From Utopia Or Bust.
Occupying Portland …
Let’s start where the sign starts, at Pioneer Square.
The date is October 6th…
No one knows for sure how many people showed up for the first march on October 6th. Some said 5 to 6,000. Some said 10,000 or more. This was not a permitted march. Cities somehow always think it’s a great idea to require “free speech activities” to have permits and make people go through their bureaucracies, even making them pay processing fees, and pull out insurance policies for their “free speech” event. The initial organizers, no matter the other flaws in things like the general assemblies, went ahead without the city’s permission to have free speech, free space, and free thought.
None of these photos I took. I found them online. I’ll tell you what I saw on the first day.
I was with two other friends and we walked together downtown from the Southeast, marching around with a boombox looking for the march that had already begun – it was somewhere, but we didn’t know exactly where…
People coming off work were asking us left and right where the march was. We didn’t know. We were going in the direction where the helicopters circling above…
(Notice that there is not one American flag in this photo. The flag in the photo is supposed “flag” of Cascadia, the bioregion of the Cascade Mountains – Northern California, Oregon, Washington and parts of British Columbia.)
There were signs people had been everywhere we were.
Curiosity was everywhere. “Where’s the march? What’s going on now?” People on the street were asking…
In fact we never made it to this march.
So we created our own march
with the three of us.
it turned into six of us
then twelve of us…
Until we were a pack
steady mobbing like this.
Crust punks,b-boys, and b-girls started jumping out of garbage cans ‘n shit to join us like it was a Michael Jackson music video.
We got to Pioneer Square.
A dozen stragglers were hanging around talking. We found a sign on the ground somebody left behind that said “No Greed” on one side and “Leave Britney Alone” on the other.
Leave Britney Alone? (We didn’t know it was actually a reference to aYouTube video about Britney Spears.)
We had a Britney. Britney was part of the crew. It seemed by fate we should hold onto this sign in case it should come in handy later on (if some punk ass cops tried to haul Britney off into their cage.)
NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP (A)
NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN
THE PEOPLE ARE TOO BIG TO FAIL
The polizei was on the defensive.
And the people were on the offensive.
They kept going & going, marching from place to place chaotically, charismatically, continually.
This location under the Hawthorne Bridge was “too small,” said the people, so they moved on.
And we kept going too, talking to people and asking them, “Where is it?” People pointed and said, “That way.” It was a wild goose chase to find each other…
The march ended up at the park blocks on SW Park & Main Street.
That location was “just right,” said the people and then they occupied it.
By the time we got there it looked like this…
We settled in quickly and began transforming the space into place.
Some were joining in on the “human microphone” general assembly meetings. Others were more interested in things elsewhere. The decision-making at the larger scale did not appeal very much to me. I explain this more further down. It was better to build connections and solidarities and meet face to face, one on one, or in smaller clusters.
(I figured out why so many people choose not to vote in the US. It’s not only because political caucuses are boring as hell, they’re downright offensive to the individual. I think this is experienced on a more subconscious level, but essentially people don’t want to be involved something that offends their sense of who they are.)
EVERY DOLLAR CREATED AS DEBT
Main Street was blocked off by of the sheer numbers of people. It had the sort of street fair atmosphere quality we’re used to in Portland from other types of uncoordinated events that happen, like chaotic carnivals and other shit you see on Portlandia. These events have no overarching “leadership” or “authority” and the creativity and direction comes from the autonomous participation. An example of this is the Last Thursday street fair (link) that happens every last Thursday of the month on Alberta Avenue. It has no organization – it simply happens and the city tries to fill in where they believe they are “needed.” But mostly they just get in the way. Street fairs and other free public space events raise public awareness of the community to a level where it comes easier for people to figure out “what to do” without leaders or authorities. They’re “free” to figure it out for themselves.
Main Street has many functions!
(And holds functions via Occupy Portland — i.e. the People’s Cinema, general assemblies, etc.)
In the photo above people were noticing these “occupy everything” clues all over the place, and started making sense out of them. The clues were becoming more obvious, more public. At some point random clusters of mob mentality made the (soft) human blockade of Main Street into a solidified (hard) blockade from the clues that were laying around on the ground. It’s a mystery how it all came about, but it came about.
This made Main Street noticeably and dramatically more “occupied” looking and it gave the space more of an intentional feel to it.
A Las Barricadas!
Everyone, everyone who was there literally, knew the barricades were the “next step.” You didn’t have to ask, it wasn’t even a question. It didn’t seem like a stumbling block tactically or strategically. It was motivated by pure joy, not malice or juvenile defiance. It was good mischief. “The right thing to do at the time” is always the right thing to do no matter what the time. So when obedience is an unnecessary part of the equation, obedience stops and life is magical.
Here is what the blockade started to look like after a couple hours, a few days, after a week…
CAPITALISM VS. HUMANITY
Cars passing by the blockade on Main Street honked, screamed, and shouted “Occupy!” at the people behind the barricades. It was a back and forth game that kept going. Not everybody in the cars were like the people in the photo above, hanging out of their cars. Some people in society are grumpy no matter what. They’re grumpy when kids play hopscotch in the street. They’re grumpy when grown men are dancing with hula hoops. They grumpy about anyone’s idea of “fun” and they can’t stand it when eight-year olds are selling lemonade without a damn permit. So they fumble around and blabber out shit like, “Get … a job!”
The Main Street blockades were also good because the crosswalks at both blockades became a thoroughfare for pedestrians to walk into each other and say hello. That’s a “democracy advantage” (the “social life advantage”.) We can win at the cost-benefit analysis game too.
People naturally blockade things.
They made more signs, chalked up the sidewalks, and painted on the fire hydrants (with washable paint). There was also real paint on a “community art wall” created out of wood panels. Apparently cop cars are not canvases though, so those art pieces were probably intended for an exclusive gallery somewhere in the Pearl District… (?)
The largest people clusters were usually in some way involved with the general assembly or the main camp area, but a sizable group was usually at the street blockades too promoting the space, and promoting the fact that the people there are doing something we always know how to do when shit hits the fan – we blockade. “Join us,” they said.
While that was going on at Main Street… I heard there was another section of the earlier march that separated off and got trapped on a bridge by the police. I never did hear what happened to this group. I hadn’t heard conclusions to a lot of mysteries though. But here are some photos I found of a march that was on a bridge, at some point…
PUT ON THESE GLASSES
LAND OF THE THIEVES
HOME OF THE SLAVES
Now back to Main Street…
YOU THINK CORPORATE GREED IS BAD?…
… WAIT TILL YOU HEAR ABOUT CAPITALISM!
WE ARE THE PEOPLE
WE ARE THE POWER
WE ARE THE PEOPLE
WE HAVE THE POWER!
CAPITALISM IS FUCKING THE 99%
The anti-capitalist message was strong, stronger than I thought it would be. Many people didn’t seem concerned with petty progressive positioning on “corporations” and went straight to the root causes. Of course there is something to say about corporations in particular, just as there is something to say about banks in particular, about the Fed in particular, about anything in particular. But particulars are peculiar because this is such a myopic level to operate on. The media’s myopic strategy is always to confuse their already-confused audiences by digging into difficult particulars or by remaining too basic with their deceptive broadcast-quality confidence.
But when the system is bursting at the seams, all the little particulars are blown up, and the patterns become obvious.
By the time the first weekend rolled around there were an un-estimated number of people camping in the park with tents. Initially their was an “on your best behavior” team saying people should not set up tents because it was, apparently, illegal. Yes but… people did it anyway. In fact, cheers to the dude who set up the first tent and said “hell no I won’t go” because that’s all it really took to break the spell of obedience on that one.
Occupy Portland is also a ARRA-funded pilot project called “The Commune.”
yeah, you wish.
But what if it had been? The government funded a lot of stupid and uninspiring pilot projects with a ridiculous pot of cash called the federal stimulus money. (That is, hella money printed automatically as debt to us. Hella debt nobody got to decide what to spend it on. But all representation is false anyway so I’m not complaining.) But since they did have all that new monopoly money in the first place, they could have spent it better things like giving it to surrealist avant-garde collectives and seeing what they did with it. Maybe learn a goddam thing or two.
Money has no value. It’s not a store of value. It’s not a medium of exchange. You can’t count money.
We heard the president wanted to stimulate growth, so …
– We occupied this park – we’re gonna grow a food forest.
– We occupied this workplace – we’re stimulating solidarity.
– We occupied the street – we’re growing change.
– We occupied this land – we’re growing cultures of resistance.
– they say: “No you can’t”
– we say: “Yes we can”
(the president of the united states of america wanted to use the peoples’ slogans, remember? We know how to play that game. It’s our game, we invented it.)
Occupy food cart = it’s “so Portlandia.” Yes it is, and that’s why it’s so cool. Represent!
And now for some photos from the general assemblies –>
Some assemblies lasted way too long.
I came to the Main Street occupy camp very early one morning, around 5 a.m., at some point during the first weekend it started. To my surprise there was a large group that looked as if they were still involved in the same general assembly they were in when I left the night before. Had it stopped at all?
THOUGHTS ON DEFENDING PUBLIC SPACE: I’m still telling a story… So there was a disagreement going on at 5 a.m. about this next course of action. One group of dissenters split off from the larger group to have a separate assembly. People in the original assembly got angry about that. The feud was in regards to the marathon which was to happen in the occupied park the next day. The marathon was a city-sponsored event and had planned on using the public park for registering the marathon’s participants. It seemed as though a sizable number of occupiers believed the marathon had some special “right” to occupy the park more so than the occupiers did. I didn’t think so. After all, the city was sponsoring the marathon in more of an official marketing sense, but the park is technically free, public space. Would any other group of people in a public park be “evicted” because some other, more privileged group, got there and decided they needed them all to be gone? Well, yeah, of course there is – that’s how privilege works. That’s how hierarchy works. That’s how class works. Tyrants think they’re entitled to shit like that. So it was obvious to me that the marathon could occupy an adjacent street and register people there instead. Or maybe we could occupy more streets so the marathon could have the park. Either way it could have been handled a lot more creatively, with more courage.
It turn out all the worrying was for nothing since the cops didn’t evict it, and the marathon simply used another part of the park. Simple shit I know, I know.
THOUGHTS ON GROUP PROCESS: There was something more challenging up-front than the debate about the marathon & the next course of action — it’s that people downtown were now getting frustrated about even smaller details and projecting those problems onto other people. That particular morning people looked like they hadn’t slept in probably 72 hours. They were jittery, caffeinated and exhausted. They were worried about the possibility of police eviction, which was “about to happen” literally every hour for the whole day… for the next five days. Was everyone just totally ape-shit off the never-ending supply of free Voodoo Donuts?
Thanks Voodoo for the mutual aid doughnuts.
I helped a couple people hang a banner that morning. I could tell they had also been up all night. Everyone’s brain was stuck in the process. It was hard to relate to them on a level different from consensus talking, even as 1-on-1 conversations go. A couple of them were trying to give directions to one another while hanging the banner. But they were being too helpful, and by that I mean they were too bossy. From stressing out in the processes all night, they were fuzzing with one another over small details with regards to simple tasks — like banner hanging. You could tell it was not natural. Or, that something was not right. At the same time I could not see the point of me (constructively) criticizing them for any of this because they would probably tweak out and have an aneurism: you mean we’ve been doing this thing wrong the whole time AAAAAARG!!! WTF!!!! OCCUPY FAIL?!!!
THOUGHTS ON THE POLICE AS THE BIG BAD WOLF: frustrations like I’ve been describing served to distract the frustrated people from what they came together to create – the space/place for an occupation, an empowering situation, etc. Being distracted by the specter of police eviction is a false needing-them. The point of being there was not to simply “not get evicted.” How can the purpose be to not have something happen? The point is to occupy and co-create. Micro-managing those frustrations was not helpful for anyone. But it’s easy to overlook those things when you take a step back and say – look at this awesome communist thing that’s happened in our city right before our eyes. Admire your work is what I’m saying.
Whatever the polizei were planning to do – whenever, if ever – would definitely hit them back in the ass-face ten times harder. Nobody has to say what would hit back, where, how, when, etc. It’s vague and metaphorical so they can and probably will imagine whatever they think is the worst. There is no way to tell or guess if or when the police would try to evict people from the “free speech event” in the “public” park. But as long as they aren’t actually fucking around, I don’t see the point of thinking about it so much. In other words – I don’t see any value in worrying as if we are a bunch of scared little pigs huddled together in a house of straw.
THOUGHTS ON THE GENERAL ASSEMBLIES: some people enjoy the very act of making decisions in a group. They like it because it’s the process itself they find invigorating. They may have learned how to “be engaged” from activities like a college debate team, or from experience with non-profits, government, or political caucusing. Dynamics which appear to be more “political,” step-by-step, or with a platform, a list of demands or a list of grievances… are all much easier for them to ascertain. They make more sense “politically.” They think it will make more sense to the media. For these people jumping into a group like that feels like they’re going somewhere. But are they? In my opinion the social cohesiveness of the occupation would be better off if the general assembly model were set aside altogether — left behind for something that does not resemble a representational model. In fact, not a model. People would have to rely on actual relationships and trust instead of something that resembles a political process and the rule of law — but to them that means joining the ludicrous element of society called the fringe “drop outs.” Yeah so? drop out already – what are you waiting for? Join us.
^ Sign makes a good point.
Everybody likes food, and Food Not Bombs.
Music shifts gears into other directions. Some people don’t like music, and don’t like it when other people like music.
“Grumps exist” is an archetypical fact of social life.
It’s hard to say what people are doing at any given time.
We got Tarzan up in the trees ‘n shit…
We got electricity on wheels ‘n shit
hella auto occupy mobiles ‘n shit
patriotic spliffs ‘n shit
That’s what’s real.
If you read the above and thought “oh it’s hippie bullshit” – you are idiotically lost. I’d say it again – idiotically lost. Again – idiotically lost! Sit down chief you’re a bloody tragedy.
THOUGHTS ON ENDING THE STREET BLOCKADE.
The barricades on Main Street lasted for a while, over a week. Eventually one of the general assemblies decided to end the part barricading Main Street. The city workers were pressuring Occupy Portland (pressuring who exactly I don’t know, and what was their message to Occupy Portland it’s not very clear) to open this street up again to buses, cars, and traffic jams. Tendencies within capital wanted the streets to go back to work.
(continued.) And obviously a lot of people were upset and felt betrayed by that decision. I don’t know all the facts they based the decision from. Many seemed unaware of possible counter-“reasons” to that decision. And not just counter-“reasons” by the same criteria the city government uses.
“Streets are for cars to occupy too,” someone was saying. Yet cars have, in fact, an entire city of pathways to occupy — all the time. Cities are built for cars, commodities, and capital flow. Your whole life is organized according to flows of goods and services – that’s the reality. This is one small street one small block in Portland. Perhaps people in other cities don’t know how small the city blocks in Portland are — they’re small. Abandoning the blockade on Main Street was a setback to many people. There was positive momentum that created the blockade. I’m not saying it was necessarily negative momentum that brought it down, but it was de-escalating momentum and I doubt those who were in favor of bringing it down were aware of these other dimensions.
The street barricades are something many people did together, and made together, and together participated joyously/rebelliously in it. Bringing it down also shrunk the size of the occupied space, and if the space continues to shrink, then I start to really question who these people are in the general assemblies.
The polizei are usually posted up by the jail across the street.
THOUGHTS ON BRIBING COPS. Some people brought the cops the free pizza and doughnuts as a gesture of solidarity, or something… Let’s think about that for a minute. How can you have solidarity with people who are attempting to exercise power over you? It doesn’t work that way. Giving gifts to the authority or oppressor could be done as a reward for something they did to benefit you — but this is eggshell territory because as long as they are the police they function as the weaponized arm of Wall Street. Why give gifts to them? Do people know the colonial history of the US? You know that’s how the many different tribes originally approached the settlers too right? And you know that most of those tribes were completely decimated right? If people are giving gifts to police just because they’re the police then that is a slave mentality. Name it. Don’t be a fool. Don’t be a slave. If the cops were actually doing a “good job” – i.e. doing nothing – or if they refused orders from higher ups to do something unreasonable, or if they wanted to join in a general strike, then OK give them a dozen apple fritters. If someone handed them our doughnut stash and said, “Thank you officers for protecting and serving us!” and threw up a peace sign…. I’d die watching that. Have some goddam self-respect.
Another occupation has opened up in Portland…
This occupation spot is called
R2D2 – Right 2 Dream Too
It’s a homeless encampment on an empty lot. It’s for the people in Portland who are constantly being evicted from their homeless camps all the time.
Solidarity from the Main Street occupation coming to show support for R2D2.
These are photos from the various other marches that have taken place since it began. There have been more than I can count.
– P.S. –
What is Pee Wee Herman doing here then?
I’m not sure what’s happening in the photo above. There have definitely been clashes and arrests, but I can’t say for what exactly. There have been numerous “incidents” and people getting picked out of a crowd type of thing. This is the Portland police strategy for Occupy Portland: bicycle cops use their bikes as weapons and shields, and they pick individual targets to single out. Compared to other cities the police have not been much of a problem for the occupation.
People like the idea of sitting in a big group and talking. The whole idea of group discussions is not “bad” — but there are people voicing concerns all over the place about the general assembly shortcomings. I think the best that an assembly can be is a place to share information, ideas, thoughts, projects, and open it up to new possibilities further, outside of the general assembly itself.
And marches keep happening…
And people are holding it down in the rain…
And continuing to critique capital…
And the future is unwritten…
To find out more check out the recently launched Portland anarchist news site called Grey Coast (A) News – there’s a section for Occupy Portland at the top and a broader perspectives. There’s an official Occupy Portland website for event info, notes, and releases. There’s a calendar of Occupy Portland events on Grey Coast (A) News. If you liked this music check out the music page for links and other music.