Cross Posted from Mismanaging Perception
Like this Monday’s previous Tar Sands Blockade solidarity ‘Worst Polluters‘ tour, Friday evening saw a second critical mass of activists taking to the streets to challenge the corporate status quo and speak two-wheeled truth to corrupt capitalist power. Once again the meet up point was Northeast Portland’s always active Holladay Park. After instructions and details regarding the targets of the ride were announced, the swarm of cyclists took to the streets, blasting dance music to set a radically positive tone for the action.
Despite recent anonymous online criticisms as to the tactics used by this particular bike brigade, organizers and activists within the group were more committed than ever to use their bikes as direct action tools to subvert the power structure of Brand Portland’s pollution industries.
The first stop wasn’t far from the park. Much beloved U.S. congressman Earl Blumenhauer is more known for his perennial support for better bicycle infrastructure. The mass of riders learned last week that a private Portland Business Alliance (PBA) luncheon also being sponsored by tar sands profiteers TransCanada have invited Earl to speak at the event. Today, the swarm of riders stopped outside the congressman’s district office to read aloud a letter encouraging Mr. Blumenauer to refuse the invitation from PBA and TransCanada out of this clear conflict of interest with the values of the SE Portland district he represents.
From here, the ride descended upon the east bank of the Willamette river to join an Idle No More ’World Water Day’ action in defense of clean fresh-water as a human right in danger from corporate pollution, privatization, and chemical dumping of industrial byproducts like fluorosilicic acid, (aka fluoride), which is currently up for a public vote this May. Billions of gallons of fresh water are rendered toxic and undrinkable each year through the process of carbon-rich tar sands oil mining that TransCanada profits from. The action was also focused on corporate “food” giant Nestlé and their ongoing attempts to build a bottled water facility in the Columbia River gorge. The plan has received a tsunami of public outrage leveled against Nestlé.
The swarm of cyclists then crossed the Willamette river, proceeding up Naito Parkway to briefly occupy a small brick courtyard below the offices of the infamous Bank of America, who have invested heavily in numerous polluting industries, including the Alberta tar sands mining disaster. Activists attached a letter of condemnation to their front door.
The tour then departed across downtown to the local offices of tar sands profiteers Chase Bank, where another letter was taped up and more banners were unfurled.
Close by, the Wells Fargo tower was targeted next. This stop was brief. Another letter to Wells Fargo was taped up shaming the big money bank for financing tar sands strip mining, as well as profiting from the privatization of the prison industrial complex.
The tour then rolled to City Hall to join a vigil opposed to the city’s discriminatory policies against Portland’s homeless community by way of the ‘camping ban’. Enacted several years ago after heavy lobbying by the afore-mentioned Portland Business Alliance, this heinous ordinance has made criminals out of the thousands of Portlanders who are forced to sleep outdoors each night.
While at city hall, speakers also referenced the nearby offices of CFM Strategic Communications. CFM is the paid state lobbying wing of TransCanada, as well as public drinking water pillagers Nestlé. CFM also performs PR duties for several local food companies infamous for illegal labor practices and poisoning their customers with norovirus.
The day’s action complete, the tour made a stop in Tom McCall Waterfront Park to talk about the public space’s gubernatorial namesake currently enjoying his posthumous 100th birthday on this day, and of the progressive legacy he gifted Oregon prior to his death. The park used to be the sight of a four lane highway. During McCall’s term as governor, it was ripped out and the riverfront was returned to the people. Riders insisted on singing Happy Birthday to the great Tom McCall on the spot.
From here, the still energetic swarm of riders pushed southward to the Gibbs street pedestrian bridge in the dwindling twilight above the rush of traffic below on Interstate-5. The PDX Overpass Light Brigadewas on hand to deliver the illuminated message ‘NO TAR SANDS‘ to hundreds of vehicles passing below.
We had set out to continue shaming Portland’s worst polluters 100 years after the birth of environmental champion Tom McCall, and in doing so had called into serious question where Portland’sgreen legacy has gone in the decades since Oregon’s most cherished governor passed on.
Sadly, we find ourselves today seeing coward politicians supporting coal exports and voting for freeway mega-projects while claiming their actions are inspired by McCall.
They do so at their own risk. As Utah Phillips so accurately stated, “The world isn’t dying, it’s being killed. And the people doing the killing have names and addresses.”
See you in the streets.