Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has taken credit for the fences coming down just less than a month after the city on November 13 cleared out Occupy and fenced off not only Schrunk, but also Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, home of Occupy's twin campsites. The ACLU asked the feds for a permit to read the Bill of Rights aloud tomorrow, on the document's 220th birthday.
According to an ACLU statement:
Federally owned Terry Schrunk Plaza had been closed since November 22 [sic], when Portland police evicted Occupy Portland demonstrators from nearby Chapman and Lownsdale parks. The City has stated that Chapman and Lownsdale need to remain closed to allow time for repairs, but Terry Schrunk Plaza had not been damaged yet remained closed.
The plaza’s amphitheater, which was designed to accommodate public gatherings and foster public discourse, had been the site of the General Assembly meetings for Occupy Portland. Last week, the ACLU of Oregon filed for a permit to hold a reading of the Bill of Rights at the Plaza, in part to encourage the federal General Services Administration to remove the fences and reopen what has been a traditional public forum. The ACLU’s permit was granted on Monday and the fences came down the same day.
The news came while occupiers and other volunteers, more than 30 people in all, were out in Chapman Square for the first time since the eviction, helping the city save big bucks on restoration efforts by raking up the thick carpet of leaves that had covered the park's muddy expanses. It's still unclear when the parks will reopen.
Update 12:05 PM: Jim Blackwood, policy adviser for Parks Commissioner Nick Fish, clarified a bit. He says the feds had actually asked the mayor's office about removing the fence before approving the ACLU permit. Parks only waited to take down the fences until Monday because it was cheaper than rushing a crew in sooner. Blackwood also says the feds are willing to allow Occupy Portland to resume holding its governing meetings in the amphitheater, minus any tents.
The reading of the Bill of Rights is planned for noon to 1pm Thursday. Two SUVs from the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service were on hand today, while some children played there. Wonder if they'll be watching tomorrow, too.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!