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Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Portland Campers Erect Tents on Gateway Green

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Twitter is calling it another Occupy Portland reoccupation, a la the PSU park blocks incursion the weekend before last. But my eyes—after a visit to a chilly Gateway Green vale where nine or so people had gathered around three tents and a modest campfire—tell me it's not quite there yet.

But the talk that Occupy Portland is making a second stab at establishing a new camp is certainly real. Update 6:25 PM: Occupy Portland tweeted a statement about the new campsite, calling it an "autonomous" occupation in simpatico with OPDX's governing model. That statement is after the cut.

Word got out early this afternoon that some former occupiers were heading east, toward Rocky Butte, to construct a new home for campers who had nowhere else to go when the city cleared out Chapman and Lownsdale squares this month.

When I headed out a couple of hours later, after taking the MAX out to Gateway and biking north on the I-205 path, I expected to see a bustling scene. Instead, I saw one campfire and just two tents, with one more about to go up. And only four people, listening to music piped thinly from a battery-powered laptop. But they were hardly self-conscious. Instead, they were excited.

A camper who called himself simply the Monk of Gateway insisted people would "come in ones and twos, but they'll be coming." Tad, who dubbed himself the organizer of the site, says he wants to instill a sense of order at the new camp: sign-in logs, names on tents, no violence, etc. Another, Metal, said "we've had a bunch of kids getting kicked from doorway to doorway. This is for them." (It seems fitting that occupiers would decide to reclaim and hold land that once held a creaky old county jail.)

People did seem to be streaming in, slowly but surely. An organizer from labor group We Are Oregon even briefly surveyed the scene and spoke with some organizers. But the site has some big problems: It's on ODOT land, not federal land, as some organizers insist. It has yet to receive General Assembly approval, which means Occupy's store of camp supplies and necessities (like generators) may not be available.

And, perhaps most importantly, the land is already spoken for. After years of wrangling, Gateway Green will soon become a city/state public bike park. Construction on bike paths could begin as soon as next year. The cops didn't show up while I was there, but I'm pretty sure they won't be far behind.

#OccupyGateway is an independent, autonomous occupation by people who have adopted the principles of our spokes council for democratically organizing themselves as a community of houseless people. Under this model, each community creates its own guidelines. It is best accessible by bicycle or on foot.

Directions: (site not accessible to cars, including news vans and police cars)
From Gateway transit center walk to the I-205 bike path, cross over I-84 on the bike path, then take dirt road to the right. Walk for another five minutes through grasses and trees. The site is between I-205 and I-84 and currently consists of three tents.

Occupy Portland applauds any autonomous community of houseless people who choose to create a nonviolent community for themselves, and while this is not a GA-approved activity, we hope the spokes council model will prove useful to them.

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