Remembering Portland Longshore’s Bloody Wednesday

Striking longshore workers occupy the railroad tracks near Pier Park and N. Columbia Blvd. (Image A2004-002.9377, courtesy of City of Portland Archives & Records)
Striking longshore workers occupy the railroad tracks near Pier Park and N. Columbia Blvd. (Image A2004-002.9377, courtesy of City of Portland Archives & Records)

On the morning of July 11, 1934, a train full of Portland police officers moved toward Terminal 4 in the St. Johns neighborhood. Their intent was to forcibly break the picket line of striking longshore workers, but near the intersection of what is now Columbia Boulevard, picketers blocked the train’s passage. Following the police chief’s orders, officers opened fire on the unarmed workers. Four were wounded, but the picket line held firm. The event became known within the International Longshore and Warehouse Union as “Bloody Wednesday.”

This year on Saturday, July 11, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association (PNLHA) will commemorate the incident at Pier Park, site of the attack. Local historians will lead a guided walk at Pier Park, discussing what happened that day, the meaning it had for participants, and the strike’s role in Portland’s history.

“The trees of Pier Park were once pockmarked with bullets, and for decades served as reminders of the odds the workers and their community supporters were up against,” said PNLHA trustee Ryan Wisnor, a graduate student in history at Portland State University.

Bloody Wednesday is Portland’s version of the more famous “Bloody Thursday” of the week before, when two striking longshore workers were killed by San Francisco police, leading to a general strike. Bloody Thursday is an official holiday in ILWU’s longshore contracts, and in Portland, members of the union gather at Oaks Bottom every year on July 5 to lay wreaths in memory of the union martyrs.

The PNLHA event is endorsed by several ILWU locals and by the PSU History Department. The event starts at 2:30 p.m July 11. Participants will meet at Pier Park at the traffic circle at N James St. & N Bruce Ave. [More details here.]

Four Strikers Shot

2 Comments on Remembering Portland Longshore’s Bloody Wednesday

  1. My father was a longshoreman and a great union supporter. Tried to print off this story but was rebuffed.

    • Are you saying the print button isn’t working? It may be your settings. I tried printing just now, and it worked.

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