Portlanders celebrated International Women’s Day in a distinctive manner: marching in the downtown streets in rush-hour traffic.
More than two hundred students, teachers, business owners and workers gathered in Pioneer Courthouse Square Thursday evening for the International Women’s Strike march. The march, designed to protest gender inequality, was organized by the activist group Don’t Shoot Portland.
Speakers talked about women’s pay, immigration, tokenism, healthcare and sexual harassment in the workplace.

The strongest message at the event? Equality must benefit all women, or it’s not good enough. One of the head organizers, Olivia Pace, warned that women who aren’t willing to support other social-justice fights shouldn’t attend.

“If you’re a feminist who refuses to include other women across our borders,” she said, “then you don’t belong here.”

That message extended to the dress code.

Last year, several women wore “pink pussy” hats during the Portland women’s strike. This year, organizers prohibited the use of these hats because, they said, “not all women have vaginas and not all women have pink vaginas.”
International Women’s Strike in downtown Portland
International Women’s Strike in downtown Portland
Owner of Revolucion cafe Maria Garcia, who is running for Multnomah County Commissioner in District 2, gave a rousing speech about being an immigrant.
Garcia spoke in Spanish in the beginning of her speech. “I bet most of you didn’t understand what I just said,” she says. “That’s how we feel all the time [as Latina women].”
The march began in Pioneer Courthouse Square and looped around downtown ending at the waterfront. GABRIELA Portland, an advocacy group fighting for women’s rights in the Philippines, took the rear—saying the gesture symbolized making sure no one is left behind.
GABRIELA Portland took the rear of the march at the International Women’s Strike.
GABRIELA Portland took the rear of the march at the International Women’s Strike.
The marchers also stopped in several intersections to disrupt the flow of traffic. One was at the intersection of Southwest Oak Street and Broadway, where they stayed silent for 4.5 minutes to commemorate the time Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer, was left lying on the streets of St. Louis, Mo.
The sound of honking and yelling permeated the streets. One driver yelled, “Get out of the fucking road.”
But the march continued.
“Being on the streets is always important to send a message,” said GABRIELA Portland member Fredi Misay. “We put emphasis on the ‘working’ aspect to show the struggles of working women all over the world.”