PORTLAND – On Saturday, July 11, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) will host a Commemoration of Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday,” the day when police fired upon picketers near Pier Park during the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike. The event features a guided walk through the park as local historians join union members and the community to discuss what happened that day, the meaning it had for those who were there, and reflect on the strike’s role in Portland’s history.
On the morning of July 11, 1934, a hundred policemen piled aboard a train headed to Terminal No. 4 with the intent of forcefully breaking the picket lines of striking longshoremen. Near the intersection of what is now Columbia Blvd. on the edge of Pier Park, picketers blocked the train’s passage with their bodies and makeshift barricades. Chief of police Burton K. Lawson ordered the officers to open fire upon the unarmed workers using pistols and shotguns. Four men were wounded in this incident, but the picket line held firm and the strikers won their demands a few weeks later.
“The ‘34 longshore strike was a pivotal event in Portland’s history,” said Ryan Wisnor, the Portland State University graduate student whose research has culminated into this event. “The trees of Pier Park were once pockmarked with bullets and for decades served as reminders of the odds the workers and their community supporters were up against.” In addition to pulling the longshoremen and their families up out of precarious poverty, the victory inspired other workers in the region and helped usher in one of the largest waves of unionization in the nation’s history.
This event is cosponsored by an array of labor and community groups including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) – Local 8, Local 4, Local 5, Columbia River Pensioners Association; Portland Jobs with Justice; Occupy St. Johns; St. Johns Heritage Association; and Portland State University’s Department of History.
Commemorating Bloody Wednesday
Date: Saturday, July 11
Location: Pier Park in St Johns, Portland (Meet at the traffic circle at N James St. & N Bruce Ave.)
How to Get There:
Pier Park has accessible parking, is on the #44 and #75 bus lines, and is a 20 minute walk from downtown St. Johns.
Where to Meet:
Pier Park is big! Meet at the traffic circle at N James St. & N Bruce Ave.
What else to know:
We’ll be walking through Pier Park’s trails and stopping at four sites. While the first two stops are ADA accessible, the third is not and is along a gravel path with a moderate slope. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring water since it will likely be hot! The park offers restrooms and play areas for children. Families are welcomed.