FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Portland Stands Up

Faced with a 12:01 a.m. Sunday morning eviction from the three city parks occupied for more than a month, Occupy Portland and its city supporters turned out in mass Saturday night and well into Sunday morning.  At their height around the midnight deadline, crowds swelled to over 6,000 strong.  This massive turnout came despite a police led fear campaign, in which reports were circulated via the local media claiming police “intelligence” indicating an influx of 150 out of town “anarchists” coming into the city for a violent confrontation.

When I first arrived at the occupied parks at 9:30 Saturday night, the encampments were noticeably thinned from just days earlier.  Given that Mayor Sam Adams (who claims “support” for the Occupy movement) ordered the eviction in part to “clean” the parks so as to be able to reopen them to the “public,” campers had worked through the day to clean the parks themselves.  This left substantially fewer tents erected within the parks.  And as I traversed further through the camp, and a driving and chilling rain, I found only a few hundred occupiers gathered for an open mic.  This all left the initial impression that the camp would likely fall soon after the eviction deadline lapsed.

But as the evening progressed, the crowds slowly began to mount.  In fact, as it progressed past 11:00 p.m., the parks filled to capacity.  At that point it was clear that the discussions and demonstrations ongoing on how best to resist arrest would not be immediately needed.  Buoyed by arriving peace activists, encircling bicyclists, and others expressing solidarity with Occupy Portland, the crowds spilled out of the parks and onto the adjacent blocks.  And as the 12:01 a.m. expulsion deadline neared, crowds eagerly chanted the final countdown, creating an atmosphere more akin to New Year’s Eve.

By 2:00 a.m., with the crowds still in the thousands, riot police began to move on the occupiers.  Mounted patrolmen accompanied by the threat of teargas were employed in an effort to push the crowds out of the streets and back into the parks.  But after a thirty-minute standoff and isolated skirmishes, the police pulled back and the crowds filled into the streets surrounding the parks.  In the wake of the retreating armored police, drum circles formed, as protesters jubilantly danced to chants of “Whose streets?  Our streets.”

By 5:00 am—the normal opening time of the city’s parks—thousands still remained on the streets, creating barricades and holding protective lines against the police.  And within a little less than an hour, the police had retreated fully from the streets, leaving the protesters to dismantle their barricades and triumphantly return to the occupied parks to chants of: “What does victory look like?  This is what victory looks like.”  Walking through the parks, I could see new tents being erected and energized campers working on a further cleaning of the park.

By midday, however, the police had returned to the parks in force.  Interrupting a general assembly meeting, riot police slowly forced all occupiers out of the parks with shoves and the interspersed baton strike.  Soon the encampments in all three parks were cleared of campers.  The raid left more than 50 protesters arrested.  (But as is always the case, police were uncertain of exactly how many people they had managed to detain during the day).  At least one protester was taken to the hospital after sustaining blows to the chest from a police truncheon.

As word spread of the midday police action, hundreds of protesters returned to the park blocks.  Growing to a thousand or more, the protesters settled into an occupation of a street block just west of the cleared parks for the next several hours.  A general assembly meeting was then held in the blocked street, as the riot police in formation mere feet away repeatedly broadcast calls threatening teargas and arrest.  Debated followed over whether to seek to hold onto the street, or regroup at another location.  As dusk fell, the protesters agreed to leave the street and march to an adjacent city square, with many expressing interest in ultimately moving to the campus of Portland State University.

Although necessitated by the afternoon police action, the discussion over the next phase of the struggle and movement had begun prior to Sunday.  Multiple occupiers had already begun to express an interest in staging future occupations of vacant buildings, as has been seen in other Occupy movements across the country.  In addition, discussion and planning was also underway on the national day of action this coming Thursday, in which attempts will be made to occupy commercial banks.

Thus, although ultimately cleared out of their encampments, Occupy Portland demonstrated its continuing relevance as a vibrant and powerful movement.  For if nothing else, the battle Saturday night and early Sunday morning confirmed that the movement has strong support within the city and is more than capable of mobilizing sizable masses to stymie police action.  Beyond question then, Occupy Portland will continue to be a force in the national Occupy movement.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com.

More articles by:

Ben Schreiner is the author of A People’s Dictionary to the ‘Exceptional Nation’.  He may be reached at bnschreiner@gmail.com or via his blog.

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail