This Week in the Mercury


Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Portland: We "Did Not Decide to Go to Jamison to Force a Confrontation"; Also, Michael Moore Confirms Camp Visit Today

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Oct 31, 2011 at 9:14 AM



I didn't see it until pretty late last night, but Occupy Portland's increasingly sophisticated media crew put out another release yesterday on the Jamison Square sit-in that's worth sharing.

It captures the mood of the event—exuberance—and much of the color. But it also includes some troubling accusations about the way a few of the 25 arrestees were treated during and after a police raid that many occupiers saw as unnecessarily overwhelming but that officials like Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese have defended as trying but peaceful. (Hit the jump for the whole statement.)

While the interaction was overall very professional and lacked the air of police brutality we have seen in places like Oakland, some arrestees did report rough behavior.

“I was kept in a squad car for four hours,” Cameron Whitten told supporters. “When I was remaining silent they weren’t very friendly. They knew who I was, I heard them talking about me. I got slapped a few times, and had a car door shut against my head twice.

“As soon as I complied and told them my name though, they were suddenly very nice.”

Interestingly, when Whitten was quoted by the Oregonian yesterday, there was no mention of alleged mistreatment. They have Whitten, 20, applauding the Portland Police Bureau for not reacting with more draconian measures like departments in Oakland and other cities.

Update 10:55 AM:
I just spoke with Whitten, who said he might not have mentioned getting slapped to the O, but that he definitely told the paper he was "mistreated" and was left to linger in a police vehicle until giving his name. But he also told me he wasn't upset that the paper didn't report everything he says he told them and that, as he put it, he knows they "don't want to cover the bad press about the people who are supporting this system."

"I'm not angry. They tackled a lot of different things in the article, and it's not all about me," he said, adding that he also doesn''t "want to paint a bad image of the cops overall."/end update

Last night's Occupy update came just hours before confirmation of some other big news for the occupation: Filmmaker Michael Moore has confirmed he'll be at Chapman and Lownsdale squares at 3:30 PM, on his way to Powell's for a book signing. (He'll be at the camp after the anti-coal zombie march planned for today.)

Update 10:20 AM—Will Moore also visit Terry Schrunk Plaza? That's where the GAs have been held, and now, as of last night, the O is reporting, it's also home to the tents of a few occupiers who don't much like the noise down at the main camps all night.

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The Twitterverse meanwhile, was aghast that the Portland Police Bureau had added the arrestees' bookig photos to its Facebook page (something the bureau has done for other higher-profile arrests, including some unrelated to Occupy.) Another claim of rough treatment showed up in another report that included an interview with an arrestee:

“One lady was thrown into the van; when we were waiting to be taken from the vans (which was at least 2 hours) she was in severe pain. It took an hour of us demanding medical attention for her to be taken out of the van (they stated they thought she was faking it) and was led away. The howls of pain wer the most horrific animal sound I have ever heard.

“I asked another occupier in my holding cell; they said when she saw her, she had an icepack but the wrist was still severely discolored and bent in weird angles. Also, still in severe pain. This was approximately an hour after she was taken from the van.”

I've got a message into the bureau to ask about the force claims, as well as the Facebook policy, and I'll update later this morning when I hear back.

Here's Occupy Portland's latest statement in full:

PORTLAND, ORE. — Early Sunday morning, after warnings from the Mayor’s Office and the Portland Police Bureau, 25 protesters associated with Occupy Portland were arrested for breaking a park curfew at Jamison Square during the course of a peaceful protest. Hundreds of supporters watched as their friends and fellow protesters were arrested, one by one, by the Portland Police.

Occupy Portland decided on Monday, October 24th, to go to Jamison Square to stand in solidarity with other protesters around the world who have also been voicing their concerns, and continue protesting the growing inequity in our society. Occupy Portland wanted to reach out to communities to cultivate discussion and involvement with the people of our city, and chose the Pearl for its mixture of economic situations and close proximity.

Later during the week, the Mayor’s Office released a statement that any protesters in Jamison Square after midnight, when the park closes according to city ordinance, would be arrested in accordance with established practices. Occupy Portland did not decide to go to Jamison to force a confrontation with the police, but we believe that our right to assemble and our right to free speech was a higher law than any ordinances the city could pass. In at least one case, public workers agreed.

One protester reported that during their arrest, they were told to plead “not guilty” and the charge would be dismissed. The reason? If the case were to go to the Oregon Supreme Court, it was likely that the city ordinance would be overturned on Constitutional grounds.

“I’ve been protesting because we shouldn’t be afraid of our government,” Nadia Greene said. “We shouldn’t be afraid of the police who exist to protect us.”

Drawing attention to the hypocrisy of how we enforce our laws was one of the messages many of the arrestees shared. Others were interested in the human aspect.

“I think we really accomplished community awareness which caused the discussion to happen,” Brad Beach said.

But the protesters and officers weren’t all business. “When they started chanting ‘You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off the riot suit’, the protesters and officers were chuckling.”

“I want to do this every night,” Jacob Clary said. “I want to encourage the public discussion which was a result of this sit-in. I don’t want to keep this kind of action just to the Pearl, I want to be in every sector of the city.”

While the interaction was overall very professional and lacked the air of police brutality we have seen in places like Oakland, some arrestees did report rough behavior.

“I was kept in a squad car for four hours,” Cameron Whitten told supporters. “When I was remaining silent they weren’t very friendly. They knew who I was, I heard them talking about me. I got slapped a few times, and had a car door shut against my head twice.

“As soon as I complied and told them my name though, they were suddenly very nice.”

Supporters watching from the sidewalks also reported a mostly friendly interaction.

“Some of the officers were a little enthusiastic, but overall it was peaceful and professional,” Jordan LeDoux commented after. “I’m just disappointed in their priorities. While they were standing there I pointed out a drunk driver going the wrong way down a one-way street right near the park. ‘That’s dangerous,’ I said. I pointed back to the protesters being arrested. ‘That’s not.’”

Protesters used the arrests as an opportunity to start conversations with people locally. Some were quite productive, while others didn’t seem to get it.

“Things aren’t going to change in your lifetime,” one Park’s Department employee who declined to give his name told protesters. “So this is just a waste of time. We had slavery for over 400 years. Do you think this will really change anything?”

But in the end, protesters felt that an important point had been made.

“It’s not about this park, it’s about making a stand,” Imre Ilyes responded. “It’s time for us as people to take back control of our government. The old channels haven’t been effective, so this is where it starts, with people sitting down and being arrested for the right to come together and find solutions.”

“I believe that the First Amendment is first for a reason,” Jordan said. “And it doesn’t end because a city ordinance says it does. There was nothing unlawful about this protest, there is something unlawful about our system.”

NOTE: After the protesters sitting were arrested, remaining supporters flooded the square and continued to protest until the park re-opened at 5AM with no further arrests.

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