Joining in a nationwide day of coordinated demonstrations against the banking industry, close to 1,000 Occupy Portland protestors marched in the rain alongside Oregon labor unions for an unprecedented political action starting Thursday morning before dawn.
By mid-afternoon, there were no reports of violence by demonstrators, who roamed across the downtown area.
At 8 a.m. a coalition of labor unions, coordinated by the activist group We Are Oregon, attempted to march over the Steel Bridge to join other marches headed towards Waterfront park for a rally against corruption in the banking industry.
However Portland Police and TriMet closed the bridge to pedestrian, bicycle and auto traffic just after 4 a.m., leaving the knot of several hundred sign-waving demonstrators chanting at the foot of the bridge near the bus mall.
Young men from the Rumorz Café made famous in the Occupy Portland encampment served gallons of free coffee to the crowd from thermoses arrayed on a child's Radio Flyer wagon.
Union officials and entire staffs of nonprofit groups were seen in the early morning crowd, most of which was grey-haired and wearing organized labor t-shirts, shirts and ball caps.
A small line of protestors sat down in front of the chanting crowd and were arrested without incident, as dozens of Portland Police massed on the bridge itself and a short line of officers in riot gear blocked the unionists from marching over.
The arrestees were loaded into a TriMet bus at around 9:30 a.m., then the rest of the crowd turned and walked over the river using the pedestrian bridge underneath.
By late-morning, several marches joined together near Pioneer Square despite a significant police presence.
Within hours, the protestors – estimated to be 500-600 strong – had shut down the Chase bank branch on SW Yamhill, staged a sit-in at Wells Fargo Bank in which several were arrested, and headed on to US Bank.
At times, reporters themselves appeared to get as emotional as the demonstrators, with television news personalities tweeting challenges and objections to what their crews showed on livecams.
At the Bank of America, the Occupy Portland live cam showed a spontaneous sit-in including the discussion of who wanted to stay and risk arrest and who wanted to get up and move on to the next bank ripe for sitting-in.
After bank employees reportedly posted signs that said, "Weird isn't working," the protestors – who socked in the bank's front entrance – responded with deafening cries of "Keep Portland weird!"
Throughout the day, "bike swarms" and groups of marchers made spur-of-the-moment action plans, while the rain and wind blew. As The Skanner News went to press, activists waving signs that said "We Are Unified" and "Eat the Rich" debated whether to set up camp again – and whether the doorway of the Bank of America would be a good place.
Meanwhile, loud disco music played there and scores of demonstrators danced, sang, and whistled at passing bike swarms.