Commemorating Portland’s Bloody Wednesday

Longshore Workers, Historians, and the Community Remember How Pier Park’s Trees Saved the Lives of Strikers from Police Bullets

PORTLAND — Pier Park in St. Johns is typically a destination for disc golfers on a sunny Saturday afternoon, but on July 11th seventy-five people turned out to the park for a guided historical walking tour commemorating Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday.” Eighty-one years ago on this day Portland police fired upon unarmed strikers during the 1934 Maritime Strike wounding four men, hitting several trees, and infuriating the general public.

The event was hosted by the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) and received support from three International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) locals, Portland State University’s Department of History, Portland Jobs with Justice, and community groups of the St. Johns neighborhood. Portland State University master’s student of public history Ryan Wisnor organized the event based upon his research on how the labor community accredited the trees of Pier Park for shielding the workers during the shooting.

“Fortunately the trees saved them,” were the words chosen by 1934 strike organizer Matthew Meehan in an oral history conducted before his death in 1977. Current longshoreman Matt Tyson of ILWU Local 8 read a passage from Meehan’s history to an audience of union members, labor activists, and St. Johns residents at the believed scene of the shooting — at the northern edge of Pier Park where Swift Blvd. once intersected with the railroad tracks. Continue reading

Commemorating Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday”

PORTLAND – On Saturday, July 11, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) will host a Commemoration of Portland’s “Bloody Wednesday,” the day when BloodyWednesdayPoster (2)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.

Also see story in the latest NW Labor Press at nwlaborpress.org.  

Pier Park & Bloody Wednesday Podcast Episode

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Trustees featured on KBOO July 6

Longshore strikers near Pier Park in 1934.

Longshore strikers near Pier Park in 1934.

On Monday, July 6, KBOO, Portland’s progressive radio voice, will feature Oregon trustees Norm Diamond and Nathan Moore in conversation on the Old Mole Variety Hour from 9-10 a.m.

Labor educator Diamond was a long-time host of the show. Moore is a member of the Eugene-based folk and roots band the Low Tide Drifters that will perform live during the broadcast.

“We talk about the power of music in reflecting and generating working class solidarity,” Diamond said, “and about the class and environmental sensibilities specifically in their music.”

The trustees also discuss an Oregon PNLH-sponsored event on the July 11 at Pier Park, Portland, to commemorate the 1934 police shootings of striking longshore workers.

Note that the July 6 program will stream live at kboo.fm and be available as a podcast.