This article describes first hand the interactions of the working class socialist political party, The Socialist Workers’ Party, (SWP) with attendees at the well publicized and well documented contending rallies in Portland Oregon in recent weeks.
Vol. 81/No. 24 June 19, 2017
SWP opposes moves to ban Trump rally in Portland, campaigns there
Mary Martin, SWP candidate for Seattle mayor, right, discusses party’s working-class program with Trump supporters, others, during protests in Portland June 4.
BY MARY MARTIN
PORTLAND, Ore. — Socialist Workers Party members spoke out against efforts by liberal Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler to cancel a June 4 rally scheduled to support President Donald Trump as well as oppose the frenzied liberals’ campaign to drive him out of office. When Wheeler failed, Trump supporters faced anti-Trump protesters, including an anarchist “Black Bloc”-style group determined to come after them. And local cops, reinforced by state police, were out in force.
Wheeler had urged the federal government to ban the event after two people were killed on a train here by Jeremy Christian, an ultra-rightist bigot, shouting anti-Muslim slurs. The two men who were killed, and another who was injured, had come to the defense of two young women targeted by Christian, one of whom was wearing a headscarf. Christian has been charged with murder.
Joe Gibson, organizer of the pro-Trump rally, told participants he would eject any white supremacists. He and other speakers said Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, the two men who were killed on the train, were heroes. Gibson had thrown Christian out of a prior pro-Trump event.
After a relatively peaceful hour of contending protests, some anarchists in black masks threw bricks at police. The cops responded by detonating flash-bang grenades, arresting 14 people and shoving people from one end of the park to the other. The cops kept up a barrage of announcements amplified to a deafening level, ordering protest participants to disperse.
A team of Socialist Workers Party members, including myself, the SWP candidate for mayor of Seattle, set up a campaign table and introduced the party and its working-class perspective to people from both events, as well as passers-by, for over two hours.
One woman who introduced herself as Ardith told SWP member John Naubert that she was a Trump supporter and had come to the rally from south Oregon, mainly because she wanted to talk to the anti-Trump people. She said while some were open to discussion, one man told her insistently, “Why don’t you just go over there across the street where the fascists are?”
Naubert said the SWP explains that the working class is the true target of the hysteria about Trump in the liberal bourgeois media, late night “talk” shows and radical anti-Trump protests. These forces all see the working class as stupid, reactionary and dangerous. Ardith said she enjoyed the discussion and bought a copy of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.
There were a number of others like Ardith. “William Jones, wearing camouflage pants, a bulletproof vest, a T-shirt and carrying an American flag on a pole, sat along a concrete barrier in front of City Hall,” the Portland Oregonian reported, “conversing with anti-Trump protesters about whether socialism can exist in a capitalist society and whether Trump will make life better for anyone not wealthy.
“Jones said he likes to keep an open mind and debate people, trying to change opinions or let others change his,” the paper reported.
David Servillo, a hospital worker in Portland who is originally from France, told us he thought it would have been wrong to shut down the Trump rally as the mayor demanded. “It’s a democracy, right?” He was delighted to see the titles on revolutionary politics in French displayed on the party table. He decided to buy a subscription to the Militant and a French edition of Is Socialist Revolution in the US Possible? by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters.
There were some anti-Trump demonstrators who didn’t appreciate the SWP. At the end of the protests, SWP members packed up their materials and prepared to leave. A group of anarchists tried to get into it with Trump supporters, stacking newspaper boxes in the streets to block police. The cops started sweeping the streets and ordered people to disperse.
One anarchist seeking to attack Trump people, and not looking too kindly at the SWP, grabbed our table and threw it, along with our bookrack, into the street to obstruct a cop car.
Participants from the Trump rally stopped to help us recover our table and rack from the street and carry them and our literature to our car.
“I’m glad to see your paper says that ‘workers are the target of the liberals’ fury,’” Miles, one of the men helping us, told me, looking at one of the headlines in the Militant. “I didn’t start out as a Trump supporter, but I couldn’t stand Clinton. Now I have friends who are liberal who won’t talk to me.
“What’s your party’s name again?” he asked. “Thank you for being here.”
SWP protests assaults on political rights in Washington