May Day, Walking Meditation, and the Black Bloc

I couldn’t find a photographer to document the Walking Meditation at the May Day event today, so I hauled my body out of bed, put a bandana over my face to keep my germs from spreading, and went out into the world for the first time in eight days.

The Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) met for walking meditation an hour before the May Day rally was supposed to start. Rev. Jayna Warm Nest Gieber, a long-time student of Thich Nhat Hanh, led the walking meditation with grace (see first Extra) and circled the park three times before chanting a Buddhist prayer of peace and safety for all beings. Two thousand people were expected to show up for the rally and march, of whom about thirty came specifically for the meditation. One of the BPF people had very carefully attached our BPF banner to a couple of poles so that it could be raised high for visibility, but two Portland Police officers came to us as soon as we unfurled it, to demand that we remove the poles, which they thought could be used as weapons or projectiles. (See second Extra, which gives you a sense of the crowd.) After we removed the poles and took them off-site, we were able to proceed with the meditation, circling the park on the sidewalk, walking with ease and peacefulness, slightly away from the milling throng.

But the real stars of the day, both in terms of local buzz and commercial media spin, were the young people of the “Black Bloc.” Three of them joined our walking meditation, and the main photo is one of the meditators. They dress in black. They cover their faces. Some are anarchists, and they don’t all agree on tactics. Some are brave young idealists who are willing to risk their lives to protect vulnerable people. Some are police, infiltrating the anarchists. Some are right-wing supporters of Trump and fascism who pose as anarchists in order to discredit them. Some describe themselves in ways I haven’t heard and can’t repeat.  They all look alike.

Because I’m not well, I left before the march began. There are many stories about what happened. Apparently someone threw a bottle of water at a policeman. The riot cops were called in. The police announced on loud speakers that the march was cancelled. Not everyone could hear. Chaos ensued. At some point, some people in black smashed a window. The police fired tear gas and flash grenades at the marchers, including children. Some other people in black set a garbage can on fire. Some people in black were arrested. The spin in the commercial media is that anarchists rioted and shut down the march. The buzz among local activists is that the police rioted and shut down the march. 

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