Don’t Shoot PDX and 15 Now PDX organized a May Day rally and protest in the Park Blocks behind Smith Memorial Student Union today. Upward of 50 people showed up initially. The crowd grew substantially during the half hour rally.
People held red “Black Lives Matter” signs and chanted.
Several people brought homemade signs. One sign read, “Is humanity a human rights issue? Support the Black/African Revolution.”
Several people got up in front of the crowd and spoke. One woman, Amy Driscoll, said, “Everybody has a story. But this is about Black Lives Matter. I’m tired of seeing my brothers and sisters continually profiled out there…It’s about having a conversation. If you’re scared, listen. You don’t have to give an opinion. That doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer, but listen to the story…This pain is real.”
Driscoll continued, “There’s a change coming, and we’re going to break [the system]. You know what? Change is coming.”
One woman got up in front of the crowd and spoke about her cousin, who was murdered by police in Prince George County outside of Baltimore 15 years ago. She said this isn’t new, and that she stood in a crowd similar to this one when she was 10 years old.
“Your mainstream media is bullshit,” the woman continued. “You care about the broken windows at CVS. I care about the severed spine of Freddie Gray.” She then started a “No justice, no peace” chant.
Antonio Greeley, a student at PCC, said that this march is for everyone.
“It’s just another form of slavery,” Greeley said. “If we don’t fight, there won’t be change…Everybody has a story…everybody that’s out here today can make a difference.”
The organizers of the rally then announced the beginning of the protest march. The march headed toward the PSU Market Center Building in order to express solidarity with students fighting rising tuition and then downtown.
After the rally made its way toward MCB, Francisco Holdman, a graduate of PSU, said 15 Now PDX and Don’t Shoot PDX/Black Lives Matter are connected because exploitation and oppression are at the root of both issues.
“The criminalization of black people is because they’re being exploited economically,” he said. “Statistically speaking, in the last 50 years, African Americans have gone backwards. We’re fighting for basic human rights.”
“There’s so many systemic problems,” he continued. “It’s sad that it takes somebody dying to talk about this.”
“We’re moving to a police state,” Holdman said. “The reality is, the more guns there are, the more people will get shot. Something’s got to give.”
The rally was followed by a march through downtown with several hundred marchers blocking traffic and public transit. Police attempted to control the crowd by using pepper spray and flash bangs.
Protesters moved to SW Fourth and Yamhill, where they blocked the street and Max line in front of the Apple store. Several people voiced their concerns about police brutality over a shared megaphone. They dispersed around 8 p.m. and some congregated at the Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Updated 5/4/15 at 9:15 p.m.
Additional reporting by Jaime Dunkle.