Takin' It to the Streets: Portland's Protest History

From 1857 to now, which issues have galvanized our city?

By Arlo Voorhees February 20, 2017 Published in the March 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

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September 11, 2016


Portland’s first organized protest (according to one historian’s account) involves a Mormon missionary and Brigham Young’s defiance of federal law.


Female workers—dubbed “girl strikers” by the Oregonian—picket the Oregon Canning Company to demand $1.50 a day.


False reports of a World War I armistice spur chaotic euphoria. (The war ends just four days later.)


After the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Mississippi, hundreds in Portland take to the streets.

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December 3, 2016


In the “Battle of the Park Blocks,” Portland State University students and others fight riot police during an antiwar protest.


After a Multnomah County court awarded a Scientologist defector a $39 million settlement as compensation for fraud, thousands of believers besiege the city. John Travolta shows up. Edgar Winter plays. Stevie Wonder even sings over the phone to a cheering crowd.


Activists angered by US policy in Central America “greet” Vice President Dan Quayle. Between this moment and later visits from Quayle’s boss, Portland thanks the first Bush administration for its merit-badge nickname “Little Beirut.”


Occupy Portland, a campout in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, lasts for two months.


Black Lives Matter, Don’t Shoot PDX, and allied groups stage die-ins, sit-ins, and marches to the mayor’s house.

November 2016

Following the election of Donald J. Trump, protests result in more than 100 arrests; most of the charges are eventually dismissed.

January 2017

After a smaller Inauguration Day protest the night before, Portland’s Women’s March draws between 70,000 (Portland Fire and Rescue estimate) and 100,000 (organizers’ estimate) as part of a worldwide event.

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