As the Navy Christens a New Warship the USS Portland, Democratic Socialists Say It’s Warmongering

“Smash the U.S. war machine,” protesters chanted. But they didn't get very close to the boat.

Activists from roughly 10 different local organizations gathered this morning to protest the naming of the Navy warship that docked in Portland over the weekend.

The Portland Democratic Socialists of America planned the demonstration after learning that the ship would be named USS Portland, with April 21 being declared by Mayor Ted Wheeler as "USS Portland Day."

"Wars abroad can seem so abstract," says Olivia Katbi Smith, a spokesperson for the DSA, "but we're a in a unique position, with a fucking warship being named after our city, to let officials know that we stand against foreign war efforts."

Related: USS Portland? Democratic Socialists of America and Other Portland Activists Are Ready to Protest Naming a Navy Warship After the Rose City

Representatives from a swath of left-wing groups addressed a crowd of around 100 protesters in an industrial lot at Northwest 21st Avenue before marching to the gate of the terminal where the ship's naming ceremony was taking place. But they stayed across Northwest Naito Parkway from the ceremony, a comfortable distance from the military contingent.

The groups had little interaction with dignitaries and visitors christening the ship—including Gov. Kate Brown. The ceremony drew a large Portland audience, dwarfing the protesters.

Brown and Mayor Ted Wheeler made speeches to welcome the ship to dock.

In a Pentagon statement, Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer, said, "I am certain that USS Portland will proudly represent both the Unites States and the people of Portland in maritime operations around the world for decades to come."

The ship itself, which was newly built, cost $1.6 billion, is armed with missiles and can carry 800 U.S. Marines.

Video of the ceremony can be seen here.

Katbi Smith, whose grandmother lives in Damascus, Syria, spoke about President Donald Trump's recent air strikes on the country.

"Enough of our tax dollars have gone to foreign wars," she said. "Enough is enough."

Dan Shay, a veteran with the group Veterans for Peace added, "The only ships I support are the ones that save lives. We have to defend a world of peace."

At one point, two counter-protesters wearing "America the Beautiful" T-shirts and waving large American flags flanked the front line of marchers, yelling at random "Ban abortion," "Stop killing babies," and "Save the 2nd [amendment]."

After some chest bumping and a few terse words, the flag-bearing men broke off to re-join the Navy ceremony.

Once the large, American flag-clad USS Portland warship was in view, protesters again began chants like "Hey Ted Wheeler, you're not hip. We don't want this fucking ship."

Multiple protesters at today's event said they recognize that the demonstration isn't likely to get the ship's name changed, but that they hope it galvanizes other Portlanders to join anti-war efforts.

"If you're a state legislator that doesn't come out against this warship," said one protester, Grant, who represented the Socialist Alternative group, "then consider yourself pro-war."

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