May Day’s long anticipated event was planned as a huge rally for Powell’s employees. Community members, other unions, employees and the ILWU convention delegates were invited for the afternoon rally. Peter, my boss and I spoke to the police days before so they knew what was planned and we got a permit for the rally.
On May day in the morning in North Portland there was trouble, there was a roughty demonstration. It was a mini riot with some property damage, young people in black, masks, faces covered. There was a confrontation, the police intervened after which their permit to assemble was withdrawn and the crowd told to disperse.
The morning trouble set the stage for the afternoon Powells rally. At the rally site on Tenth Street between Burnside and Couch there were over twenty police, mounted on horses, in riot gear, with wooden clubs and plexiglass shields over their faces. Many more police were on foot in their riot gear like pawns on a chessboard, standing in a line in front of the mounted police.
Walking down Tenth street in front of them I tried to engage the officers. Exasperated by the lack of recognition or engagement I stood still in front of them with a bull horn, “this is peaceful, we met with the commander, no trouble here, no trouble here,” I shouted, “This is peaceful, No TROUBLE”. None of the officers acknowledged me, none would speak.
Meanwhile community members were assembling near the store in the street. The ILWU convention attendees were marching down tenth street toward Powells. There was crowd noise, drums beating and traffic on a busy afternoon on Burnside street. At 10th and Burnside, after a brief hesitation, the marchers from the convention stepped into Burnside, crossing to the bookstore main entrance.
I don’t remember much of what happened next. There were some short speeches at a microphone and sound system on Tenth street near Couch Street. I believe that I spoke, but don’t know what I said.
For me, the indelible image from that afternoon was when the rally participants completely surrounded the entire block of Powell’s Books, hand to hand, singing songs in support of the Powells union workers. For me, this is one of the really fantastic and memorable moments of the Powells organizing campaign. The whole block was surrounded.