PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison riot, protesters took to the streets of downtown Portland to decry what they called “slave labor” from companies that profit from prison workers.
The protest began around 4 p.m. Friday and immediately snarled traffic and blocked MAX lines. Protesters also demonstrated against white supremacy. The crowd began blocking traffic at 6th and Main before moving toward the Justice Center.
Portland police said some demonstrators threw projectiles at authorities. Protesters took over the AT&T store on 3rd and Yamhill, refusing to leave when the manager asked them to get out. They claim the communications giant exploits prison workers.
The crowd made its way through downtown from Pioneer Square toward the Justice Center, where Portland Police lined the street, warning that arrests would be made if anyone entered the street.
At one point, a man damaged a woman’s car with a flag pole. Police are hoping to identify that person, as well as those responsible for keying an anarchy symbol into a police vehicle and someone who stood on top of one.
James Mathew Mattox, 27, was arrested and booked into the Multnomah County Jail on charges of Criminal Mischief, interfering with a peace officer and harassment.
Police said 2 other men were cited to appear in court, one for disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer and the other for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and interfering with a peace officer.
“They were thrown down by no less than 5 cops jumped on the guy,” protester Diane Keefauver said.
In a press release from the organizing groups, this protest coincides with the National Prisoner Strike.
The strike, “led and organized by prisoners in states across the America” is on the same day as the 45th anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion.
The issue is that prisoners “are often forced to work against their will and are typically paid less than 25 cents an hour to do everything from fight wildfires, make telemarketing calls, and sew McDonald’s uniforms.”
Several visitors from Camas chimed in on what they witnessed Friday.
“They got warned and they were not listening and standing in the street,” Tristan Fisher said.
“It’s cool if its going to be non-violent and peaceful but you can’t be breaking public property,” Jonathan Hayes said.
On September 9, 1971, a 4-day revolt at the Attica Correctional Facility near Buffalo began. The prisoners rioted over overcrowding and other issues, and seized control of the state prison.
The New York State Police reclaimed most of the prison that same day, but 1281 convicts held 39 prison guards and employees hostage for 4 days.
The convicts were given an ultimatum on September 13, ordering them to surrender. When they didn’t police stormed the facility and killed 29 inmates and 10 hostages, wounding 89 more people.
Attica was the worst prison riot in American history, with 43 people dead.
The organizers of the Portland protest included Black Lives Matter Portland, Showing Up for Racial Justice PDX, Portland Anarchist Black Cross, Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.