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Today’s Occupy Portland Events

13 November 2011

Wow.

I’ve been trying to think of the perfect word for how I feel about what happened at Occupy Portland tonight. I think the best one might be “heartening.” UPDATE: lol no, police are actually violent Machiavellian assholes after all. Imagine that! http://www.livestream.com/occupyptown (original post continues below)

The Occupy encampment in the middle of downtown Portland right next to City Hall, a jail, a courthouse and other areas was set to be evicted this morning at 12:01am.

A large police presence developed throughout the day. When I arrived on scene at 10pm, there were a few hundred people and most of the police were relaxed and some were even talkative. The weather was crappy; gentle rain had turned into windy drizzle with occasional heavier showers, and it was cold. But as the midnight deadline approached, the crowd grew, and grew, and grew, rapidly multiplying from a few hundred to several thousand by my best guess. People from all walks of life. Hardcore supporters, supporters who’d never been to camp before, rubberneckers and bored teenagers looking for a show, union members, even a delegation of about 20 of Portland’s clergy who came down to “bear witness for a peaceful outcome.” Not so much with the drug addicts. These were normal people, come down to be a witness to something historic.

Long story short, because my eyes are crossing and I have GOT to pass out (it’s 8am, I’m still up) — police did eventually line up, a line of riot police facing crowds on either side of 3rd Avenue, mounted officers, and so forth. They issued a dispersal order and threatened chemical and “impact weapons” from a van with a crappy PA system, indicating they needed to clear 3rd and Main to reopen the streets to traffic. Their push failed (or was a tactic), and they eventually had to withdraw to 3rd and Madison, one block south.

Then there was another long standoff. While that was going on, some people in the camp built barricades at either end of the one block of Main Street between the two squares, fashioning them from pallets and furniture and road construction barricades.

And then: the PA van reappeared while riot police held the line at 3rd and Madison.

“Good morning,” said the van. The police then proceeded to politely ask protestors to move out of the streets so that traffic could pass, asking them to return to the sidewalks and to the square from which they had been evicted.

The protestors complied. Back off the streets they went. Then they chanted that it was the turn of the police: time for you to get out of the road, too! And then the police packed up and left. Shortly after, I walked down a block to Main, and the barricades were gone. They’d been dismantled by Occupiers.

I’m incredibly proud of the Occupiers for staying peaceful. They even ejected several violent people from the crowd and delivered them to police to be arrested as they should, exactly the kind of self-enforcement of group standards — nonviolence, in this case — that this article by Sara Robinson implies is a critical need. This is much, much better than the prior weeks in camp where disruptive people were not handled and became an overwhelming problem. And the cooperation with police and the city when it was not only the right thing to do but also the classy thing to do was great to see, too.

I’m also very, very appreciative of the razor’s edge that Mayor Sam Adams has been walking here as well. It hasn’t been easy. The authoritarian types and cheap-labor conservatives have wasted no time in roasting him thoroughly on Twitter and in the absolute cesspool that is the Oregonian’s online comments. But he’s stated that “peaceful” is priority one and then he’s kept his word and made it so. For that I’m very very appreciative.

Additionally, the Portland Police continued to show good restraint, did not make unnecessary arrests, did not antagonize the crowd, and other than the naturally angry reaction to their dispersal order (and the inability to hear it very far from the van at all) they were generally pretty well received.

Of course, tonight’s “eviction” didn’t end up with the campers out of the camp. They’re still there. But almost immediately after the park was temporarily ceded back to the Occupiers, a call went out to everyone on the emergency text message line for today’s events: now that we’re back in the park, let’s clean it up.

I love it.

The camp is still under the threat of eviction, and I believe that many people with a place to go and in the core of the movement will now pull up stakes, head home and plan the next phase of the revolution. There’ll also be a few die-hard Occupiers left that will not go under any circumstance and will have to be arrested. It’s inevitable, and I hope it all takes place peacefully.

But I really hope they all pitch in. There is a lot of debris and trash that needs to be removed. I’d love to see this end in a couple days — Sam Adams wasn’t specific on the informally extended timeframe — but end with a park with the debris and remaining tents largely gone and most of the people having moved to the next phase.

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