It may be the last official 24-hour occupation for some time. At the movement's general assembly meeting earlier that night, occupiers approved a proposal to embrace only daytime, legal park occupations as a means of maintaining a central location. Not that occupiers are embracing Mayor Sam Adams' call to "evolve": Attorneys working with the group are still building a case for restraining order that they hope would actually allow some kind of all-night camping again.
Last night's clearout had just a bit drama: The first batch of cops who showed up relented when a great-grandmother with a walker refused to leave. But it was temporary. They came back an hour or so later—bringing several cars full of officers, but no one in tactical gear—and politely warned close to two dozen people onto the sidewalks around the park.
The operation was high-profile enough that Central Precinct Commander Bob Day was personally on hand to direct the low-key clearout of what was, at times, an angry, tired, cold, and confrontational group. (He allowed that many were "frustrated.") There were no arrests, or even rough stuff, just a blanket verbal warning followed by some heckling.
After the shouting, everyone trekked down to city hall, already the home of a days-long prayer vigil aimed at ending Portland's anti-camping laws. The armada of police followed, reminded everyone the plaza there has has similar rules against tents and sleeping and smoking, but, significantly, no curfew.
In some ways, watching the reoccupation play out after two days of the police mostly backing off (barring yesterday's apparently rough arrests), the outcome isn't that surprising. That also goes for the proposal to change the occupation style.
Because, despite a lot of rhetoric among the movement about the importance, and the substance, of the message sent by camping in defiance of park rules, few occupiers who didn't have the luxury of a warm place to sleep actually braved the frigid nighttime cold.
It was a manifestation of a tension that's played out among occupiers in meetings and also among occupiers in private. Focus on claiming a park? Or focus on other actions, like next Monday's upcoming plan to shut down ports up and down the West Coast.
Prominent occupiers insist that housing needs are still a central part of their message, and that they dont' want to marginalize any occupiers living on the streets since the Chapman/Lownsdale eviction (or anyone else living on the streets, for that matter). Many also insist that First Amendment concerns are paramount, and that curfews and parks rules are inherently anti-free-speech.
Why is it important for us to occupy a public space?
We would all prefer to be comfortable and indoors, we are not doing this because its fun to camp in a park in near-freezing temperatures. We Occupy to continue to have a dialogue with our community to discuss, educate and ultimately change the very world we live in to one that champions social and economic justice for everyone; not for only the very wealthy.
If there’s anything that the first 39 days at Chapman Square has taught us is the power of face-to-face connections and dialogue in an open and central place. It has allowed us to move forward on many of the initiatives discussed here.
But if no one shows up, either because they don't want to be arrested, or because they can't spare the time in the wee hours because of work or family obligations, or because they just would rather not be cold... it comes off as talk. That also has created bad feelings among those who do camp, as they complain that their fellow occupiers aren't standing alongside them, despite the endorsement and directive of the general assembly.
So now? The movement's committees will work out details on the newly approved plan for "legal" occupations. Others are still working to rent space for organizing (St. Francis, near the Red and Black Cafe, is often mentioned). But, then, there's always the lawyers.
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