Posted by: Tony Hernandez | November 27, 2017

Hashtag activism & a Burnside Bridge die-in

Burnside die in

#DontShootPDX protester hold a die-in on the Burnside Bridge on September 2016.

Reading “Media ecology and hashtag activism: #Kaleidoscope” brought me back to first-hand observations of local protests with national hashtags.

While covering a march in September 2016, I remember the unusual silence on the Burnside Bridge as protesters lay on the span for 4.5 minutes, representing the 4.5 hours Michael Brown lay dead on the street after a police shooting.

The die-in on the Burnside drew a lot of local attention, but those local voices were part of 1,000s nationwide who spoke up against police violence to black communities.

Heather Crandall and Carolyn Cunningham, our reading’s authors, point out that die-ins related to Brown’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement were fueled by hashtags, such as #Ferguson #BlackLivesMatter and from my observations #DontShootPDX, a hashtag that remains active today (click here to take a look).

Crandall and Cunningham point out that social justice movements and statements, like #BlackLivesMatter, allow activists the opportunity to “reclaim public spaces that have been used for racists or violent means.”

In Political Violence @ a glance, Oliver Kaplan for Denver Dioulouges writes that die-ins have been around since the 1960s and 1970s. Their power comes from quick mobilization of people with few resources needed, while still having an “outsized effect on public attention,” he wrote.

I remember that die-in during that September afternoon disrupted traffic for longer than 4.5 minutes on the Burnside. Images were shown on the news, and importantly, dozens of people were sharing their own images on social media, including myself.


  1. Despite the public ire these demonstrations get for disrupting public spaces such as highways, the effectiveness of activities such as die-ins is colossal and definitely gets the message across. If anything, the negative reactions, whether it’s from sadness and despair or even annoyance and anger, only further cements the memory of the issue in the minds of the general public. Without social media, the issues that engender these hashtags may have remained in their respective cities of origin and may have not become the national movements that they are today.

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