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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Politics Sit-Lie Protesters Return to Council Chambers

Posted by Amy J. Ruiz on Wed, Jun 4 at 9:46 AM

“I’m less likely to get sick outside, I’m less likely to get scabies outside,” says Wesley Flowers, one of five people testifying about the sit-lie ordinance at this morning’s city council meeting. He described the conditions at the Salvation Army’s Harbor Lights 90-bed shelter, which the city opened in response to last month’s protest outside of city hall: He slept there last night, on a two-foot wide mat on the floor, that he described as crammed up against other mats. He said blankets are reused until they’re “so dingy” they have to be tossed out.

“Please don’t clap,” Mayor Tom Potter has said after the last two speakers, when the audience gave a small burst of supportive applause. He asked people to wave their support, instead. Katie Nilson, one of the protesters, called out from the crowd, asking Potter to then look at the audience so they know he’s seeing the support. “You’re out of order,” he told her.

“There’s nothing unreasonable about a person in a sleeping bag pulling a tarp over himself. That’s what this is about—the right to sleep,” says Pete Munyon. “This is about how we can live together as neighbors.”

“We are not all diseased. We are not all drug addicts and begging degenerates,” says Robert Barrett. “Our entire life is attached to our bags. To relieve us of this, to take off our bags and sit… is a luxury that is not afforded to us. We are a problem only because we are made to be a problem.”

“We will not sleep until our rights as citizens of the great United States of America are recognized,” Barrett added. “We will rise up.”

More clapping, more Potter asking people to stop.

Mike Dee, who was one of the people who testified on every item two weeks ago, has asked to pull every item from the consent agenda. Potter—taking a page from the actual rules this time—ruled the request “dilatory” and an effort to hamper the proceedings. Barring an objection from the other council members (of which there was none), he ignored Dee’s request. Dee, of course, objected, and Potter told him he was out of order and told him to sit down. In front of me, another protester spoke up: “You’re out of order!” he shouted at Potter.

The council passed the budget without much fanfare, but the testimony shenanigans have continued. Potter has officially cut off Dee for the rest of the day, after he attempted to testify on multiple items.

Now that the council is talking about allowing a few hundred temporary restrooms along the Rose Festival parade route, Dee and Nilson and a third protester are back.

"I feel like we're being targeted as criminals," says Katie Nilson, as she took her seat while Potter directed them to stick to the restroom topic. "I'll speak following Mike," she added, gesturing to Dee—who isn't allowed to testify, per Potter's orders, but has sat by Nilson anyway.

"You either speak or you don't speak," Potter tells her.

"Why are you being so rude?" Nilson asks. She launches into her testimony. "You guys promised bathrooms and day centers and let's see, what else, benches that you haven't come through with. I wonder why we're so interested in offering bathrooms to..."

If there were a natural disaster, "we would find a way to house people who had previously been housed. What's the immediate answer, I guess is my question," Nilson says.

Potter interrupts, asking Nilson to stick to the topic of restrooms at the Rose Festival parade. "You're more interested in serving the issues of people who are already comfortable, sleeping eight hours a night in their own houses and have access to restrooms," she says. "I just think it's very reflective of the classism that's involved in all of this."

"We have in the budget 3/4 of a million dollars in the budget to build restrooms in Old Town," Leonard says. "It will be installed by the middle of August in Old Town... to be followed shortly thereafter by more public restrooms."

"I do expect people, if they're going to go so far as to disrupt our proceedings, to at least know what you're talking about," Leonard adds.


The whole system is out of order.

'Gimme gimme ... we deserve ... we demand ... we will contributue nothing to society but whining while we take and take'

'Gimme gimme ... we deserve ... we demand ... we will contributue nothing to society but whining while we take and take'

Yeah, fuckin' Hipsters. I mean, even the homeless are holding down jobs--what's their excuse?

The sit-lie law was implemented as part of the SAFE resolution, which was comprised of "5 Strategies for a More Livable Portland". The language of the SAFE Resolution is explicit that the five strategies, including a resource access center and public restrooms, are to be implemented together.

If the enforcement of the sit-lie law has long been in full effect, but the resource access center is two years from completion and the Old Town restrooms are to be completed in August, the strategies have not been implemented together.

It sounds like the speakers at today's meeting knew what they were talking about.

i better not see any of those suburban yupsters sitting in the outlawed sidewalks with camping chairs!

Yeah, fuckin' Hipsters. I mean, even the homeless are holding down jobs--what's their excuse?


I think it is ironic that Potter who is the visionary of the Human Rights Commission show so little to the compassion to the city hall protesters. It is hysterical.

Not a Good Queer on Google

thanks michael of sisters of the road for your comment and backup, and in case we need to set the record straight, I WASN'T THERE TO INTERRUPT. i did feel a bit disrespected being that my associates have been targeted which has therefore led to my loss of credibility before i even open my mouth, however, it seems no matter what a person says on this issue, unless they're white, middleclass, showered, shaven, suited up, and don't look like they've come from a protest outside, then maybe they're voice might be taken a bit more seriously

anyway, i am struck by the contrast of my experiences yesterday with the mayor, and last night with multnomah county chair ted wheeler where i visited a NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness) event at the county building. as a proud and frustrated cascadia employee i had a few things to say with relationship to the budget and ideas for creating a system that works primarily in prevention and that sets people free by giving them a voice and the necessary resources to thrive in the communities in which they live. rather it seems we do well keeping people addicted to a broken centralized system that does more to maintain dysfunction and perpetuate jobs, fear, and "professionalism" than to extend, encourage, and model the health and wellbeing that must be in place for real community to develop and healing to occur

anyway, i won't go on and on, but ted and i chatted after the event, and i got the feeling that he actually took what i said SERIOUSLY, imagine that. too bad that the mayor and commissioners are so convinced that we are there to disrupt, when it is actually our responsibility and duty to speak and challenge their actions when the community they say they are serving is bleeding profusely, begging for mercy, and not able to get the care needed to fix the problem

the ten year plan is bound to fail with the current economic crisis, and with the rising numbers of people moving on to the streets daily things are not getting better. city hall folks seem to use their "involvement" in the "10 year plan" as a reason to dismiss any further conversation on the topic. as far as i am concerned, we are working for the mayor, commissioners, and every housed person out there who could easily loose everything and end up illegal on the streets. who will be there to fight for their rights then? that's my question

when we ignore the issues long enough we become the abuser by default, and if our so-called leaders have given up on a part of our community what's to say that your community won't be next? i can say they must look at themselves every day and deal with whatever hypocrisy they spew, however i won't waste my time pointing the finger elsewhere, i'll be working to change myself from the place i am with the people around me. that's all i can do. i can also meet with these men in their offices, and hope they don't reject my invitation to have real dialog. i encourage you to do the same

If we were half a world away and had all fallen victim to earthquake or cyclone, the world would embrace the plight of the millions of us left homeless, forced to sit and lie. Until this country moves from "me" to "we" and there is compassion for all (except politicians) we might as well all just stand drooling for the next "Sex In The City" sequel...the story about "real" life and "real" issues.

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