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Occupy Portland

First Post: A Visit to Occupy Portland 1o/16/11

Last evening about 9 I paid a visit to Occupy Portland

at the entrance on Main there was a sign saying to call Blumenauer and ask him to vote against the Free Trade agreements. Showing my ignorance, I started telling people the issue was moot, the vote had already happened. The first five or ten people I talked to didn’t know what I was talking about and I realized things don’t happen here as I’m used to them happening.

But everyone was friendly and I felt perfectly safe at all times. After a while I started visting the various booths. At the Communications tent a number of people sat staring at computer screens. I was told they were monitoring what was going on in New York where the midnight deadline to leave Washington Square was approaching. At the Information booth I was told the GA meeting was in progress across the street in Terry Schrunk Plaza so I went there.

This was impressive! Over 100 people, possibly 150, were listening to a presentation on a safety proposal. Background: non-medical drugs and alcohol are not allowed in the encampment, but, since Occupy Portland is open to whoever shows up, some people are not complying. The proposal was for a process to ask people to leave and do their imbibing elsewhere and then they could return. The Safety Committee did a role play of how this would be handled if the person refused, culminating at stage 3 which was gently putting a hand on the shoulder and elbow of the offender.  A show of opinion was called for and only two didn’t like it. Despite the overwhelming majority support, a discussion ensued. Well moderated, respectful, impressive! Folks talked about not touching someone who doesn’t want to be touched, how it was assault, how it would escalate the situation. Also in the discussion was whether people with medical marijuana cards would be allowed to use and where. The entire time a man was signing another stood on the rise behind the meeting holding signs up indicating the current process.

Then I went back across the street and visited both blocks of the encampment. I was especially impressed by the wide range of services that have been set up:

Medical: for injuries etc.  Wellness: for massages, herbs etc. Calm: with a psychotherapist on hand Legal: a middle-age lawyer was counseling someone right then

There is a library with non-fiction arranged by Dewey Decimal System. The books have been donated and are loaned on the honor system. During daylight hours they hold educational classes in this tent. Some they’ve had are Income Tax and History. They would like to have them in the evening but the lights they feel they need are needed elsewhere.

There is even a religious area. This week they built a Sukkah in recognition of the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot going on right now

Sanitation is a big issue, of course

there are a few families camped there–I didn’t see any kids as it was nearly 10 by this time

of course there are lots of signs everywhere

before I left I stopped at the Blumenauer sign, took out a red pen and wrote on it: Too Late. Vote Already Happened.

Next Post: Discharge The Debt Rally 10/18/11

Student Loan Justice Portland held a rally yesterday across the street from where the bankruptcy court meets. I learned the harsh and shocking situation our current student loan system puts people in today. (By chance I later talked to an older student loan holder who told me she was able to get in a program that allows your loan to be forgiven after 30 years–thirty years!!–if you have been paying faithfully BUT THAT IS NO LONGER AN OPTION for the younger students who were demonstrating yesterday)


I heard stories to break your heart–young people whose lives are forever hobbled by their debt. A woman who owes $100,000 told by the bank that the way she can cancel the debt is to die. A woman told by the school she’d get a job paying $100,000 and has only been able to get $15 an hour, no benefit jobs. People paying $450 a month, $500. One paying for ten years and still owing as much as she did at the beginning. Others whose debt has increased while they pay.

The worse part is that these loans cannot be cancelled by bankruptcy–NOT ALLOWED FOR STUDENT LOANS ONLY

When I was a student, tuition and living expenses were reasonable enough that it was possible to work your way thru school. No more. We need to do something to change this or most of our young people will not able to get higher education. Talk about the economic divide!

More Photos from Occupy Portland Sunday, 10/30/11

 

I mention Sunday because of the priest who approached me and asked if I wanted to take Holy Communion

the other man was carrying a loaf of bread which had some chunks torn out of it.

There was a new art tent

outside the library I found the list of classes and meetings and such

there was a lovely new look at the kids area

I took this picture just because I thought the Eileen Fisher tote outside a homemade tent was an interesting contrast

and then there’s always the picture one fails to get: later that evening, about 10pm, when I was I was leaving the camp after bringing the kitchen laundry back, a white city pickup truck pulled up to the corner where at least half a dozen large garbage bags were set out. A woman got out and began loading them in the truck.  I told her I was surprised to see her doing this and she said someone has to and kept carrying sacks to her truck.

Hands Around the Courthouse (in Solidarity with DC Hands Around the White House) plus a little Occupy Portland 11/06/11

Hands Around the Courthouse gathered at Terry Schrunk Park right across the street from Occupy Portland so I took some pictures of the signs and such along the street of OP. I’ll put those at the end of this and focus first on the very energizing event to support the DC event today asking Obama to say NO to the Keystone Tar Sand Pipeline.  I am not going to go into why we need to stop it so if you want more information on that go to 350.org, that’s main organization behind it and their website will educate you I’m sure.

Approaching the park I saw the above and already could hear the lovely strains of Boca Marimba

There was a nice size crowd, which grew during the speeches, and lots of great signs, of course. A few hundred people — I’m no good at estimating but over 200, maybe 300 someone said. It was announced that the DC demo had 20,000 after expecting 5000! (Bill McKibbon, the founder of 350 and an organizer of the DC action, only claimed 12,000 in a later email–but it’s still a LOT of people)

Very hard to get a photo that gives a sense of the length of the march since we were unpermitted so walking on the sidewalks and stopping for lights. I stepped into the street once to try to get a better photo and immediately drew the cops attention and rebuke.

but the fun was when we got to the Courthouse and had enough people to encircle the entire block!

and now the photos from Occupy Portland

the first is strange tent fellows

At OccuFest–Nov. 12 countdown to eviction

As I write this I am listening along with 3500 others via Livestream to a gathering at Occupy Portland. At first people were just talking about various things: their own stories, politics, Occupy etc. Now as the midnight hour is less than an hour away, they begin to talk about legal issues, tactics for civil disobedience, now they are trying to get a consensus on ideas of how to respond to the police. Now talking about the placement of the livestream equipment in order to keep it safe. Now it’s 3800 watching

I arrived at Pioneer Square about 5:15 in a light but steady rain. Shortly after we set out on a walk to the Occupy location only a few blocks away.  We stopped at every light, something we had done before but this time bicycle cops enforced it, moving their bikes across the crosswalk to block us, even pulling people back during the light blinking faze when it’s not really red yet. Our numbers were growing as we walked.

I started taking pictures when I got to the encampment, mostly because it was so sad to see it being dismantled, seeing the open spaces where once there had been tents and services.

I want to get these up quickly so I’m not going to pay a lot of attention to the order. I will put notes to explain where necessary

after wandering in the encampment squares I went over to Terry Schrunk where GA’s and events are held. The potluck was happening and music played. At 7 the GA started with a statement about non-violence but it was a special one with basically an open mic which included National Lawyers Guild talking about the right to refuse to be searched, and all kinds of people talking, some eloquent, some not. By now the crowd was several hundred

that last shot is actually of when the GA moved over to camp B

police car and paddy wagon presence SO heavy. police cars lining the street for several blocks–and we’re just across the street from the station!

Many delegations from other Occupies: Seattle, Olympia and the Mosher in the Gorge for sure.

the potluck and on the right the sad scene of moving

11:43 reporting bikes riding around the blocks to try to keep them safe! it sounds like a huge crowd

all that’s left of the once huge kitchen: a jar of peanut butter and another of jam.

all that’s left  of the medical tent–plus there once were  other tents for massage, herbs, therapy etc.

ten minutes to the witching hour and the livestream has stopped, they must be moving the equipment. meanwhile 5000 people are tuned in…now 5700 and the Occupiers say there are at least 5000 people there

livestream back and candlelight vigil across the street from supporters.

Occupy Portland Update Sunday about 12:30 pm and again at 3

Amazing victory last night but this morning OP says cops came and tried to evict them at 9:30. Right now they are having a GA not at Pioneer Place but at the park, Chapman Sq, I think.

A few minutes ago a speaker said they are forming an Operation Committee which in the next 48 hours will focus on how to prepare how to go forward to establish a permanent location, a home base, where they will live together and work to attain normalization while they continue their political work.

watch the live stream for the latest and check their website for announcements, videos etc.

3pm Both parks are empty now of Occupiers. Amazingly non-violent on the Occupiers part. Cops doing their usual tough guy act when they have that costume on: shield on their faces, batons across their chests, pushing people up Main St but have now been on a stand off for quite awhile. Cops want all people out of the street. Not really sure the Occupiers care at this point since they lost the parks (park dept has already fenced them and moved in with equipment), I guess it’s just the principle at this point

Occupy Portland March Sunday Nov. 20

A good size crowd with folks of all ages showed up today. A number of people spoke before we walked. My impression was they were whoever asked to speak. There was a wide variety including younger and older, someone from Eugene, another from Seattle, a Vet.

Some great signs

I love that people are mostly making their own

tee shirts

Two sisters had made cookies to share — their mom said it was their idea — the younger one was passing them out as we gathered

a very small group of  ‘unoccupiers’ with a very professional sign stood by the seawall–a few Occupiers went over to talk to them

the crowd grew slowly

despite the cold

by the time we marched it was pretty good size

It was a bit depressing to walk by Chapman and Lowensdale Squares where a week ago we were evicted. Even Terry Schrunk Park was surrounded with cyclone fencing. A few people shook the fencing but we were completely peaceful. As with yesterday’s march, there were no police. We policed ourselves. Several people took it upon themselves to stop folks from crossing streets when the lights changed.

We ended up back at Waterfront Park but down on Salmon. At the very end the Witches arrived, dancing

The program at the end was someone from each committee telling about their committee and then there were tables for each so we could sign up, contribute etc. After that music.

The reporter from Channel 6 who interviewed me thought it was the biggest crowd she’d seen all week. I don’t know, yesterday’s health care one that I missed looked really big too from the photos I saw. She asked me what I thought about the UnOccupy folks. I told her I wanted to know who paid for their obviously expensive sign. “Good Question,” she said, but she didn’t address that in her story.

As I walked I thought we all should make a pledge to attend at least one Occupy event a week to support it now that this is the only way for them to have visibility

 

TALES FROM OCCUPIED AMERICA 12/5/11

Arun Gupta and Michelle Fawcett, have been traveling around the country the last two months visiting occupations in over 24 cities.

Arun put out the first Occupy Wall Street Journal, writes for the New York based Indypendent and Salon magazine, among others, and is a long time activist.  His interview with Arundhati Roy,‘The people who created the crisis will not be the ones that come up with a solution’ was published in the Guardian (UK) last week.

Arun Gupta
Michelle Fawcett teaches communications and international development at NYU and is working on a book about culture, neoliberalism and UNESCO corporate partnerships entitled The Market for Ethics.

Michelle Fawcett

He spoke tonight at the Red & Black Café and she showed a video she’s made during their trip featuring Occupiers from a bunch of different cities. People were so articulate. Great video though I just watched and didn’t take notes so I won’t try to tell you about it. She is posting her videos on Salon so you can see them there.

Arun spoke (he’s been writing about the trip on Salon too) and answered questions. I took a lot of notes and I’m going to summarize here. Any mistakes or misrepresentations are my responsibility and my bad notetaking–I don’t know shorthand!

I think there were about 60 people there, about twice the number of chairs. Some were Occupy activists but not all and there were a number of older folks like myself.


One of the amazing things he reported is that there are 1700 Occupies in the US! The mainstream media was important in the movement’s growth but since the attacks they have flipped highlighting the need for our own media. He surprised me by saying we need actual physical papers, not just online. And that is happening. Will happen here soon too.

One of Gupta’s themes was that with Occupy the left is playing for the center and that is one of its big strengths. He finds it remarkable. He also said the Occupy movement has made clear that we have a lack of democratic forums in this country and OWS has given participants the experience of seeing they can have social ascendancy. They have found community and a new society. He feels a public occupation is still needed as it creates visible moments.

He talked about visiting OWS a lot (as he lives in NYC) and about how things developed. One interesting anecdote was about being told by some SEIU members that they were have barred by the union from going to OWS and then after the big arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge they were sent there to deliver food and tarps.

He said that was when the world paid attention with those 700 arrests. He also mentioned Frances Fox Piven’s saying that disruptive moments are what grab attention.

Another theme was that the people coming to Occupy are coming as themselves as opposed to what the left usually tries to do which is to educate people and tell them what the issues are, so sometimes we don’t like the issues that are brought up but in Occupy everyone sees their issue as equal to everyone elses.

He characterized the Occupiers as 4
1) anti-capitalists
2) anti-corporate, this included the folks working to overturn corporate personhood but also people who believe in small business. He said there are even Republicans involved in that latter group
3) more regulation will fix things, e.g. Paul Krugman
4) conspiracy theorists in which he included the ‘end the Fed’ folks (several times he talked about what a disaster it would be to not have the Fed, as imperfect as it is.

He talked about Occupy being a poor peoples’ movement especially the people who actually sleep in the occupations (as opposed to those who come to GA meetings). He said the movement has made the poor visible. But he said it also includes the displaced middle class as well as long-time poor. And then there is labor and liberals who he thinks will peel off with the election.

The repression and disinformation: signs of success!

He praised ‘mic check’ because it allows everyone to feel part of the process. It also allows the crowd to not agree with a speaker by not repeating. I saw that happen one day at a demonstration at Pioneer Sq when various people were speaking impromptu. A young woman started reciting an obscene poem and when the crowd realized that they stopped repeating. It was amazing!

He talked about the need for a sense of victory, move your money was an example of something that functioned that way.

And he talked about the need for education and radicalization, that being the next step. Couldn’t agree more!

He warned there will be extreme pressure to push Occupy into the Democratic Party. The other danger is burn out. Another risk is the movement becoming inward looking.

He reported there are all kinds of calls going out making special mention of Chicago asking people to come there for actions in conjunction with the May 2012 G8/NATO summit there. He also said there is an Occupy convention planned. Naturally.

The fact that communities are functioning inspired him, that it isn’t just the left. Yes, the Occupiers are mostly young and mostly white (exceptions in some cities like Detroit and Philly) but it varies from city to city. Smaller cities are more focused on local issues. He made particular mention of Mobile, Alabama which only had a three day occupation but the people, none of whom knew each other before, are now a community. They were people who felt isolated in their difference before meeting each other.

Let me close with this statement of his: Democratizing wealth and power is a radical idea!

 

A Visit to Occupy Portland’s New Location

Occupy Portland has a home again, one with a roof and heat and a friendly landlord. They are at home in a large classroom at St Francis Church on SE 12th. Lots of assistance to get there including Kate Lore from the First Unitarian Church and Peace House (for the liability insurance) and, I hear, someone wonderful paying the rent.

I went down yesterday afternoon just as a meeting to discuss use of the space was winding up–a full circle with one or two grey heads and lots of positive energy. Only about half the library was there, more is in storage and will be brought over soon. While I was there Bill Boese showed up to bring the things he’d been storing for them. So many people supporting this effort. Everyone very busy moving in, cleaning things up, sorting, putting away, happy to have a home again.

As I was about to walk out the door I spotted a pile of bumper stickers on the chalk tray and asked if they were free. “We’d like a donation but you can take one [if you don’t have money].” Finally a way to show everyone your support of Occupy Portland!

Here’s a few shots I took–great signs and bulletin boards

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