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Monday, July 23, 2012

Scenes from Cameron Whitten's Epic Rally for Housing Justice

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 12:14 PM

There was a moment Friday night when I was certain Cameron Whitten—then on Day 50 of his housing-justice hunger strike, and speaking to the 300 or so people who showed up for a rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza—was going to declare a symbolic victory and call it quits.

He managed to bring in both mayoral candidates, Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales, neither of whom necessarily agreed with Whitten or said they'd deliver on his central demand: waiving code enforcement fines for Old Town homeless "rest area" Right 2 Dream Too. (Hales spent his time dropping easy crowd-pleasing lines about helping the unhoused but was greeted with shouts of "follow through"; Smith confessed he had doubts about Whitten's strike, got heckled, dropped an F-word in response, told people to stop shouting and start voting, and then spoke about income inequality).

Whitten also forced the current city council to respond and grapple with his request. And his presence had helped invigorate a months-old camping protest outside city hall.

"We have their attention, and we are beginning to alter their policies. We are close to a victory," Whitten, increasingly frail, read from prepared remarks. But instead of saying he was stopping, Whitten announced yet another rally: August 10—for the would-be 70th day of his strike. "There is so much visibility for this great cause right now."

Meanwhile, at the rally, Mary Nichols, one of the pillars of the city hall protest, announced a new plan for keeping the sidewalks in front of the building clean: shelves and some green storage lockers plopped in a parking spot along SW 4th.

"If you see that it looks messy," she said, "then help us.... We want one parking space." As Nichols noted, the city gives parking passes to dumpsters and for movie shoots. So why not to keep a protest tidy?

Update 2:40 PM: Interesting. Waiving the city's parking rules for a movie shoot requires a permit, which costs money. The city does allow permits for portable storage containers—probably the kind people might use in residential neighborhoods when moving into our out of a home. But those permits aren't allowed in metered spaces, like the ones along city hall. The rules are here. Of course, none of this is quite applicable to what city hall protesters are trying to do.

To see more photos, hit the jump.





Cubbies, parked outside city hall.
  • Cubbies, parked outside city hall.

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