Police prepare but hope for peaceful May Day demonstrations

Police prepare but hope for peaceful May Day demonstrations »Play Video
KATU file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - May Day demonstrators are expected to rally in downtown Portland on Tuesday and police are gearing up for what they hope will be a peaceful event.

Tuesday morning, protesters gathered at a Portland Public Schools administration building in North Portland to protest cuts and closures. About a dozen police officers kept watch on the group. Other students and supporters marched towards the Broadway Bridge, according to police dispatchers.

A group affiliated with Occupy Portland gathered at Woodlawn Park and said they plan to occupy a foreclosed home in Northeast Portland. They said their event will be family friendly while bringing attention to what they claim are illegal actions by banks against foreclosed homeowners.

Organizers did not specify what exact home will be the focus of their protest. Almost 200 protesters were on hand at the park by 9:30 a.m.

The Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition and May Day Coalition have organized a rally and march to show a united front for workers.

The rally is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. at Southwest Salmon Street and Park Avenue and it will be followed by the march at 4:30 p.m.

"All workers, no matter the country that they live in, their age, education level or the language they speak should be able to make enough money to put a roof over their family's head and put food on the table," Marco Mejia with the May Day Coalition said in a news release announcing the rally and march. "May Day is a celebration around the world for all workers, paid and unpaid, employed and unemployed, high wage and low wage: we are united. May Day is a taste of what is to come this year."

Organizers say they will make their way through downtown Portland and their plan is to target institutions they believe are not giving immigrants the right to work and live freely.

Police will, of course, be on hand to keep the peace and while the Portland Police Bureau does believe that demonstrations of free speech are an important part of the community, they have already said that they will not tolerate law breakers.

Organizers do have permits for the May Day rally and march but police are concerned about non-affiliated groups that might cause some trouble. For example, they have reason to believe a group that recently attempted to re-occupy Chapman Square may try it again on May 1.

This will also be the first May Day since the Occupy movement began. John Helmer III owns one of the businesses along the march route and he expects a different dynamic this year because of that. However, he does not expect any violence.

"We were seeing a little different element with the Occupy Portland, so that raises our angst just a little bit," he said. "But I think it's going to be fine, so I'm not worried about it."

The Portland Police Bureau issued a release on Monday saying their main objective on May Day will be to make sure the event is a safe one for everyone. Police say they will have enough officers on hand to respond to any problems that might come up throughout the day and possibly into the night.

Police will also be keeping an eye on an unpermitted march that is supposed to start on the Burnside Bridge around 12:30 p.m.

"When you have an event that's advertised as 'not family friendly,' yet it's held in a public park, in a public space, it sort of sends a red flag up for us," said Sgt. Pete Simpson with the Portland Police Bureau. "We will have people ready for that in the afternoon. We'll be monitoring it and certainly any unlawful or illegal behavior will be dealt with."

Portland Mayor Sam Adams released a statement late Monday highlighting actions already taken by the City Council and said while he respects citizens' rights to voice their opinions, he also takes seriously the responsibility for keeping the city safe.

The permitted march through downtown will have its own peacekeeping monitors, in addition to a police escort. It is billed as a family-friendly event and organizers are not expecting violence.

A May Day rally is also planned for our state capitol in Salem. Gov. John Kitzhaber will be joining community leaders and elected officials at the event. The rally is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., followed by a march at 7 p.m. The governor's speech will be streamed live online starting at 6 p.m.