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Morning Roundup on Occupy Portland Eviction

12 November 2011

First, send a text containing “PDXOccupy” (no quote marks) to 23559 to receive instant updates by text during tonight’s police raid of Occupy Portland.

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Second, here’s my personal stance on the events set to transpire after curfew, since I’m sure you’re all so very interested. I don’t support “holding the camp” in the form it existed 2 or 3 days ago — it’s since been largely cleared with the help of high energy volunteers who’ve swept through camp, cleaning things up, removing hazardous items (broken wood and such), removing tarps, improving visibility amongst the tents to protect both police and people who may choose to stay. I wish a lot of this cleanup and reorganization could have been accomplished before Sam Adams presented his eviction notice, but so it goes. But I will be there — outside the camp, standing legally on the sidewalk — to document, document, document. My aim is to keep everyone accountable for their behavior: police, mostly, but if I see some asshole waving a club, provoking police or trying to hurt people, that person needs to be held accountable too. Nonviolence is a core tenet of Occupy Portland. This has been made clear over and over at General Assembly.

A couple things worry me, though. First, the narrative now being spread in the mainstream press that Occupy PDX is “stockpiling weapons.” This is, quite frankly, bullshit. Some items were removed yesterday, mostly wood scraps with and without nails in them, and chunks of broken cinder blocks too large for throwing. Imagine finding these items in a tent city where people have lived for weeks using pallets as flooring and cinder blocks as counterweights!

At least one intentional weapon was also removed according to an observer who was present at the time. Here’s the important part: Occupy PDX activists found it and had police remove it.

To be very, very clear: being in the camp does not mean you are part of the movement. In fact, Occupy Portland has chosen to support nonviolence at all times, and to disavow anyone who does otherwise. This does not mean that the entire camp is under control. Assholes are still present. But the plain facts on the ground are that people in the movement, upon finding that some guy had made a club, called police and had them take it away. This is not “stockpiling weapons.”

I worry that this narrative will be used to legitimize police violence.

The second thing that worries me is that many of the police who will be raiding the camp are not the same police that have been walking the beat at camp for the past few weeks and gotten to know people there. To put it simply, if you’re down there, watch your ass. Many of the club-wielding cops are not gonna be the ones that might recognize you and realize you’re a human being.

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Third, I’ve made a number of comments all around the web about Occupy Portland’s trouble staying “on message” and effectively dealing with the media. While I stand by those comments, the inimitable Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone wrote an article that stopped me in my tracks and made me think very carefully about what I’ve said. I strongly recommend you read it. Here’s an excerpt.

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests
Much more than a movement against big banks, they’re a rejection of what our society has become.

… Occupy Wall Street was always about something much bigger than a movement against big banks and modern finance. It’s about providing a forum for people to show how tired they are not just of Wall Street, but everything. This is a visceral, impassioned, deep-seated rejection of the entire direction of our society, a refusal to take even one more step forward into the shallow commercial abyss of phoniness, short-term calculation, withered idealism and intellectual bankruptcy that American mass society has become.

… We’re all born wanting the freedom to imagine a better and more beautiful future. But modern America has become a place so drearily confining and predictable that it chokes the life out of that built-in desire. Everything from our pop culture to our economy to our politics feels oppressive and unresponsive. We see 10 million commercials a day, and every day is the same life-killing chase for money, money and more money; the only thing that changes from minute to minute is that every tick of the clock brings with it another space-age vendor dreaming up some new way to try to sell you something or reach into your pocket. … We want something different: a different life, with different values, or at least a chance at different values.

By the way, if you have the time and inclination to learn about Goldman Sachs, one of the biggest architects of economic disaster and a prime example of Wall Street gone completely out of control, I cannot recommend highly enough Matt Taibbi’s April 2010 article on the subject: The Great American Bubble Machine. It’s absolutely mandatory reading for anyone wanting even a small window into what caused all of this.

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Finally, here is a nice photo essay from The Oregonian on the meeting at City Hall after the mayor issued his eviction notice Thursday. There’s not even that much nauseating spin in the captions!


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