This Week in the Mercury


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Portland Demands an Apology, Plans March Today—and May Shut Down Steel Bridge on Thursday

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Tue, Nov 15, 2011 at 11:14 AM


Stung that Portland police officials and Mayor Sam Adams kept to themselves the final timeline for evicting Occupy Portland from three downtown parks this weekend, some of the movement's facilitators and city liaisons gathered this morning to demand an apology for what they said was a lack of communication and the muscular riot-squad tactics used by police.

And until an apology comes, they said—and until the city releases raw police footage of Sunday's raid on the camp's last General Assembly meeting at Chapman Square (in which one protester was hospitalized) and "holds accountable" officers—Occupy liaisons say they will no longer work with city officials.

"You chose to enlist the full apparatus of police repression to dismantle our encampment," facilitator Adriane Ackerman said, according to footage of the press conference and a copy of the group's open letter, below.

Ackerman said the mayor's offers to pursue a statement opposing corporate personhood amounted to "piecemeal crumbs" and a "conveniently timed attempt" to woo progressive voters. Liaisons were meeting with Adams' staff up until the night before he announced his three-day eviction notice, and informally discussed some logistical issues during the confrontation Saturday night—something city officials trumpeted during a news conference of their own yesterday.

But liaisons say they wanted more time and notice before heavily armed riot control officers moved in Sunday for the kill, pushing out a crowd of families and retirees and holdout occupiers who began heading into a closed Chapman Square for one last general assembly meeting. Adams' office is working on a response.

"Our trust in city hall was apparently misplaced," Ackerman said, adding later, "you claim to support us and yet to you tell your police force to destroy us. Peaceful citizens have been injured in the process. This is not democratic. This is autocratic."

Update 12:55PM: Mayor Sam Adams' office sent me the mayor's response: “In the coming weeks, I look forward to debriefing with Occupy Portland our collective experiences of the previous five weeks and learning more about the focus of their efforts moving forward.”//

The news conference came hours after the movement's heart, Occupy Wall Street, was razed by New York cops in a sudden, predawn raid. In solidarity, occupiers today are planning a rally and march at Pioneer Courthouse Square. And that's before a big event planned Thursday in conjunction with labor unions: Occupy the Banks.

A rally with unions may wind up blocking the Steel Bridge during the morning commute, at 8 AM, with a rally at Waterfront Park near Ankeny at 10 AM, and then marches to unspecified locations to "visit civil disobedience actions in progress." November 17 marks two months since Occupy Wall Street started.

The open letter is after the cut.

15 November 2011

An Open Letter to Mayor Sam Adams:

We, as members of the Occupy Portland Liaison Team, are officially resigning from our roles as city and police liaisons for the Occupy Portland movement. This is in direct response to the deplorable police actions of this past weekend and your refusal to communicate clearly with us during that time.

We were specifically asked by City Hall to create this Liaison Team, for the purpose of facilitating clear communication between city government, police and the Occupy Portland movement. We worked hard to assemble a capable team of activists to act as a conduit of information as agreed upon by our General Assembly.

Initial meetings were amiable and seemingly productive, as your staff was able to express concerns, some of which we shared, about conditions within the encampment. We facilitated communication and followed up by working closely with city employees and our own volunteers to address issues relevant to camp safety.

Despite our efforts, over the weekend, you decided to cave to pressure from your friends at the Portland Business Alliance, the Police Association and other groups interested in maintaining the status quo of economic injustice and issued us an eviction notice. Instead of allowing us to address conditions within our encampment in a transparent and democratic way you chose to enlist the full apparatus of police repression to destroy our encampment.

There were no efforts made by the Portland Police Bureau to communicate to Occupy Portland Police Liaisons or members of our Liaison Team during the events that transpired over the course of Saturday November 12th through Sunday November 13th. We find this highly disturbing since we were asked by your office to be the conduit of information to and from Occupy Portland.

It seems that when City Hall wants something from us you make every effort to reach out, but when you plan to do something to us, communication is halted and you let the police do the talking with their batons. Our trust in City Hall was apparently misplaced.

Thousands of Portland residents of all ages came out over the weekend to support us and help defend our constitutional right to peaceful assembly. They were greeted by hundreds of militarized riot police armed with tasers, stun batons, beanbag weapons, tear gas, pepper spray and live ammunition. This was shocking to many of us who did not expect you to respond to unarmed, peaceful and joyful protest with potentially deadly force. The next day we observed police officers clubbing our fellow citizens and friends with batons, throwing people to the ground and making many unnecessary arrests in the process of destroying our encampment.

An example of this blatant police brutality is the violent attack on Justin James Bridges, the sign language interpreter for Occupy Portland. After repeatedly communicating to Portland Police officers that he had a broken back, police officers responded by beating him and putting a knee into his back. He was hospitalized and lost feeling and control of movement in one arm and one leg due to the unreasonable and excessive physical aggression inflicted by these police officers. Justin was released from the hospital yesterday after spending the night in the hospital. Justin is now in a wheelchair.

You told us on the first day of our protest that you were sympathetic to the goals of our movement and wanted to help find a solution that works for everybody. The behavior over the weekend of police officers under your command has clearly indicated otherwise. Yours is the latest in a string of aggressive, dangerous crackdowns by city and state governments across the nation attempting to silence the Occupy movement.

You claim to support us and yet you tell your police force to destroy us. Peaceful citizens are being injured in the process.

This is not democratic; it is autocratic. Portland expects more from its City Government.

Signing on to ending corporate personhood and changing campaign finance laws amounts to a conveniently timed attempt to restore your declining reputation among members of the progressive left. While we agree with these goals, offering piecemeal crumbs of liberal reform is not acceptable as an olive branch to our movement.

We have said from day one that our fight is not with you, but rather with banks, irresponsible corporations and a corrupt federal government. By camping outside of City Hall we gave you a choice to decide to stand with us and with working class Americans. Instead you made the choice to protect unjust social and economic policies that are leading our nation into a state of financial ruin and institutionalized oppression. The actions of the Portland Police have made it clear where you stand and no amount of political grandstanding will justify your creation of a police state in downtown Portland.

We at Occupy Portland will continue to make our message heard and to stand firmly in opposition to policies and decisions that perpetuate oppression and injustice.

We are open to working with City Hall on many issues but our trust in you and in the Portland Police Bureau has been severely broken. This trust can be somewhat repaired if you choose to apologize for the actions of those under your command this weekend and hold all officers fully accountable for their use of excessive physical violence against unarmed peaceful protesters. Please address your apology to those injured, to Occupy Portland, the Liaison Team and to the Occupy Movement.

In response to your "offer" of support yesterday, we ask that you make public all raw unedited police footage related to Occupy Portland. We await your apology and delivery of this footage with an open mind because we believe there is potential for collaboration with city government in the future.

Despite acting in the interests of corporate elites, you, Sam Adams, are also part of the 99 percent. There will always be a place for you in our movement, should you honestly choose to join us.


Sincerely,

Adriane Ackerman - City Liaison
Alaina Melville - Police Liaison POC
Jim Oliver - City Liaison POC
Kip Silverman - Media Liaison
Micaiah Dutt - Police Liaison
Trip Jennings - Police Liaison

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