside of the Hawthorne Theater, across the street from the Chase Bank at SE Caesar Chavez & Hawthorne, I heard people laughing and talking about how much they hated that bank. One man stood up and yelled, “Yeah! Smash that up!”

The Walgreens, at Caesar Chavez Blvd. & Belmont, appeared to be the last target, before I lost sight of the march. I heard sirens in the distance, but as far as I could tell, the march had already dispersed, almost as quickly as it had begun.

Contrasted with the march from last February 6th, there was a noticeable lack of contention about the targets of this black bloc. The only contention that appeared to exist was in regard to some marchers dragging items like recycling bins & newspaper dispensers into the streets — ostensibly, to block traffic and slow a police response. Other people, not necessarily marchers themselves, quickly removed the items from the streets. The point ultimately was moot; police vehicles came from multiple directions, and were remarkably slow to arrive.

Local corporate media and Portland Police later reported that the marchers were also attacking passers-by with glass bottles. This is, in fact, not true.

To me, the story really wasn’t about the smashed windows. I headed back to Hawthorne, to put my ear to the ground.

People were still buzzing about what had just happened. Absent, was a sense of anger regarding the vandalism. It is curious, how astonishing the absence of something can be. Inner SE Portland is, after all, a sleepy urban community.

I stopped in at Nick’s Coney Island for a drink. Police arrived, and questioned the bartender. I asked her what that was all about, to which she replied, “Some protesters took one of our chairs and threw it through the Wells Fargo window.”

Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, “That’s awesome.”

She leaned in, smiling, and replied, “I know! Fuck Wells Fargo.”

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3 Responses to Portland: “The Story, Last Night, Wasn’t the Broken Windows”

  1. I know Umpqua isn’t as “local” as their image suggests…but they do stuff like pay their employees to do volunteer work in the community, and at least they never bought into the ethics-free world of subprime lending when everyone was so hot to trot about it. I don’t excuse their logging industry executive connections or the fact that unlike a credit union they are after all a bank, and therefore designed by nature to screw someone out of money somehow. Compared to a company like Wells Fargo though? I dunno, I’d make a distinction. To me that’s like conflating COSTCO with Walmart.

  2. Conrad says:

    Wish I could’ve been there. Smash down the fascists wherever they stand.

  3. artfrancisco says:

    The story here is that property destruction/violence etc will be supported by the masses WHEN IT IS IN THEIR INTEREST–AND THEY UNDERSTAND IT IS IN THEIR INTEREST. When they do not understand why something is in their interest, the purpose etc.. like attacks on some retail stores etc; it will not be supported. For example, there is no large public outcry against Starbucks, Nike or American Apparel. Despite those corporations having a negative impact on society–there is currently little support for attacks on those businesses. The banks however have fucked everyone! They are seen as the main winners of the 2008 recession, parasites on the rest of society. It is important for revolutionary activists to learn what is the pulse of the masses and to stay with that pulse.. it will mean the difference between alienation, and cooperation.

    Learning from this, smashing things, and attacking businesses is not always the right move.. sometimes it can be. Sometimes it is better to let the non-activist workers do the smashing themselves; and to agitate through open letters, leaflets, and speeches (a dying craft among revolutionary activists). It is important to understand that radical activists do not have the discipline, financial strength, and manpower to carry out a sustained paramilitary struggle; and to attempt to do so in isolation from the broad working class is a repetition of the failure of focoism in Bolivia (Che Guevara).

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