On May 11, 1970, the Vanguard became a part of its own story when a PSU student strike and protest against the invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State Massacre turned into a violent confrontation that came to be known as the “police riots.”
Following a week of marches, demonstrations and barricades lining the South Park Blocks, a newly assigned police unit tasked with riot control ordered protestors to disperse. When the riot police attempted to revoke a permit for the first aid tent demonstrators had erected in the South Park Blocks, they linked arms and formed a circle around it, expecting to be arrested.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
Vanguard photographer Tom Geil was among the many media professionals that captured the “police riots,” which shocked a community unprepared to see its police force beating unarmed civilians, many of them young students.
The fallout was significant enough that a Multnomah County grand jury found sufficient evidence to support allegations that police had used excessive force against demonstrators. No police officers were ever charged, however.
Yesterday more than one hundred PSU students and faculty marched downtown, raising awareness about the issues that matter to them. Heading back toward campus, they marched up Southwest 5th Avenue, the very same street that protestors walked to take their message to city hall that fateful week in May 1970.
While there were two arrests during the Occupy PSU demonstration, and several others at Occupy Portland over the weekend, it is a testament to lessons learned that Portland has thus far managed to keep its civil disobedience far more civil than any other Occupy movement across the nation.
Vanguard staff has spent dozens of hours on the front lines at Occupy events throughout the past week, and the city has refused to buckle beneath the strain of constant and tremendous pressure.
In the newspaper business, the burden of living in interesting times amounts to long hours, sleepless nights and hastily written copy on breaking news. As a professional witness to the historic acts of civil disobedience now taking place all around us, uncertainty is both a curse and a delightful blessing.
As witnesses, we hope to provide our community with the best information from which to draw their own conclusions about the news. To this end we hope that our readers consider this history lesson not as a tale of what is and what once was, but rather as an example of what happens when we collectively recognize that regardless of our ideology, we are all a part of the same community.
Occupy Portland and Occupy PSU did not erupt into the spectacular violence of Oakland, or even of 1970 Portland, for one simple reason; through all the tension and strife, we have treated each other as neighbors.