"Welcome to the loneliness of American fascism," a woman standing on the lawn of Community Supported Everything yelled as Portland Police officers began wheeling their bicycles down Northeast Alberta Street last night at 10 pm, clearing the revelers and vendors from Last Thursday.
But the city dispersing of Last Thursday—a method Mayor Charlie Hales decided to employ after staff recorded widespread lawbreaking last month and the street-fair nonprofit subsequently quit—was smooth and uneventful.
All because Hales followed the first lesson of retail politics: If you can't beat 'em, co-opt 'em.
Supporters of the 15-block street festival had threatened to throw a cleanup protest 15 minutes before the city re-opened the street to traffic. Instead, the mayor and public safety advisor Baruti Artharee walked alongside those Last Thursday artists, as the festival supporters picked up litter and pedaled bicycles reading "LOVE" in pink lights.
Behind them, a police van with speakers mounted on its roof repeated a message to people standing in the street eating roasted corn on the cob: "This is the Portland Police Bureau. Thank you for coming out to Last Thursday. Please step up on the sidewalks."
Hales has told several news outlets he wants to keep the monthly festival going, but with more restrictions. He'll meet with neighborhood leaders on Monday.
The Friends of Last Thursday board had warned of city officials using pressurized hoses to disperse the crowd. In fact, a street-sweeping truck lightly sprayed the gutters.
Few people remained on Alberta Street afterward, though the bars were packed and a large group of high schoolers gathered for a hip-hop battle, won by a teenage rapper called Titty Milk. The throng chanted his name as police looked on, perplexed.
WW news intern Sara Sneath produced this video of Hales' Last Thursday street-clearing.