In May 1970, as a college student in Portland, Oregon, I took part in the national campus strike protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the killing of four students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. Every day for a week, several thousand students set off on antiwar demonstrations through downtown Portland. One morning our march took a different route, out to the port of Portland to bring our antiwar message to the longshoremen who worked on the waterfront. We knew that Harry Bridges’s ILWU was a “good union,” which was to say antiwar. We also knew that the longshore union had a radical past; though few of us qualified as knowledgeable students of labor history, leftist folklore in Portland had preserved some memory of the dramatic events of the 1934 waterfront strike. And we also remembered what happened in Paris, just two years earlier, when workers had joined students in common cause and in so doing almost toppled the French government. With high hopes, good spirits, and vaguely insurrectionary intentions, we set off to link up with our brothers on the docks.
Needless to say, the revolution didn’t start that day in Portland. The longshoremen stayed at their jobs. But they were not unfriendly as we marched past, shouting, “Join us!” and waving our banners. As I recall, many more dockworkers flashed us V-signs (and even a few fists clenched in solidarity) than gave us the finger....
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