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Portland has become famous for its protests, rallies, marches and political gatherings; mostly from the left side of the political spectrum.

PMG FILE PHOTO - A 2018 rally on illegal gun violence drew thousands to downtown Portland. In recent years local leaders have fretted and fixated on violence between protesters of different stripes on the streets of Portland.

But the recent attention to the ugly side of protests has distracted from a basic fact that where we live is not like other cities: Portlanders turn out to speak their mind publicly, in rallies, marches and public protests.

The record-breaking Obama rally of 2008, the anti-Trump rallies on election night 2016, the gigantic Women's March in 2017 and the students' March for our Lives in 2018 have all solidified Portland's reputation as an activist, leftist enclave.

For Barack Obama's campaign appearance, an estimated 75,000 people took over Portland's waterfront — more than double his previous record in Philadelphia.

In 2016, when Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, protesters took to the streets three nights in a row.

On Jan. 21, 2017, the day after Trump's inauguration, the local version of the national Women's March was expected to draw 20,000 to 30,000 people, but instead drew between 50,000 to 100,000.

On March 24, 2018, the student-led March for Our Lives rally filled the streets of down Portland.

The event, organized by students and calling for an end to illegal gun violence, drew about 12,000 people, police estimated.

All this free speech came with a cost: Portland police released figures in late 2018 showing spending of $3.5 million on policing protests between 2016 and 2018.

Portland has been known for protests before. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush reputedly called the city "Little Beirut" based on protests of his visit here.

Then, on May 1, 2000, hundreds of protesters who marched for workers' rights on May Day were met with what some observers called a "police riot."

This, in turn, led to several years of active anti-capitalist protests, punctuated by drummers and dancing, organized by members of what was informally known as The Movement.

In 2004 the protest scene faded for a time, coinciding with tensions between labor activists and environmentalist wings of Portland's anti-capitalist scene.

The tensions stemmed from worker unrest at an upscale vegan restaurant set up by a prominent local environmental activist and protest figure, Craig Rosebraugh, a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.

Workers at the restaurant struck and were fired, which became a focal point for organizing by Portland's vibrant chapter of the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World — who themselves were stalwarts of Portland's protest scene.

The dispute exposed Rosebraugh to accusations of hypocrisy and of being a "petit-bourgeois capitalist."

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