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