On The Ground In Portland

Here’s my account of the big protest march in Portland tonight. Still digesting it all.

Everything was peaceful for the most part.  Plenty of signs, a very queer-friendly atmosphere, and the “V for Victory” sign out in abundance.

That being said there were some troublemakers but I’m very suspicious about exactly who they were and what they wanted. The overall level of property damage was probably less than what you would see in a typical sports riot but it was an embarrassment nonetheless.

Overheard a few of these troublemakers who were just young punks who wanted to act out their fantasies of “The Purge.” However, there was another contingent in black masks who were extremely well-organized who were not only vandalizing property, but deliberately sowing disinformation about the march route and drowning out calls for a peaceful protest. Some of them appeared to have police-issue dress shoes but not all of them. I suspect we were the victim of several different factions trying to turn a peaceful march into a riot for their own purposes.

At Grand and Burnside the march organizers told us to sit down in the intersection for four and a half minutes, in honor of the four and a half hours Michael Brown’s body was left in the street. The crowd grew mostly silent except for a small group of people who began to sing, ever so quietly, the old hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was the most beautiful thing I have seen in a very long time.

We didn’t really see any police until we got to the entrance to the freeway. A few of the marchers confronted police but most of us kept moving. That’s when they started shooting off flashbangs.

Further on there was more vandalism. Banks were especially targeted. A dumpster was set on fire in the middle of one of the streets. At 8th Avenue we were confronted by police with loudspeakers, with the threat of tear gas. More flash bangs set off. From there we were redirected toward our starting point at Pioneer Courthouse Square. More agitators yelling disinformation that the re-route was a setup. By the time we got back to the square things were in disarray; it was late and we were exhausted so my fiance and I called it.

All in all, it was a really fascinating experience. I got interviewed by OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting), and even though the riots were not what I wanted I have to admit it was an adrenaline rush when the first flashbangs went off. I thought I would be more afraid but if anything, I felt a surge of energy. I felt more determined.

I can kind of understand how I did it way back when, two lifetimes ago. Kind of. It isn’t the same; our lives were never in immediate danger. But a bit of that in-the-moment responsiveness resurfaced when things got out of hand. I hadn’t felt it in so long. I remember now. And I know I still have it in me and I’m less afraid. At one point my adrenaline was so high that my sore legs and chafed thighs simply weren’t there; I felt no pain, anywhere. I told my fiance I felt as if someone could have shot me and I wouldn’t have felt it.

Once the adrenaline wore off I felt like a wreck though. I do believe I’m becoming sick from all this adrenaline lately. It’s been on overdrive since the election; it’s how I got my second wind when I was contemplating suicide, and it was with me through all the manic hours I spent going to outdoors stores prepping for a worst-case scenario. But it’s been causing me headaches, dizziness, a weird lump in my throat, and severe energy crashes. I don’t expect it will be long before my body can’t give me another shot and I’ll be left a crying mess. For the most part, I’ve been too high on my body’s own natural defenses to cry.

I took pictures, by the way. I didn’t focus on the vandalism because the media will give you plenty of that. Funny, when my fiance and I tried to kiss in front of the camera they turned away but when someone broke a window or spray-painted slogans on a building, they were all over it. If you want to see how it really was for most of us, the way the march was intended to be, my pictures are below.

I’ll do what I have to do. Right now I find reporting the truth and being there on the ground is the easiest calling for me, and I thank God that I have found the strength and energy to do so.

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