Eviction from parks mostly peaceful
By Mindy Cooper/ The Portland Observer
Despite their eviction from two downtown parks, Occupy Portland demonstrators have developed into a face of what democracy can look like while peacefully standing up for change.
A weekend confrontation, filled with thousands of protesters, ended on Sunday after the dismantling of the encampments at Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, which resulted in the arrest of more than 50 individuals.
The parks, which have served as a Portland home for a movement that originated with the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City, was cleared of both trash and people by Monday morning, yet spirits remain hopeful that the movement will continue to make real change in the future.
With signs that read: ‘I am non-violent’ and ‘Police, listen to your hearts’, the weekend crowds avoided riots by chanting ‘be polite’ and singing songs of solidarity. Candles were held sporadically in honor of the individuals who had camped out in the squares since Oct. 6.
Huddled together under an oak tree around 12:30 a.m. on Sunday in Chapman Square, two Occupy Portland demonstrators were an example of the protestors who waited to be arrested in their stance against economic injustices reflected in the top one percent of those who control most of the country’s wealth against the remaining 99 percent.
The couple, who wanted to remain anonymous, waited for the moment the officers would arrive and tell them to leave.
“We’ll be okay,” said the male. “We are doing this to show solidarity because others are not as brave to do it.”
Taylor Olfert, 18, took his stance under a tarp tent in Lownsdale Square. Throughout the weeks of the occupation, Olfert, along with others from the movement, chained themselves to each other to peacefully assemble.
“We’re sitting here to protect every one’s First Amendment rights,” he said.
Hundreds of other individuals gathered outside in the streets and on the sidewalks throughout the night, creating a line around the encampments to show solidarity with those who remained inside.
“So many people believe, but they don’t take action,” he said. “But action is the way. That is what has got to happen.”
According to Lt. Robert King, the public information officer for the Portland Police Bureau, those who were taken into custody made it very clear they would rather be arrested than leave the encampments. “Implicit by their actions, explicit by what they said, they wanted to be arrested, and they were,” he said.
King said, however, they wanted the confrontation to be a peaceful one.
“When you have hundreds of cops and thousands of people together like that there is the potential for large-scale confrontation,” he said. “And that didn’t happen. We are very grateful for that.”
Shortly before 5 a.m. on Sunday, an Occupy activist and leader climbed a tree and asked, “What is one more hour when we are seeking change indefinitely?”
Addressing the officers in full riot gear, she said, “Remember we are unarmed. We are the 99 percent. We are fighting for our families, our children and yours.”
“We are peaceful,” she said. “We hope you keep that in mind.”
Hundreds of police officers, which cost the city thousands of dollars in overtime for their services throughout the weekend, displayed a powerful show of force with night-sticks and tear gas, which was never used.
Although there are several opinions surrounding whether or not the parks are an appropriate place to occupy, there is a common consensus that the movement can’t be evicted as long as there are demands for economic reforms.
Before Saturday’s evacuation deadline, Jude Boatman, who has been down at Chapman Park since the beginning of the occupation, was ready to move on. She loaded a U-Haul with several objects, including tables, chairs, and tapestries. The furniture had been used for the information booth, and to make the park a more functional home.
“I have been camping here since the first day,” she said. Boatman and her husband were homeless before the occupation began, and now, she said they would return to sleeping in her car.
Although she wondered what actions the police were going to take, she said she felt optimistic.
“I don’t really mind losing the physicality of the place because this is going to keep going,” she said. “What we wanted to happen was to get people out in the open and connect with each other, and we totally have, and we will continue to do so.”
Other individuals within the movement agreed.
“It makes a political statement when you take what is yours back,” said Jenny Pepper, who has been living in a tent downtown for the past month.
Although she said she hoped people would show up to lock arms so individuals didn’t get evicted, she had been working all morning to pack up her belongings and move them to a safe and dry spot. “But we are going to be physically here,” she said. “Public or private, there will be a new spot.”