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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Occupier Explains Pearl Demonstration: It's the "Epicenter of Wealth and Disparity in Portland"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Sat, Oct 29, 2011 at 9:45 AM

After posting an official response yesterday to city warnings that camping in Jamison Square will not be tolerated—"The demonstration at Jamison Square in the Pearl District will not be canceled"—an Occupy Portland volunteer today sent out an email reaffirming the group's commitment to exploring a Pearl District expansion.

The missive from Cameron Whitten is billed as Occupy press release, but Whitten isn't one of the group's usual volunteer press liaisons. Still, it does offer an appropriately provocative answer to the question: "Why the Pearl?"

We will be demonstrating in the Pearl District to bring awareness to the inequality of wealth within our very city and to be in solidarity with other occupations and people in Portland and nationally who have been the target of police brutality. In our current system, basic needs—including housing & safety—are only guaranteed to those with the economic privilege.

The Pearl District is an epicenter of wealth and disparity in Portland, with luxury condos just blocks away from the heart of Old Town. Beyond the massive inequality of wealth that these blocks represent, Occupy Portland is demanding that the city council revoke the anti-camping ordinance and all other city laws that unfairly target the houseless in our community. As Oakland, Atlanta and all other occupations are losing ground because of forcible removal by police, Occupy Portland is showing solidarity by expanding their occupation into new spaces.

First off, I might say there other, bigger epicenters of wealth in Portland. Same for disparity. But the Pearl is visible. And close to downtown. But the shift in messaging to explicitly include local issues like the camping ordinance is, let's say, interesting. On one hand, it's a way for Occupy to use its presence and power to push for changes in Portland—and by advocating for specific issues, the movement can also rack up tangible victories and keep sympathizers connected and enthusiastic.

But on the other hand, because there always are two, key public supporters like Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Randy Leonard have generally tied their backing to the group's focus on national economic issues that also, of course, happen to be affecting Portland. Whitten's release actually cites Adams' words of support—and it can also be argued that Portland's camping ordinance is just the local face of a national issue: the criminalization of homelessness.

Keep checking Blogtown for developments tonight. After the cut, read the whole email. And click here if you're interested in helping Occupy Portland and want to know how.

Saturday, October 29th, 2011, Portlanders will be marching against police brutality, the growing wealth inequity between the rich and the poor, and anti-camping ordinances in the city. The march will start at 12:30 pm at the Waterfront Park and proceed to protest Bank of America’s publicity stunt at the Convention Center. The march will end at a proposed occupation expansion space in the Pearl District.

One of the march's organizers, Cameron Whitten, says, “We will be demonstrating in the Pearl District to bring awareness to the inequality of wealth within our very city and to be in solidarity with other occupations and people in Portland and nationally who have been the target of police brutality. In our current system, basic needs—including housing & safety—are only guaranteed to those with the economic privilege.”

The Pearl District is an epicenter of wealth and disparity in Portland, with luxury condos just blocks away from the heart of Old Town. Beyond the massive inequality of wealth that these blocks represent, Occupy Portland is demanding that the city council revoke the anti-camping ordinance and all other city laws that unfairly target the houseless in our community. As Oakland, Atlanta and all other occupations are losing ground because of forcible removal by police, Occupy Portland is showing solidarity by expanding their occupation into new spaces.

We call on the mayor to continue to support the Occupation for the reasons that he has laid out in this own words on several occasions. Sam Adams said, “I support Portlanders in their right to protest and exercise free speech rights, and I encourage all who participate to do so peacefully and with respect to the rights of others. Most of the people that are going to participate in Occupy Portland—as with most of the participants in cities across the country—are there to voice their legitimate concerns about national issues,” (Oct 6, 2011).

Occupy Portland has made a commitment to demand that the city revoke all laws that discriminate or target the houseless community. This expansion is an effort to act on that commitment. An open letter from the General Assembly of Occupy Portland affirms its solidarity with the houseless people in our city: “We ask that City ordinances currently used to criminalize homeless people be suspended until new solutions are found.”

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