Monday, July 7, 2014
Anarchists Win Streets of Portland, Oregon--well they did for a while....later on the same anarchists turn into control freaks.
Anarchists Win Streets of Portland, Oregon Lex Loeb Contributor Network . There is war of sorts in Portland, Oregon, for the streets. Anarchists is a word I loosely use to describe the people behind the action front, because I know that they started it years ago. They want to take the streets away from automobile traffic and give it over to bicycle riders and pedestrians. The battles flair up every once in a while over supremacy of the streets . Its not without incidents of violence and face offs with police. The last battle was over NE Alberta Street which has become the center of a liberal city within the city of Portland. On every last Thursday of each month there is an art gallery open house on the street with many out door vendors selling on the sidewalk and musicians playing out in the open air. It began with merchants on the street , many of them art galleries in the beginning, doing their self promotion to attract an audience with a street length open house . The neighborhood has evolved since then to a demographic of liberals with an anarchist bent, artists and higher property values. Originally the street was one of Portland's inner city blight areas. The transformation has been remarkable. Last Thursdays have increasingly become a magnet for pedestrian traffic and people who enjoy self expression. Huge crowds now come out where it is hard to estimate the number of people involved It is a welcome release of community creative energy in a City that has been restraining artists and free expressive types in other parts of the city. Ne Alberta at Last Thursday has become the hot zone in the anarchist war for control of the streets. It began probably with the clown house which had nude bicycle jousting in the middle of the street during the festivities. In one of those early attempts to take the street for performance art one of the clowns was arrested by police for indecent exposure which seemed strange when the Portland Police give the nude bicycle ride though town official police escorts otherwise. Later the Anarchists got involved and started blocking the street including bus traffic. This immediately got the police involved since no one had any city permit to shut the street and block traffic. I saw what happened the first time. The Trimet bus sat at the intersection with the driver on his radio complaining to authorities. He was not going to reroute maybe because what ever barricades used that time had made it impossible to turn. The police turned out in force and re-opened the street after it had turned into a giant disco party with electronic music coming from giant speakers somewhere. The city tried to lay down the line the next day in the newspaper and the next few last Thursdays had major police presence. I witnessed the police give someone a $400 ticket for drinking a beer on the street in a brown paper bag. There is a lot of brown bagging beer . I know because I often collect the cans for redemption and can quickly fill the trunk of my car with them. The guy getting the ticket was from out of town and had no idea what the city rules are. The next time the anarchists tried to shut the street down . They rolled out derelict cars they painted in bright cars in need of tow into the intersections. Again the bus was stopped behind the barricades but the police were ready and quickly got the street re-opened. in the sort period of time they had won the street Ne Alberta filled up with so many people it was like a sea of people in a two lane street. Musicians associated with the anarchists whizzed in on skate boards playing guitars and other instruments in the middle of the street. I was amazed. Soon, however the police shooed everyone off the street and the bus triumphantly rolled down the street on its usual route. The next time the bus would found an alternative route! The battles have invited police action until July 31, 2008 when it seems that the anarchists totally won their prize shutting down as much as 1/2 mile of the street most automotive traffic and the city just gave in! The street filled with even more people than before. It was pure pedestrian power with clowns riding double and triple height bicycles and musicians on stilts walking the center of the street. On July 31st the City just backed down. The streets in almost all cities belong to the people. It was people power that took the street. I never saw anything quite like it. It now appears as if a precedent has been set and on first Thursdays the street can be closed by the crowds when ever they want to close them! I am waiting till the next last Thursday coming this August to test the thesis. When enough people move to close a major avenue or street in Portland, It will happen for now on it seems. . It is hard to imagine anything like this happening in any other city than Portland except for maybe San Francisco or Berkeley. There is something special about it and even magical in a city that was about to impose a street use fee to automobiles and bicycles. Some of us are really getting sick of the government selling back to the public public spaces and amenities we already own as public property. So If I were mayor I certainly would give my blessing to street closures but would hope that those who did that gave the city advance notice at least. Maybe I witnessed some sort of Mini-revolution? I don't know. A lot of the younger people in the zone are from all over the country moving to Portland because they like the political climate here. I moved to Oregon because I liked the Weather. Something is happening and it is still in it's evolutionary process. The main newspaper in town panned last Thursday as "Lost Thursday." but the public loves Lost Thursday. I remember how the critics first hated the Star Wars Movie and then gave up and switched sides later because of the popularity that proved them wrong. It is the same sort of thing going on Last Thursday on Ne Alberta. The funny thing is that after winning the street people were walking down the street in a confident stride as if to appear as if they really won a major prize. Maybe they did? Maybe it is just a big folly. It does not matter to me. I am just happily observing. .