Activists call for political reform at Portland May Day rally

Groups gathering around the world

Demonstrators for workers rights gathered at Shemanski Park in downtown Portland, May 1, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Local activists gathered in Shemanski Park in downtown Portland Sunday for a May Day demonstration calling for a political overhaul.

The event was calmer than Portland’s 2015 May Day Rally when crowds pushed into police near Pioneer Square.

More than 1,000 people RSVP’d for the 2016 Portland May Day Rally.

“We are here today to demand the rights of immigrant workers and people of color and everyone else in our communities,” rally organizer Marco Mejia said.

The event kicked off with a performance by a troupe of Aztec dancers. Above them was banner that read, “Rise Up, Fight Back.”

Mejia says the Portland May Day Coalition usually organizes a march in addition to a rally, but this year it didn’t happen because they were too late to get their permits.

He didn’t anticipate an unofficial march after the event.

“Whether we have this rally or any other celebration, there might be other groups in the community that are also protesting or demanding other things,” Meija said.

Activists in Shemanski Park cried out passionately for major political changes.

“We have to have a government of the people, for the people and by the people,” Sterne McMullen with Portland’s Social Advocate said. “We’d like to build a party of the 99% and we want to see it as a mass student and worker’s party.”

McMullen says his group supports Sen. Bernie Sanders and his ideals, and wants to see him continue his presidential campaign as an independent.

“We still want to take his ideals for a positive change in the U.S.,” he said.

Members of the Internationalist Group were also on hand Sunday. Rebecca Lewis told KOIN 6 News today’s political figures aren’t standing up for what she believes in.

“We think that capitalism has long outlived its usefulness and we think we need to have a workers’ revolution in America,” Lewis said.

Demonstrators for workers rights gathered at Shemanski Park in downtown Portland, May 1, 2016 (KOIN)
Demonstrators for workers rights gathered at Shemanski Park in downtown Portland, May 1, 2016 (KOIN)

When asked if people should be scared of socialism she said, “absolutely not.”

“Well, maybe capitalists should be,” she continued.

Many people also spoke out against Donald Trump at the May Day event. Human rights were another big talking point.

“Immigration is a natural thing… people, they choose to go anywhere else. And here it’s criminalizing,” Romeo Sosa with Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project said. “People come here because they want a better life, better future.”

The peaceful event brought together passionate people from a variety of groups, each expressing a desire for widespread political change in one way or another.


In Seattle a large march from the city’s Central District to downtown is scheduled for the afternoon and city officials have approved a permit for that event. Later in the evening an anti-capitalist march is slated to begin in a downtown park. Authorities have not issued a permit for that gathering.

Seattle police say they will provide traffic control for all events.

Seattle traditionally sees large, disruptive May Day gatherings. Last year police arrested 16 people during demonstrations and in 2014 10 people were arrested. In 2013, police arrested 18 people from a crowd that pelted them with rocks and bottles. Storefronts in downtown Seattle have also been smashed in previous protests.

In 2015

Last year,
May Day protesters merged with several other groups and marched through the streets of downtown. At one point, marchers were blocked by Portland police from crossing the Burnside Bridge. Some responded by throwing eggs and water bottles at the police. Police responded with pepper spray, and traffic was blocked in each direction as the standoff took place.The group says the rally will promote resistance to capitalism, international solidarity, and respect for workers and oppressed groups within society.

May Day protesters gather at Shemanski Park in Portland, May 1, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)
May Day protesters gather at Shemanski Park in Portland, May 1, 2015 (KOIN 6 News)

Protesters also got into a confrontation with Sheriff’s Deputies near Pioneer Place Mall. The deputies then pulled back quickly after using flash bangs to push the crowd back. The protesters then continued to block the streets near Pioneer Place Mall. Mall officials closed off the doors to the mall nearest the protesters, but the mall remained open from other entrances.

Portland police say they are unaware of any march planned this year.


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