by Sarah Mirk
A collection of groups protested government budget cuts in advance of the impending election in Portland's Lloyd District this afternoon. The mostly festive Occupy, Jobs with Justice, and Portland Action Lab rally and march around the Lloyd Center mall turned surprisingly violent in the middle, when riot police pepper sprayed approximately 20 protesters as they attempted to confiscate a wooden banner. The protesters sprawled out on the sidewalk outside the mall, many screaming and crying from the stinging pain, as volunteer medical helpers poured water and Maalox over their eyes.
Protest organizers say Portland police also confiscated two of the roughly five foot by three foot wooden signs before the protest began, saying they could be used as weapons and were wanted for an "ongoing investigation." Among the people pepper sprayed were activist Cameron Whitten and at least one high school student. One person was also arrested at the event.
According to police spokesman Pete Simpson, the signs could be used to push police officers back from the crowd, but he could not confirm that they were part of an ongoing investigation. The march today was unpermitted, with at least 50 police officers showing up on bikes, motorcycles, and horseback to monitor the action. "If they just got a permit, it wouldn't be an issue, they'd have the police escort," says Simpson.
Except for the pepper spraying, the rally and march were a rather upbeat protest that criticized both the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates for championing budgets that cut public services. People decked out in bull-and-torredor costumes smashed piggy bank pinatas outside the Wells Fargo, while advocates of public schools and the US Postal Service called for an end to cuts. A crowd of about 500 people marched around the Lloyd Center for over an hour, blocking some traffic and MAX tracks for 10-15 minutes, occasionally breaking out into a song "Fuck auuuusterity" to the tune of "We are Family."
All these photos were taken by me.