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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Portland: We Are Not a Threat to Public Safety

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 3:25 PM

Occupy Portland called a General Assembly this afternoon to discuss how to respond to the mayor and police chiefs' plan to close the camp sites by Sunday morning.

Afterward, the PR team sent out a press release on the upcoming couple days. The whole thing is below the cut, but it doesn't specify whether the general plan of the protesters are to stay put and risk arrest or to, for the most part, clear out without conflict. Instead, it states that the protest is nonviolent and not a threat to public safety, despite the recently announced spike of reported crimes in the area. Here is the paragraph that stood out the most to me, click through to read the rest:

The city’s evidence of increased crime around the Occupy site has only verified what is already clear—interpersonal conflicts, substance abuse, and disorderly conduct arrests have increased. What the City of Portland has failed to prove, however, is that the protesters of Occupy Portland are direct threats to public safety and economic activity. The Occupy Portland General Assembly and an academic survey administered by a local sociology professor have demonstrated the occupiers overwhelmingly disapprove of their peaceful and non-violent First Amendment expressions being used as a cover for unlawful actions.

At noon, Thursday November 10, members of the Occupy Portland community gathered to discuss recent events and to plan the most effective actions to take next. Occupy Portland has not completed these plans. Our strategy at this moment is what Occupy strategy has always been: to consult each other, to hear each other, and to work together nonviolently to move forward into this world we aim to improve. The Occupy Movement has made visible what has long been hidden from public view. The Movement will continue to do that.

The city’s evidence of increased crime around the Occupy site has only verified what is already clear—interpersonal conflicts, substance abuse, and disorderly conduct arrests have increased. What the City of Portland has failed to prove, however, is that the protesters of Occupy Portland are direct threats to public safety and economic activity. The Occupy Portland General Assembly and an academic survey administered by a local sociology professor have demonstrated the occupiers overwhelmingly disapprove of their peaceful and non-violent First Amendment expressions being used as a cover for unlawful actions.

The city has been acutely aware of the occupiers’ deliberate and sophisticated efforts to address problems surrounding Occupy Portland. Local media institutions have been repeatedly informed of this, as well, but many published reports have omitted such information. The physical occupation of public lands has been a cornerstone of Occupy Portland’s free assembly and has served logistical necessity. The occupation will continue to exist and operate in a variety of formats. Planning for advancements of Occupy Portland have long been underway, but specific announcements will only come when appropriate.

Some of us are glad to share some common ground with the Mayor. Sam Adams said, “It is my sincere hope that the movement, with its focus on widespread economic inequity, will flourish in its next phase—a phase where we can focus all of our energies on economic and social justice, not on port-a-potties and tents.” Ours is a social and political movement involving consensus and respect for disparate voices. We need to consult with each other before we can talk about “phases” or evolving.

Detractors of the Occupy movement have used historical precedence of time, place, and manner restrictions on First Amendment expressions as justification to inhibit the efforts of the 99 percent. Occupy Portland argues that a peaceful assembly on public land is the most appropriate place and manner for First Amendment expressions. We challenge the city to facilitate public dialogues for the purpose of ensuring public space remains available for public forums. For now, we are listening to each other in every feasible way. When a consensus is reached, another statement will be forthcoming.

Occupy Portland calls on all of our friends to assist as possible. Remember that your own personal safety comes first. Tens of thousands have given from their hearts, minds, and pockets, and done so without condition. Please continue to stand in solidarity as a beautiful, talented, and diverse 99 percent that demand equity and justice. We welcome your presence, words, trades, professions, and actions. Do not back down from the power structures that aim to divide and silence us. Many have worked hard in public service, and we shall continue to better the world—for all.

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