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Monday, December 5, 2011

Occupy Portland's Shemanski Occupation Hanging On

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 1:45 PM

Will Occupy Portland hold onto Shemanski Park in the South Park Blocks for a third consecutive night—adding to the group's first extended reoccupation, among just a handful nationwide, since its eviction from Chapman and Lownsdale Squares last month?

It seems Occupy might get its wish—but only in the most technical sense possible. The parks bureau's security manager, Art Hendricks, told me this morning that rangers will not enforce Shemanski's curfew, echoing what police also told campers last night, but that rules against structures and camping—even in sleeping bags, called "low-impact"—will be vigorously enforced.

But, he also said, "if someone's taking a nap on top of a sleeping bag, or something like that, we won't enforce."

It's a tactic other cities have taken with Occupy. Cities bow on the question of allowing First Amendment assemblies but stick firmly to rules that keep occupiers from building another encampment or otherwise settling into a space. In Portland's case, it may even short-circuit the planned reoccupation before the end of the two weeks occupiers promised when formally announcing the action last week.

Because maybe you've noticed: It's been freaking FRIGID out there the past few days, a harbinger of what winter will bring. Occupiers already are grumbling that only a dozen or so, if that, stuck around to hold Shemanski overnight.

"If you want to have an occupation, you need to occupy," said Mary Nichols.

The city seems not be budging on that point, sending in officers out last night to make sure a pair of tents that had gone up Saturday night were taken down once and for all, and also to remind campers to be quiet. They came back again this morning and afternoon.

The first visit of the day came at 6:30 AM, as police helped park rangers warn eight people not to sleep at the park, putting them all on the road to a parks exclusion.

One man, Brian Burlingame, who reacted crankily when woken up, not knowing it was authorities at first, was arrested on charges charges of criminal trespass, failure to obey a park officer, and offensive physical contact and booked into jail. Police say he resisted arrest and wouldn't give his name, while occupiers who watched the interaction said Burlingame was pulled into custody by his hair.

Police came back with rangers a few hours later, around 9, Hendricks said, and spotted a tent and saw more people still sleeping despite whatever warnings they'd been given. A woman who wouldn't give her name was tackled, said witnesses (even Hendricks used the word "tackled"), and arrested.

Another occupier was detained and a third was excluded, Hendricks said. While Hendricks was talking, workers with the Regional Arts Conservation Council were tending to the park's statue and fountain, which had a sticker or two affixed to it, some marker drawings, and one Guy Fawkes stencil.

Occupiers admitted that a tent had gone up after all, but that it was a "protest tent" by Arlo Stone, who was in the process of trying to burn it, to make a statement.

Occupier Xavier K. showed me his warning citation, which listed "sleeping in a park" as the official violation. He said he was sleeping but didn't even have a sleeping bag.

"I had half a blanket. It wasn't a picnic at a campsite," he said about last night. "It was cold and awful."

Separately, in a conversation on the first night of the reoccupation, Hendricks confirmed that he also had asked Occupy organizers to obtain a permit for the movement's use of Director Park (at the time) for its nightly governance meetings. He said the meetings (which are open to any member of the public who wants to observe or participate) make the park feel closed, echoing the mayor's line about a "private dance party." (Which likely reflects some kind of city PR strategy.)

Hendricks also said security at the park had complained about cigarette smoking and the treatment on some of the park's tables and argued that Occupy could better control who attends, etc.

Occupiers, however, say the city—as it has shown it is very capable of doing in the past day or two—can still always exclude anyone really breaking the rules. They worry the city would cite continued complaints to revoke the permit altogether, and boot the movement somewhere less visible.

More on Occupy

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