It’s been nearly two years since cops unceremoniously broke up Occupy Portland's downtown camps in the name of safety, hygiene, and the health of the city’s grass. It’s also been well over a year and a half since the will-they-won’t-they question of whether Occupy Portland defendants will get jury trials started as a fight between the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office and the ousted Occupiers’ defense lawyers.
Now, the judicial decision we’ve all been waiting for is finally in.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled today that Occupy defendants who were arrested on misdemeanor charges that were later reduced to violations by the DA are entitled to jury trials.
Now hold on, the story from here on gets a little tangled.
The court made its ruling in the State of Oregon v. Laurie Ann Benoit. Benoit was arrested, handcuffed, and booked on October 11, 2011 along with 49 other Occupiers when the cops “evicted” them from their encampments.
She was then charged with second-degree criminal trespass, a class C misdemeanor. This would have entitled her to a jury trial; only at her arraignment prosecutors opted to lower the charge to a violation. The majority of Occupy cases were handled in this way.
Lowering charges is a common practice for the DA. But Occupy lawyers weren’t having it, and, in early 2012, they filed a motion claiming this downgrading of charges denied the defendants of their constitutional right to a jury trial.
It's the one night a year Portland openly allows sidewalk camping, and the city's homeless are on top of it.
For the third year running, homeless rights advocates have pitched dozens of tents along SW Fourth, a bit of judo that exploits the city's practice of letting parade-goers stake out a spot the night before the Grand Floral Parade.
As of 1:15 pm, something like 60 tents had already sprouted up along six block faces on Fourth, with more ready as participants make their way to the area (or, as one organizer put it, after they're swept from beneath the bridges to give Portland a false air of sterility for the weekend's festivities).
"The point is letting people who are normally looking at bushes and bridge tops see a parade," says organizer Ibrahim Mubarak, running point on the operation from 4th and Stark. "The city allows camping on the sidewalk one day of the year. Any other time someone does it as a means of survival, they are criminalized."
The "Pitch a Tent" effort began in 2011, and served as a springboard for the plucky Right 2 Dream Too, a "rest area" for the homeless perched under the Chinatown gate since October of that year. ("After everyone left (in 2011), we didn't have anywhere to put them," Mubarak said.)
The protest, if that's what you want to call it, is poignant in its way—it certainly makes for a strong visual representation of the city's homeless. And it's well-run, with visible security personnel on every block helping people into tents. But it's doubtful the effort will move City Council to rescind a ban on camping, as protestors have demanded, or dissuade Mayor Charlie Hales from his plans to fight aggressive panhandling now that the legislature has dashed sit-lie hopes.
Mubarak and his co-organizers have their own proposal: "Give us a designated piece of land and a building, and we can put a dent in people sleeping on the street."
Business-owners have mostly accepted the campers, Mubarak says. Cops haven't been as open. According to organizers, six officers approached the encampment earlier today, claiming the tents were against the law.
"They don't know their own code," Mubarak says. "They call in and check and guess what? We're right."
For years, banks have had it in for credit unions. And this year’s round of legislative fisticuffs is no exception.
The idea behind the bill backed by the Oregon Bankers Association (OBA) is to saddle large not-for-profit credit unions with the same kind of corporate taxes that for-profit banks currently have to pay. That’s because, say Oregon bankers, tax-exempt credit unions aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.
But this isn’t the whole story. HB 2486 also specifically targets a new state program that’s expected to be a boon for credit unions and could take money away from banks. And that's why Oregon banks are acting now.
On April 1, Oregon’s Public Funds Collateralization Program for Credit Unions is set to take effect. This program comes out of a bill passed in 2010
law that allows public officials to keep public funds in credit unions past the $250,000 currently allowed by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA is to credit unions what the FDIC is to banks). This potential competition seems to have attracted the banking lobby's ire.
“If they are going to be receiving public funds, then they should be treated like banks,” OBA legislative director Kevin Christiansen told the Mercury. “They have been acting like banks and whether they are or not, they should be taxed like banks.”
Christiansen says instigating the new program without also taxing the credit union would give them an unfair advantage over small community banks (and though he didn't say it large national banks) and the state had no right “to pick winners and losers.”
Oregon banks currently have a program almost exactly like the new one for credit unions, and all but
four six of the 37 banks listed as being involved in the program are OBA members. These include big national banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America as well as a lot of Oregon-based banks.
Last Tuesday, Debbie and Ron Austin—two of Portland's longest-tenured foreclosure resisters—finally got the dreaded doorknocking from the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and were rousted, along with their kids, from their Southeast Portland home in the pre-dawn dark.
The Austins' story, however, is especially worth reading. Yes, they got behind on their mortgage payments because of medical bills. But they also successfully obtained a loan modification and got to keep their home. Or so they thought. Months of payments weren't counted by their lender because of a bureaucratic error—restarting the countdown to foreclosure. And then? The legal system, they say, failed them.
In a lengthy letter posted on Facebook this weekend, Debbie Austin wonders why the family's bankruptcy lawyer didn't step in. (I've left him a message seeking comment.) She also singles out Multnomah County Judge Karin Immergut (a controversial, Bush-appointed ex-US attorney ) for ignoring the canceled checks and receipts Austin held up as proof her family had been fulfilling their legal obligation.
The heartbreaking story proceeds from there. And now there's a security guard sitting inside the Austins' house.
Well, I hope all my friends see this and share it with everyone they know...
As most of you know, we have been fighting this ILLEGAL FORECLOSURE AND EVICTION that HomeStreet Bank, MERS and FNMA (Fannie Mae) filed against us.
This nightmare started back in 2008 when Ron got a pay cut at his work and his second job was taken away from him.
Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with cancer and in the same month I had a 2nd back surgery which crippled my right foot. We filed bankruptcy in 2009 and I was diagnosed with rectal cancer.
We applied for a "loan modification" which we were granted and looked forward to getting our lives back on track.
Portland police officers—ominously warning that they've been combing through video footage of the November 3 anti-austerity protest that saw some two-dozen people eat painful pepper spray—have made a second arrest in connection with the otherwise festive, peaceful event.
Yesterday, police announced the arrest of Michael Jay Miguel Hernandez, 30, and said he faces charges including disorderly conduct, and more seriously, the attempted assault of an officer. His alleged crime? According to a news release:
Hernandez "placed his bicycle in front of a Portland Police Officer who was blocking the intersection on the north side of Northeast Halsey Street with his police bike. Hernandez then attempted to push through the officer using both bikes."
The police say Hernandez was picked up without incident at SE 20th and Salmon—riding the same bike as on November 3, the release makes sure to point out. (His friends say that happened Friday, November 9—long after the protest and well before the arrest was announced.)
But there appears to be more to the story, according to video of the altercation and comments from witnesses. And let me add, before I go on, that I can personally testify to the idea that cops in these situations can be testy about the mistaken perception of a threat.
The video shows a crowd of people holding large wooden banners slowly walking into a line of police bikes. It doesn't seem like a "violent struggle" to me, but a slow, determined plodding into police lines, using the wooden banners as plows to try and force the police out of the way.
Among the group pepper sprayed were 10 Portland high school students who were at the event with a student organization to protest public school budget cuts. Halley Steiner, a 17-year-old senior at Grant High, said she was holding a large wooden banner saying "No More Cuts" when they encountered the line of police. According to Steiner, the officers said, "Don't move forward or we will resist you." She doesn't remember hearing any warning about pepper spray or use of chemicals specifically, but before she moved, officers started pepper spraying the crowd. "It was the most painful thing I've ever experienced," says Steiner, who fell to the ground after a few seconds. "I was completely blind for 30 minutes, totally unable to even begin to open my eyes. The fact that we were students attempting to peacefully protest budget cuts to education and were met with such unrestrained police violence is revolting and unbelievable."
Update 2:30pm—A couple people have pointed out that one of the officers doing the pepper spraying was Sgt. Kyle Nice, who is only recently back on patrol duty after two police investigations into an road-rage encounter and his involvement in the death of James Chasse.
A collection of groups protested government budget cuts in advance of the impending election in Portland's Lloyd District this afternoon. The mostly festive Occupy, Jobs with Justice, and Portland Action Lab rally and march around the Lloyd Center mall turned surprisingly violent in the middle, when riot police pepper sprayed approximately 20 protesters as they attempted to confiscate a wooden banner. The protesters sprawled out on the sidewalk outside the mall, many screaming and crying from the stinging pain, as volunteer medical helpers poured water and Maalox over their eyes.
Protest organizers say Portland police also confiscated two of the roughly five foot by three foot wooden signs before the protest began, saying they could be used as weapons and were wanted for an "ongoing investigation." Among the people pepper sprayed were activist Cameron Whitten and at least one high school student. One person was also arrested at the event.
According to police spokesman Pete Simpson, the signs could be used to push police officers back from the crowd, but he could not confirm that they were part of an ongoing investigation. The march today was unpermitted, with at least 50 police officers showing up on bikes, motorcycles, and horseback to monitor the action. "If they just got a permit, it wouldn't be an issue, they'd have the police escort," says Simpson.
Except for the pepper spraying, the rally and march were a rather upbeat protest that criticized both the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates for championing budgets that cut public services. People decked out in bull-and-torredor costumes smashed piggy bank pinatas outside the Wells Fargo, while advocates of public schools and the US Postal Service called for an end to cuts. A crowd of about 500 people marched around the Lloyd Center for over an hour, blocking some traffic and MAX tracks for 10-15 minutes, occasionally breaking out into a song "Fuck auuuusterity" to the tune of "We are Family."
The Portland Action Lab and Occupy Portland are encouraging citizens to "vote with your feet" tomorrow for a big protest of cuts to education, healthcare, and social services.
The action is taking place tomorrow at 1pm in Holladay Park. The organizers write, "We call on all participants in the Occupy movement, rank-and-file union members, students, our elders and people-at-large to organize creatively and return to our public spaces with this message on the weekend before the election. Our communities will make our own decisions and control our own resources, no matter who is elected."
The event is also being billed as a protest against the Portland Business Alliance, which is typically the #1 lobbyist in Portland's city hall and fought 2010 tax Measure 66 and 67.
If you're planning to vote with your pen as well as your feet this weekend, our election voter guide is here.
Housing activists prepping for months for foreclosure defense efforts at houses across Portland are facing their first major test this afternoon after Multnomah County sheriff's deputies and Portland cops showed up to enforce an eviction at a Southeast Portland home—and reportedly brought along pepper spray and riot gear.
The home on SE Pardee is owned by Patricia Williams and Darren Johnson who moved back into their home while fighting a foreclosure in court. Activists say the eviction order came even though that legal fight is under way. Here's their story.
Activists are sounding the alarm and asking for reinforcements while the house is being boarded up. Follow a live blog here or at #homedefense on Twitter. Meanwhile, pictures posted on Twitter show several cops and deputies on scene with their fingers on the triggers of what look like beanbag guns. One officer reportedly used pepper spray on protesters according to witnesses—though I haven't confirmed that yet. Some reports say the officer leading the action is Captain Mark Kruger, the Portland cop famously fond of Nazi memorabilia.
Update 6:30 PM: Protester Ahjamu Umi posted an update on Facebook. He said the pepper spraying came after some of the 50 protesters who formed a roving picket line in front of the house tried to force their way inside. One person was arrested, he says. Afterward, and as more deputies and cops showed up, the protesters decided they didn't have the numbers to keep fighting.
"Several of us were hit," he writes, "but everyone will be okay."
In the Multnomah County Courthouse today, Deputy DA Brian Lowney said his office was going to file a "writ of mandamus" saying, in effect, that Judge Cheryl Albrecht’s decision last week to allow jury trials for those 49 Occupy cases was a bunch of legal nonsense.
This isn’t an appeal as such. Although a writ of mandamus acts in much the same way. As one defense attorney put it, think of it as “an appeal on steroids.” The writ basically fast-tracks the appeal process by going straight to the state high court, which now must decide whether Albrecht’s ruling is in accordance with the law. But unlike under the normal appeals process, this all happens before any defendants go to trial. And that’s the whole point.
This is not only a very shrewd move on the DA’s part, but it’s also not too surprising given how the DA has consistently fought tooth and nail with Occupy’s legal brain trust to keep occupiers from receiving jury trials. That's in part because the stakes in this fight could apply to hundreds of other low-level cases—which have nothing to do with Occupy—handled by prosecutors.
Occupy Portland—still soldiering along from its office in St. Francis in Southeast, and also from the city hall camping vigil, every single day—is tired of everyone thinking the movement's dried up and gone as it enters its second year.
And, so, a bunch of occupiers have decided to take a page from their friends in big business: launching a transformative new campaign to refresh a sagging brand. There's an Indiegogo page right here where you can donate money. Occupiers are looking to raise just shy of $2,000 to plaster ads all over the ceilings of Trimet buses and trains for four weeks sometime this fall/winter.
Let's face it: Occupy Portland (and the greater national movement for that matter) is facing a Public Relations crisis. There is simply too many people unengaged with us and too little word being spread about us as we embark our 2nd year. And it certainly doesn't help that the corporate media falsely labels us as dead. But with an office space, phone, and 24/7 small-scale "occupation" and vigil at City Hall, it's clear that we have a real, sustaining future for our Portland area citizens. But how could they know?
That is why we are launching a new advertisement campaign to raise awareness ourselves and provide opportunity where there has not been before. Our goal is to raise $1,885 (with taxes and fees by Indiegogo, that gives us $1,750) to establish 25 "Michalangelo" [sic] ceiling ads inside TriMet buses and MAX lines to last us about 4 weeks.
We believe that riders of public transportation is the perfect target audience to spread the message of Occupy. With the working class, disengaged youth, student, eco-minded and elderly populations all diverging on the same vehicles, we see true untapped potential (or at least sympathy) when we make our presence known to them.
The pitch notes it's not the movement's first ad campaign. Last fall, some occupiers tapped friendly professional contacts and produced a slick YouTube ad. Best part about this buy: If you give $65 or more, organizers will even put your name on one.
This morning in the Multnomah County Courthouse, Judge Cheryl Albrecht ruled that a recent appellate court decision does indeed apply to some, but not all, Occupy cases. The decision is this: Occupiers who were originally arrested on criminal trespass charges that were later reduced to violations can now get both state-paid legal counsel and trials in front of a jury, not just a judge. And the implications could be far-reaching.
For starters, Albrecht’s decision means many cases that have already gone to trial, like the trials last month for November 13, 2011 eviction of Chapman Square, could now be re-litigated, this time with juries and legal counsel. This could prove to be either a hassle or a boon for defendants who thought their fight with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office was over.
The other big implication is this: the DA’s office has some serious thinking to do on whether to pursue the jury trials, or just flat out dismiss them. One big factor will be whether the cost of the trials can be justified—court-appointed lawyers are expensive, after all, and a large number of occupiers are now entitled to them. The DA is expected to decide early next week.
Of course, not all occupiers will get jury trials. Albrecht’s decision does not apply to defendants originally arrested on charges—like interfering with a police officer—that also were reduced to violations.
These cases will proceed without jury trials. (At one point, these cases were going to get trials under a previous ruling. However the DA responded to that ruling by dropping most of these charges for violations that didn’t qualify for juries or legal counsel. And now, occupiers with these charges don’t fall under the new appellate court ruling). That means cases like the one against Liz Nichols—the infamously pepper-sprayed occupier—won’t change. So what happens next?
Albrecht, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the cases, and Occupy’s legal brain trust will meet next Monday, October 22, to decide.
During an Occupy protest on a rainy night last winter, Portland Police arrested Portlander Dan Kaufman and impounded his sparkly gold "disco trike," charging him with "unlawful operation of a sound-producing equipment" as he blasted music during the protest.
Today, a judge declared that the charges against Kaufman are worthless. Operating a disco trike at a protest is, she determined, a protected form of free speech.
While Portland has a sound ordinance that prohibits disrupting the peace by playing music too loudly or after certain hours, the judge ruled in favor of the disco trike here because the police sergeant who shut down the tunes was specifically trying to stop Kaufman's involvement in the protest, says Kaufman's lawyer Kate Stebbins.
"He had played music loudly on other days with no problem. The reason they shut him down on that day at that time was because that protest had gotten out of hand," says Stebbins. "This protest was late in the year. Police were tired. Protesters were tired. No one was on their best behavior. But this guy was just playing music, trying to keep everyone happy."
A few hours after Saturday's hundreds-strong march marking the one-year anniversary of Occupy Portland and the 11th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, a few dozen occupiers decided on a symbolic gesture: They gathered in the federally owned and controlled Terry Schrunk Plaza—across SW Madison from Chapman Square—for what could have been a reoccupation.
That was cool with the cops from the Federal Protective Services and the Department of Homeland Security, until a little after 10 pm, when Schrunk officially closes. Eventually, according to witnesses and video, things took a turn and almost ended with a handful of federal cops itching to fire less-lethal weapons like rubber-bullet guns and Tasers at a group of protesters who'd given in to cops pretty easily and were standing on the sidewalk.
Not long after the park's curfew, the feds made good on a promise to sweep the place that had been delivered to protesters an hour or so before. Three or four federal cops showed up in riot gear—joined by a couple of dozen more Portland cops, also decked out in armor and helmets, called in as backup.
As we reported late Wednesday, Liz Nichols—the Occupy Portland protester pepper sprayed in the face while shouting at another officer who'd hit her in the neck at a rally November 17—filed suit today against the city and the Portland Police Bureau.
Nichols, a 21-year-old PSU student, is accusing two officers of using excessive force, the cop who sprayed her, Sergeant Jeff McDaniel, and the cop who hit her and then dragged her by her hair behind the arrest line, Doris Paisley. She's accusing the city of clinging to a (maybe finally changing) policy that allows the use of less-lethal weapons like pepper spray and Tasers against people who aren't actively resisting cops—despite ample time over the years to make changes after past lawsuits.
And she's seeking $155,000 in damages, with her lawyers saying Nichols suffered from eczema in the immediate aftermath of being sprayed while still enduring sleep and anxiety issues. She appeared with her attorneys, Kenneth A. Kreuscher and Benjamin Haile, who provided copies of the lawsuit's 14-page complaint (PDF). Nichols, made famous in an award-winning Oregonian photo that captured McDaniel in the act of dousing her, was one of a few other protesters also sprayed that day.
"The policies of the Portland Police Bureau allow the use of pepper spray even when a person is not physically a threat to anyone," Kreuscher said at a news conference this morning. "This lawsuit is about attempting to change that policy."
Word just arrived at this tender hour that Liz Nichols, the young college student whose mouthful of pepper spray was immortalized by an Oregonian photographer during a chaotic anti-bank protest last November 17, will file an excessive force lawsuit against the Portland Police Bureau.
According to a release sent out by Nichols' attorney, Ken Kreuscher, the suit will be filed at 10 am Friday after a short press conference. Nichols was sprayed by Sergeant Jeff McDaniel while shouting at another officer who, Kreuscher says, had driven a nightstick into Nichols' neck. Nichols wound up facing charges after she was sprayed.
Kreuscher says the pepper spray was excessive because Nichols wasn't actively threatening anyone, just shouting, when McDaniel blasted her. The use of less-lethal weapons (especially Tasers) on people who aren't actively resisting or posing a threat earned the ire of the feds in their recent excoriation of the bureau. The bureau is looking to tighten its policies now. But, as we reported months ago, that suggestion, coming from several groups over the years is nothing new.
The altercation was among several that erupted after mounted cops showed up with horses to clear the entrance of an occupied Chase Bank branch at SW 6th and Yamhill, outside Pioneer Square. After protesters were forced onto the street and MAX tracks, riot cops showed up in a confusing, contradictory mass to try to get protesters back onto sidewalks.
Oddly enough, the O's photo, by Randy Rasmussen, just won another national award, the paper announced earlier Wednesday. We'll have more on this in the morning. For now, Kreuscher's release is after the jump.
The night of February 6, or F6, is one both protesters and cops won’t forget anytime soon. It was the night both kinda went ape-shit. They yelled insults at each other. Anarchists broke stuff, and cops tackled people to the ground. Stuck in the middle were curious onlookers and members of Occupy Portland.
In fact, technically F6 wasn’t an Occupy protest at all. Instead, a group of self-proclaimed anarchists organized the protest, saying Occupy wasn’t going far enough. In online forums, the group called for a “diversity of tactics.” The Portland Police Bureau monitored these forums and concluded F6 would be chock full of people carrying "pyrotechnic devices and projectiles such as paint bombs, rocks, bottles, roman candles, and possibly even Molotov cocktail bombs.” In response, the police pulled out all the stops, bringing bike cops, riot cops, and horses to the protest. There did wind up being people dressed in the anarchist Black Bloc uniform of black hoodies and bandanas, and they did break stuff, but the protesters didn’t live up to their Molotov-cocktail-throwing reputation.
Of the ten protesters arrested on February 6, the last two faced trial yesterday—most of the rest plead guilty at arraignments and were sentenced to community service. Yesterday, the county judge heard the cases of 28-year-old Nefi Martinez-Bravo and 23-year-old Taylor Sharpe—a third defendant was a no-show. Like many of the other Occupy cases, both Martinez-Bravo and Sharpe were arrested on misdemeanor charges that were later reduced to violations. The two now face charges of obstructing a roadway—a traffic violation—and failing to obey a police officer. Judge Albrecht is expected to decide on their guilt or innocence by mid-December. But if there is one thing clear from yesterday’s proceedings, these guys aren’t the window-smashing anarchists the cops were so worked up over.
A startling new development in the Occupy Portland court fight had defense lawyers scrambling on their smartphones and laptops this morning. The reason? A new court of appeals decision might mean occupiers could get their long-sought jury trials after all.
The trial for the October 30, 2011, mass arrests at Jamison Square was scheduled for this morning. But because of a State of Oregon Court of Appeals decision issued just minutes before it was supposed to begin, the trial was postponed until mid-October. And with good cause. As lawyers for Occupy discovered while rifling through the decision as the proceedings began, the appellate decision on an unrelated, but potentially similar shoplifting case, could grant jury trials for their defendants. This would follow months of failed motions attempting to do just that.
Get ready for a little bit of legalese. The appellate ruling came in the case the State of Oregon v. Tawanna Fuller. It goes like this: Fuller was arrested on suspicion shoplifting, and was booked in jail and initially charged with a Class C misdemeanor count serious enough to entitle her to a jury trial. The Multnomah County District Attorney's Office later reduced her misdemeanor down to a violation—something they do pretty regularly to speed the legal process along.
As a result, Fuller lost her right to be judged by a jury of her peers, even though she was still treated, because of her arrest, like a more serious criminal. Her lawyer said "hell no," and appealed, saying in effect, give us back our jury trial. This morning, the higher court ruled in Fuller’s favor, saying yes.
How could that effect Occupy cases? Like this: Many occupiers also were arrested on misdemeanor charges, like criminal trespass, normal protest stuff. But these charges were later reduced by the DA to mere traffic violations. Misdemeanors get jury trials, and violations don’t. See the similarities? Occupy's legal brain-trust certainly does.
Of course, plenty of people are going to ask "What the Fuck Has Occupy Done?" And they could come up with a slew of specific answers: Organized Bank Transfer Day, fed thousands of homeless people, illuminated police use-of-force against protesters, alienated mainstream people who joined initial protests but couldn't handle endless meetings and pointless confrontations with cops.
I think the biggest thing Occupy has done is get Americans to talk more about formerly wonky national policy issues and how those issues concretely affect people's lives. In my opinion, the foreclosure crisis, the ways big banks screw over their customers, the power of major corporations over politics, and campaign finance reform were off the dinner-conversation-radar before Occupy. Over the last twelve months, I've found myself talking about these issues a lot more with middle-of-the-road, "not political" friends and family. Occupy's most effective slogan could be "TALK TALK TALK."
People are definitely at least more aware now of some basic problems in society than they were before—right?
While Occupy has already seen a scattering of individual cases go to trial, starting last week, the movement had its first mass arrests trials, beginning with proceedings for the November 13, 2011 “eviction” from Chapman Square. Over that weekend, police arrested 51 people for various infractions associated with refusing to clear out of the occupied park and yesterday, Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht heard the final arguments in the cases against the protesters. But don’t expect verdicts anytime soon—these cases won't be ultimately decided until December.
But even with her final decision well off in the future, yesterday’s court proceeding did give us a hint of what the upcoming trials will look like. At issue in yesterday’s Chapman eviction trial was whether or not eleven Occupy defendants were in violation of a police order that closed the park to protestors. Deputy District Attorney Brian Lowney—who somehow got stuck prosecuting the vast majority of Occupy cases—took pains to prove that the protestors knew the cops wanted them out of the square.
With court dates for all but a handful of Occupy Portland protesters finally set yesterday morning, much of the drama in the movement's months-long court fight—at least in the pre-trial phase of proceedings—has finally been put to bed. But still up in the air? Whether the police will reveal if they were using informants or undercover officers during the protests. Although chances are we won't find out anytime soon.
Defense attorneys for Occupy have been warring with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office over police reports and documents. And they’ve gotten a number of them, including 134 pages of police documents the Mercury first reported on last month. These documents mention “an Occupy Portland source” the cops were using to gather intelligence on the movement. But whether this source was an informant, an undercover officer, or even a person at all and not a website is still unknown. Lawyers say it will probably stay that way.
In court yesterday, it still wasn't confirmed whether the source was a person. Nonetheless Multnomah County Judge Cheryl Albrecht ruled that “source” would be revealed, if, and only if, the DA decides to ask that source to testify in the upcoming court dates.
“We're all operating under the assumption that it is a person," says Richard McBreen who argued the motions requesting the police documents. But it's ultimately the DA’s decision to call the source or not, and McBreen says he suspects the DA won’t call the source to the stand, because doing so wouldn't much help the government's case. “So that pretty much ends our inquiry right there,” he says.
But you never know. The court dates during which the mystery source may or may not be revealed are listed below the cut.
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.
Whoops! Due to a "computer glitch," the county jail posted the wrong photo for the squatter arrested last night as an anti-foreclosure group attempted to "liberate" a duplex for sale in NE Portland.
The mugshots for protester Derek Zika was replaced with the mugshot for a man named Josh Lipka, who was booked a few minutes after Zika for domestic violence and parole violation. Lipka's face—complete with bloody nose—ran in multiple media stories this morning about the protest and arrest.
The actual Derek Zika looks not quite as intimidating.
Anti-foreclosure activists report that Portland police made at least one arrest late tonight after a group attempted to "liberate" an empty NE Portland duplex for use as a community space.
Supporters of the Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC) met today for a party and direct action at the Woodlawn home of Alicia Jackson. The group and Jackson are celebrating three months since Jackson moved back into her foreclosed home on May Day. Jackson's double-wide property fell into foreclosure last year and was bought by investment group Fox Capital. The company kept Jackson's home empty, but built a new duplex on the lot, which Jackson's supporters say was also empty for months. After the apparent success of moving Jackson back into her house on May Day, the Occupy-offshoot PLOC returned this afternoon and somehow gained access to the empty duplex.
PLOC organizer Taran Connelly says the group planned to use the duplex for community meetings and were hoping to plant a community garden in its backyard. According to Connelly, about six people were in the house at 11:30 tonight when police arrived and came into the house, making one arrest. Currently, there are several police cars at the site and there has been a call-out for Occupy activists to come to the scene.
Connelly isn't sure what the group will do next, but says it's too soon to give up on the empty-space-conversion plan. "This is the bank making their second move," says Connelly. "What we're going to do is work in the community to assert our right to use community space."
Updates as I have them!
Update 12:50am: The group has also put out a statement on the action tonight.
Update 8:45am: The police just sent out their press release on this. It bears the headline, "Police arrest man squatting in residence."
The owner of the property told police that he arrived to find signs of a burglary and believed people may still be inside.
The house immediately west of the duplex is associated with squatters from the Occupy Portland movement, evidenced by the signs in the front yard and large group of Occupiers standing in the front yard.
As officers approached the duplex they observed a large banner (approximately 15') hanging in from the front porch of the duplex which read, "Together we are unevictable."
Officers discovered that the lockbox had been removed from the front door and another lockbox had been removed from the gas meter. Officers looking through the front door could clearly see that furniture had been moved and there was a grocery bag on the kitchen floor.
Officers and the homeowner entered the backyard to find that all the fencing between the duplex and the house to the west (Occupy Portland) had been removed and was piled up in the backyard of the residence being squatted in by Occupy Portland supporters.
The homeowner was able to allow police entry to the duplex after breaching a window. Once inside officers arrested 24-year-old Derek John Charles Zika, who was crouched down by the front door. Zika had personal belongings in an upstairs bedroom and it appeared he had just taken a shower in the upstairs bathroom. The grocery bag in the kitchen contained 2 new sets of door locks that did not belong to the homeowner.
Zika was arrested and charged with Burglary in the First Degree and Criminal Trespass in the First Degree.
I guess you could also spin it this way:
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.
|Most Popular||I, Anonymous||Best of the Merc|
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!