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Thursday, March 20, 2003 

The Marvelous Against The State

On March 20th, as the United States military began its invasion of Iraq, thousands of peace demonstrators in Portland, including the members of the Portland Surrealist Group, expressed their frustration and disgust by participating in a citywide protest, which started as a march from the Terry Shrunk Plaza and ended in a maelstrom of bold contestations.

Leaving the Plaza like a colossal anaconda, the size of the march alone transformed the urban environment by establishing an ethereal and harmonic mood throughout the streets, while eliminating the hostile supremacy of cars and commerce, which ultimately upset those who treat the city as merely a shopping mall or transit center. The march quickly glided from the Yamhill District in the southwest to the Old Town District in the northwest, where a large number of demonstrators chose to block the intersection at 2nd and Burnside by sitting in the middle of the street, denying access to the Burnside Bridge. As the seeds of insubordination blossomed, the blockade evolved into a poetic and festive occupation, which included drum and dance circles, free food, creative vandalism, ceremonial flag burning, a candlelight vigil, socializing, and the use of the bridge for walking and skateboarding.

Not long after the start of the occupation a group of demonstrators clashed with the Portland Police Bureau on the near-by Steel Bridge, resulting in the heavy use of chemical weapons and a fiery physical altercation. Almost immediately after this another group of demonstrators crossed the Burnside Bridge, making their way onto Interstate 5 and Interstate 84, where they briefly blocked both expressways before being arrested, or forced to disperse. Following these actions a group of demonstrators on bicycles, Portland’s version of Critical Mass, quickly halted traffic on Interstate 405 before being violently subdued by the Portland Police. Eventually, what was left of these splinter groups rejoined the demonstrators at 2nd and Burnside, and six hours after the occupation began the Portland Police started their assault on the demonstrators with rubber bullets, chemical weapons, and concussion grenades. By midnight they had forced the thinning crowd to scatter west down Burnside, and arrested those who tenaciously remained defiant.

As our world seems overrun with callous warmongers and corporate toads these encouraging forms of collective resistance, roused with a rush of adrenaline, act as passionate oppositions to Christian capitalism’s colonial assault on our mental, environmental, and public spaces. Freed from the established order these spaces become reclaimed commons, and function as insurgent arteries of the ever-emerging Marvelous.

Brandon Freels

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