The issue here is the actions of federal authorities at the General Services Administration (GSA) when November's Occupy protest spread into Terry Schrunk plaza, which is federal land. The feds could direct Portland police to arrest everyone in the park for trespassing, but instead chose to take a hands-off approach unless issues of public safety arose. Judicial Watch filed a public records request for emails regarding the event and came up with this:
One November 6, 2011, e-mail exchange between DHS/National Protection and Programs Directorate Chief of Staff Caitlin Durkovich and GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert Peck (who has since been fired) specifically related to Occupy Portland protests taking place on federal property in Portland:
"I am sorry to be emailing you on a Sunday night, but wanted to let you know our Press Shop has received a couple of calls from Portland media outlets about a group of 11 protesters who again set up camp at Terry Shrunk Plaza in Portland last night. They have chained themselves to a large drum filled with concrete. GSA controls the permits and has asked FPS [Federal Protective Services] not to enforce the curfew at park and the prohibition on overnight encampments. Reporters have asked if we will be arresting the protestors as FPS did last week."
Our FPS Commander in Portland says they are standing down and following GSA’s request to only intervene if there is a threat to public safety.
"Caitlin: yes, that is our position; it’s been vetted with our Administrator and Michael Robertson, our chief of staff, and we have communicated with the WH [White House], which has afforded us the discretion to fashion our approach to Occupy issues…The arrests last week were carried out despite our request that the protesters be allowed to remain and to camp overnight…"
At the time, the GSA spokesperson summed up the reason for allowing the protest to stay in the park temporarily, after initially asking the Portland police to crack down on anyone occupying the park: "We want to allow the protest to keep going. That's the American way."
It worked out pretty well—there were no mass arrests in the park, no one was hurt or injured, and when police cleared the non-federal parks a few weeks later, campers left Terry Schrunk, too. But Schrunk plaza continued to be a place for meetings, marches, and lectures—the stuff democracy is made of.
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