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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hunger Striker Cameron Whitten Accuses Media of Ignoring Him

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 1:59 PM

As promised, former mayoral candidate really did haul himself over to Portland City Hall last Saturday and start a hunger strike aimed at budging city and county officials on a handful of complex, practically intractable housing-related issues.

I caught up with Whitten outside city hall today. He was propped up against a newsbox, holding a laptop on his tarp-covered lap. At his feet were juice and water bottles dropped off by sympathizers. Above his head was a sign that announced it was Day 5 of the hunger strike.

Whitten's feeling okay, physically. He says his legs are feeling a little weak—he's allowing himself no-sugar-added juice and kombucha, along with tea and water, under a doctor's advice—and that it's harder to walk.

"I have a lot of fat on my booty," he joked about his body's resilience in the face of near-starvation. (He also points to his Suicidal Tendencies hat, donated by an unidentified worker on Mary Nolan's city council campaign.)

But Whitten, despite a steady rush of supporters and visitors (and a promise that someone else will join him either tonight or tomorrow), has also been frustrated.

News coverage, outside of Blogtown, has been practically nonexistent—making it harder to gain wider traction for his message. Nor have any city commissioners, he says, come down to talk to him. City hall doesn't appear to be taking his effort very seriously. Not yet, at least.

He says he's talked to KGW and Victoria Taft, but that he's also heard that other reporters in town were told by their bosses not to bother covering his strike, which he says he'll wage until three things happen: city fines against Right 2 Dream Too are waived; a housing levy is placed on this fall's ballot; and the county sheriff agrees to take a year off from enforcing bank foreclosures.

Instead, he's asking supporters to donate signs so people driving by his perch can see him and maybe get a little curious. He's also having fliers printed up, and he's taking to Facebook and Twitter.

"I'm trying to bring up more of a dialogue around these issues," says Whitten. "This invisible group of people"—those without housing—"continue to be invisible."

"Maybe," he says, "they'll start paying attention when it's Day 10."

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