In the last hours before Occupy Portland faces eviction from two downtown city parks at midnight tonight, a throng of about 200 people gathered to march from Pioneer Square to the camp, with their picket signs wrapped in Saran Wrap to protect them from the rain. Part of the march stopped in front of the Hilton hotel to chant, "Stop shopping, start thinking!" while a cheer of, "The people! United! Will never be divided!" continued nonstop, punctuated by an occasional, "Long live the Portland Occupation!" and a hearty "Fuck the police!"
In a dramatic note, a guy with an electric guitar is playing, "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
"Many of the marchers I spoke to, older folks, parents, said they wanted to stay past midnight," reports News Editor Denis Theriault from the scene. "Arrests are another matter."
A guy who sounds STARTLINGLY LIKE the Mountain Goats welcomed the marchers to camp with an acoustic set of Occupy songs. Sample lyrics: "Because these moments don't come often, because we want to be free, because we know what matters. Something called society. [CHORUS]: We're not going anywhere."
What everyone is wondering is whether the eviction will be violent. "Chief of Police Mike Reese asks two campers if they are packing up," tweeted cartoon journalist Matt Bors from the scene. The pair replied: "No. Don't be violent toward us." Earlier today, a collection of over 40 local unions, churches, community groups, and nonprofits signed on to an open letter (pdf) calling on the city to rethink the eviction. Instead, the groups say the city should work with Occupy to address the safety and sanitation problems at the camp.
There are 20 clergy members on hand to try and keep the peace on both sides. In a press release today, the clergy spelled out what happened during last night's drug overdose:
Reverend Chuck Currie was present at the encampment yesterday when a young man who appeared to be staying at the encampment but not part of the movement suffered from a drug overdose. Currie explains, “I was right beside this young man, and I saw that police were having a hard time getting to him because others, who also were not protesters, campers who were not part of the Occupy Movement, were harassing the police as they tried to save this man’s life.”
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