From The Oregonian.
After finding a following, Occupy needs a plan
Along Main Street on Sunday afternoon, Lyndsay, a University of Oregon graduate running a small nonprofit and a small business, worked her way through the crowd, reaching into a Wonder Bread bag of wrapped sandwiches and telling people they had to keep their strength up.
She even offered one to a pushy reporter asking what she was doing there.
“I’ve been here since Week One,” she explained, not in tent residence but showing up with support, such as sandwiches. “There’s nothing more important I could be doing.”
Then she joined one of the gathering’s frequent “mic checks,” when one woman with a green hat and a bullhorn would call out, “We are peaceful people,” and people would repeat in unison, “We are peaceful people.”
Watching TV Sunday afternoon, you could have thought that Main Street next to the Portland Building was besieged by a dangerous mob, ready at any point to strip the Portlandia statue of its trident to begin sacking and pillaging.
But the crowd in the street featured a thick streak of calm, employed Portlanders, showing up to show support rather than inhale tear gas. Occupy Portland had come to the end of the usefulness of the occupation strategy, and badly needed to devise a new one, but it filled Main Street on Sunday with a strikingly good-humored set of dangerous anarchists.
“We were just two middle-aged people watching this on TV,” explained Barry, standing on the curb with his wife. “We had to come out, and give some numerical support.”
Wyndra Eyes, holding a dog that looked as though it could snack on a tear gas shell, stood toward the back so her friend without the dog could be up front. It just seemed the right place to be.
“We got a call at 4 in the morning,” she said. “I’m here because people have got to stand up for what they believe in. I think we’re going to grow in numbers.”
Soon afterward, the police, whose strategy was always more about out-waiting than about tear gas, gave their last this-time-we-really-mean-it warning and stood down, and the people in the street held a general assembly and moved off to Pioneer Courthouse Square, where despite breathless concerns they did not move to permanently occupy the fountains.
Sunday, Occupy Portland was liberated from a tent city that had become more of a burden than a statement, separated from a homeless population that was sapping rather than bolstering the protest posture. Occupy Portland wasn’t the only encampment facing this problem.
“The other side is owning the narrative right now,” Kalle Lasn, the editor-in-chief of Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that set off the movement, told The Guardian. “People are talking about drugs and criminals at (Occupy Wall Street).
“Why not, as a grand gesture, declare victory,” and go home?
There is, after all, a victory to be declared, before it gets buried in sanitation concerns.
“I think it’s magnificent that the kids have changed the debate in this country,” observed Greg Kafoury, a local lawyer on the left. “They’re focusing on the big questions, who benefits, who pays, why can’t people get decent jobs. We’re on the brink of having a real political debate, instead of the fake debate we’ve been having.”
The tents were a tactic, not a terminal. The point now isn’t to find a new place to camp, but a new way to make the point, to reach out. That could require some focus, some strategies and maybe even some leaders.
Sunday afternoon, two Portland State students, Daniel Dreier and Sam Smith, were displaying a cartoon proposal for moving into the neighborhoods, for urging neighbors to get together to talk about their issues and what they wanted from their government. A movement out to re-create American politics would probably have to move in many directions like that.
The next steps need close consideration.
Maybe over a sandwich.
David Sarasohn, associate editor, can be reached at 503-221-8523 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See other writing at oregonlive.com/sarasohn/