The end really does seem nigh for Occupy Portland.
Randy Leonard—still an ardent backer of the Occupy Wall Street message—is finally joining the list of city commissioners and public officials saying it's time to get serious about ending Occupy Portland's occupation of Chapman and Lownsdale squares and to start talking about finding a different space for the movement's more politically active members to organize.
The reason? After taking daily walks through the campsites to sort out fact from exaggeration when it comes to the media-hyped dangers of Occupy, he's decided the camps really aren't as safe as they once were. And, after last week's chaotic march, and the Jamison Square arrests, and last night's Molotov cocktail news, he's convinced some campers are looking more to confront cops than talk about how the "power elites," as he put it, are influencing Congress to abuse the 99 percent.
"We need to come to a date," he said in an interview in his office, saying he wants a decision on that date to happen "within days." "This can end as peacefully as possible."
But while Leonard—an early defender of the local camps when colleagues like Nick Fish were souring on the movement—said he wanted that resolution to happen imminently, he still stopped short of affixing a firm deadline. He said Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese need more time to work with sympathetic occupiers and convince them to "take this to another level, another location." Once again, Leonard is echoing pretty much what Adams has already said—but with his own, inimitable bluntness.
"If you want to take this to another level and be a lobbying entity, we're happy to work with you to see if we can find another place to organize," he said, mentioning offers of help from labor unions, which already are offering soft support to Occupy, mostly by providing portable toilets. "That would not include setting up another camp."
Update 1:15 PM: Hey, look, now there's a jump! Catch the mayor's comments on OPB the Molotov cocktail, and Occupy's response, and dig Leonard's shot at the O's editorial board.
Meanwhile, Adams addressed the Molotov incident on OPB this morning, saying someone was seen running to Occupy Portland from the World Trade Center.
According the Oregonian's transcription of the interview:
“They themselves have admitted that problem,” Adams said in the radio interview. “Changes need to be made. ... Actions need to be taken by those in the encampment to improve the situation and make it safer.”
When pressed for specifics, Adams was more blunt: “They have to deal with it. If they don’t then we have to deal with it.”
Reid Parham, an Occupy media volunteer, tweeted this afternoon that some occupiers, described as "reliable witnesses, saw someone running west, toward the waterfront.
reportedly been meeting had been on the phone with Reese this morning to talk about the Molotov cocktail incident and was meeting with him Wednesday afternoon. Leonard says fire inspectors have been helping with the police bureau's investigation of reports someone was building a device since last week—keeping an eye out for suspicious stockpiles of fuel and flammables.
"I don't think it's necessarily conspiratorial to think that some of those diverse viewpoints [at Occupy Portland] could include those what to commit more violent acts," Leonard says.
He said efforts by the chief (a likely mayoral candidate, by the way) and Adams to keep working with protesters in search of a peaceful end that doesn't appear to be in reach, no matter how much the city and some occupiers might try, is "critical, nuanced work that's clearly lost on the Oregonian editorial board."
Leonard also said "it's clear there's been a rising level of tension" and said it's because the activist occupiers have come face to face with the realities of trying to provide services for the chronically homeless, the mentally ill, and the addicted. The camp, he said, let those issues consume too much of its original message.
"It's one thing to read about homelessness," he said, acknowledging occupiers had the "best of intentions." "But it's another thing to smell it, to hear it, to feel it."
It's not just a matter of government not doing its job by cutting funding for social services programs, he said. It's also about coming up with strategies for getting people into treatment and then staying there. He alluded, very generally, saying it's something he's struggled with "personally." Leonard's daughter battled longtime addiction issues, often with help, but ended her life earlier this year.
"You can have all the treatment possible, have all the beds available," he said, "and they won't go to them."
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