Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Message from the General Assembly of Occupy Portland

Occupy L.A. on Spring St.

Occupy Portland

Last Friday instead of walking across the 6th Street Bridge in the morning, as is my custom, I choose to wait until later in the day, around 11:30AM, or so, and walk the six or seven blocks to the south lawn of City Hall, where Occupy L.A. has been camped since the 1st of October.
I usually stop by on Saturdays to see what I can see, but since this was the day after Thanksgiving, and nothing but prison programs were on MSNBC (because as everyone knows, there is no news on the weekends and holidays), I decided to visit on Friday instead.
Besides, I had heard that the Los Angeles chapter, one of the last major encampments left in the Occupy movement, was going to be evicted soon.
It hadn't changed much since I had been there last. If anything more tents had crowded into the 1.2 acre park. Some enterprising individual had actually made a count (a good of a way to pass the time as any I suppose) and came up with a total of 485 tents, mostly the small dome type that can be seen in the second picture above (taken on the west side of City Hall, along Spring Street). Someone had erected a large wooden box like structure which had been painted liberally (no pun intended) in mural fashion, the Federal Reserve building facing the front. One out of three people had a dog it seemed. Pit Bulls seem to be in fashion.
It was business as usual at Occupy L.A. No one was speaking about leaving anytime soon. I even experienced my first "Mic Check," when an energetic young lady invited those who were interested, in participating in an upcoming Flash Mob (how do they do these things? There has got to be a hell of a lot of rehearsal time involved, for the ones I've seen are choreographed to the tee). However, Mic Checks don't seem to be necessary as amplification devices are allowed at Occupy L.A. One young man was reading something from Dr. Martin Luther King through a bullhorn while sitting on the south steps, although I couldn't really make out what it was he was saying. Maybe that's why they have them, for clarity's sake.
I walked around the building and saw a couple of signs worth noting.
"If bank regulations were followed as well as Park rules we wouldn't be in this situation in the first place."
"Don't make me come down there..." -God
I hadn't seen a police presence in the encampment before, but on this day two uniformed LAPD officers exited the building and ambled about the people and tents. No one was doing anything illegal... other than occupying the park... and the officers were fairly well ignored. The L.A. movement has enjoyed an amicable relationship with the police and local politicians, unlike most other cities we've heard about recently. What makes Los Angeles different. The past.
From the beating of Rodney King in 1991 to a May Day celebration gone bad four years ago in nearby MacArthur Park, the Los Angeles Police Department has suffered from a pretty poor reputation of turning to the quick use of violence, ofttimes seemingly unnecessary violence, that's not only been promoted on the city streets but in popular culture as well (for instance in the 2004 Academy Award winning film "Crash," the term "trigger happy L.A.P.D." comes to mind).
So Mayor Villaraigosa and Chief of Police William Bratton have played it very cool with the occupiers. Why wouldn't they?
Until now. The L.A. protesters have been given a deadline of 12:01AM Monday morning, the 28th. Some campers say they're not going anywhere, some say it's time to leave citing the unpredictability of the L.A.P.D. as a motivating factor.
We shall see.
Well we've discussed this aspect before, but as our friend Naomi Wolf wrote about in her article:
There appear to be indications that the Department of Homeland Security had a hand in orchestrating the recent bout of violent police crackdowns in cities such as New York, Oakland, and Seattle (the Mayor of Oakland acknowledged that the DHS had participated in an 18-city mayoral conference call advising mayors on "how to suppress" Occupy protests).
This would implicate President Obama as well. The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, should be held responsible for what her department does. Ms Napolitano holds a cabinet level position, which means her one and only boss is the President (although she is answerable to Congress as well). It would be a sad day indeed if it were proven that Obama and Napolitano had a hand in the violent suppression of peaceful protesters exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
But why would they do this? What is so threatening about the Occupy movement?
Wolf thinks the answer lies in what she has learned about the movement's objectives, such as drafting "laws against the little-known loophole that currently allows members of Congress to pass legislation affecting Delaware-based corporations in which they themselves are investors."
She contends that DHS is attempting to influence city mayors to crackdown on their Occupy encampments and crush the movement because they are demanding that Congress close a loophole which allows said members to profit from their own legislation, or insider trading on information that passes through their committees, apparently with the blessings of the White House.
We'll undoubtedly hear more about this as the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee, National Union of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as other agencies which may eventually get involved, make further investigations into the matter.
But whatever the DHS does, or the White House, or mayors, the Occupy movement is not going to disappear. It's too big to stop now, whatever form it takes in the future (I for one do hope that it does become politically active in some respect). Too may people, too many Americans are involved in the cause now, if not physically, then in spirit. The Occupy movement is our best chance for real change to the system that has been dragging down the average citizen for more than 40 years now.
Though the tent city that was the physical base of Occupy Portland built on October 6, 2011 was dismantled forcefully on November 13, Occupy Portland itself continues. Below is a statement from the general assembly of that movement, and I repeat it here verbatim because it is pertinent, thought provoking, informative, powerful, and eloquent.
And as I've said before... the Occupy demonstrations, protests, and movement isn't going anywhere.
Thank God.

In Tahrir Square, citizens calling for a civilian government are being maimed and murdered by those same forces which helped them in their struggle for freedom. Many of the weapons used by these forces are imported from an American company, Combined Tactical Systems. We call on this company, which openly deals with tyrants, to cease this trade, and for the people of Jamestown, PA, home of CTS, to call for the same.

In Davis, CA, Lieutenant John Pike used pepper spray at close range on peaceful, seated students. We stand with those students and faculty who call for a system-wide strike on the UC campus, and who call for the resignation and punishment of Lieutenant Pike and the chancellor of UC, Linda Katehi.

In New York City, the NYPD has destroyed the free-speech encampment of Liberty Plaza, detained and arrested journalists unlawfully, and acted, generally, like brutes. We condemn these actions and remind the NYPD and mayor Bloomberg that the people will not abide peacefully so long as they are not free.

In Seattle, one week after the City Council voted unanimously in favor of a “resolution recognizing and supporting the peaceful and lawful exercise of the First Amendment,” the Seattle police used pepper-spray on lawful demonstrators, including two senior citizens, a priest, and a pregnant woman. This woman has since miscarried, citing a kick in the stomach and a blow from a bicycle by Seattle police as a probable cause. We condemn this atrocious behavior and ask that anyone, regardless of their stance on the sentiment of these demonstrators, join with us insofar as we hold that violent suppression of lawful protest is categorically unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.

In Portland, in part because of a negative public response to the paramilitary actions of Multnomah County police forces, Police Chief Mike Reese has announced that he will no longer be running for mayor. We ask that all funds collected by his fundraising committee, “Friends of Mike Reese” be reallocated to more useful organizations: those that help the houseless and otherwise economically underserved. We also ask that any officers who have benefited from the glut of overtime pay as a result of Chief Reese’s unnecessary deployment of police forces create a fund for the benefit of these same organizations.

We remind the people of Portland and the people of the world that we have come together to address the deepest problems of our economic and political system, and that these problems have no easy solutions— especially when those openly seeking the solutions are painted as filthy, ignorant, violent hooligans by those with a vested interest in maintaining the current broken system. We remind them who we are: mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, the unemployed and underemployed, students, teachers, government employees, laborers, and pensioners. We remind them, two months after this movement began, and on the eve of the most lucrative commercial day of the year, to not lose sight of the original animation of this movement.

We remind them that unregulated greed is not a solid foundation for an economy; that self-interest does not constitute a system of ethics; that gambling with the livelihoods of Americans should not be rewarded with bailouts and bonuses; that we should not turn for solutions to the same bankers and executives who created our problems; that our representatives are to serve not the private interests of their financiers but the public interests of those who elected them; that those interests are not served by a politics which refuses even to discuss its own corruption, but instead scapegoats anyone at hand: liberals, conservatives, immigrants, minorities, and the American citizens whose homes and savings were used as pieces in a private game. We remind them that all of our actions are manifestations of our indignation at this corrupted system. We remind them that we cannot change it without their help.

These things which we have called for, these manifestations of our indignation—the resignation of Lieutenant Pike and Chancellor Katehi, the reappropriation of Portland Police funds, the condemnation of all who suppress and aid in the suppression of lawful demonstration—these are not the limits of our fight.

We fight against a political culture that has placed the needs of the American people beneath the appetites of thieves whose gambling for short-term profit has devastated the economy and the lives of millions around the world. In solidarity with all who have suffered from the recklessness of unregulated business and the corruption of government by commerce, we demand an end to a politics controlled by wealth and perverted to serve corporations legally bound to care only for profit.

We will not stop until this corruption ceases.

No comments:

Post a Comment