Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Tents Come Down at Occupy Portland

On Saturday many protesters began to break down the tent city that had occupied Portland's Chapman and Lownsdale squares for the past 37 days, heeding to Mayor West's announcement of eviction and arrest of anyone who remained at the site after midnight.  The deadline seemed to be instituted after the news media began to continuously cite the camp as a haven for criminals, drug addicts, and the homeless.

As the tightly packed tents began to be taken down, large patches of the park's ground were revealed for the first time in weeks. Grass no longer filled the squares.  Instead a muddy mixture of straw, leaves, and dirt seemed to symbolize the end of a revolutionary movement.  Tents remained sparsely erected by undaunted protestors prepared to be arrested for the cause. Police began checking the backpacks of everyone entering the parks in search of weapons that could be used to resist arrest.

However, the movement would not die quietly.  As the night went on thousands of Portlanders descended on the streets and sidewalks surrounding the parks temporarily blocking traffic.  The people were ready for a non-violent resistance.  Familiar chants of "we are the 99 percent" and "this is what democracy looks like" now seemed louder than ever.  The masses were standing with their backs to the park, instead facing the Portland Police Bureau on the other side of the street in anticipation of what was going to happen next.  However, midnight came and went and the encampment was still held.  As each minute passed the spirit of the protestors seemed to rise and a sense of victory was in the air.

Many awoke the next morning to find that the victory did not last long.  At around 8 a.m., after much of the crowd and excitement had dispersed, the line of police in riot gear reassembled and moved in on the park along with other city works to remove all remaining belongings.  Perfectly good tents were treated as garbage in a city with a rampant outdoor homeless population, many of which do not even have tents.  There were no longer enough physical bodies to hold the park and the police informed all those who remained that "the park is now closed."  A few determined protestors were arrested, but the resilience of the police department seemed to result in a fairly smooth taking of public space from the public.

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