Occupy What Next?

Occupy Portland in Pioneer Square

Image by S.MiRK via Flickr

Recently I paid a visit to my local “Occupy” encampment.  I first wrote about the Occupy Movement in a previous post and   I wondered about the outcome of all this “occupying”. Now after some time has passed and the movement has gone on into full swing, I decided to go see what all the fuss was about.  Well, I should say that MM talked me into it.  He asked what kind of writer I was. To miss out on such an event?  He shamed and goaded me, then offered me a trip to Starbucks. THAT did it…. and before I knew it, we’re on our way.

Much has happened since this whole thing started here and all over the country, even the world.  

Occupy My Town

 Our local occupation consists of two city park blocks across the street from the courthouse.  There are an estimated 500+ people there.  There are two bathrooms.

By the time we got down to the occupation it was high noon, the sun beamed brightly giving the scene a sense of hopefulness.  It was like I was entering a moment in time that would forever be etched in my memory. I felt a great excitement to witness this exercise in freedom; This power of the people.  I felt alive and electric. 

Occupy Portland Image 32 jcj

 A row of shiny police motorcycles caught my attention and then it was the tents, so many of them in a big multi-color conglomerate.  Hand lettered signs everywhere, running the gambit of the highs and lows of cardboard communication. From telling me to vote “nobody” for president and take my money out of the “evil” bank,  to “We are the 99%” and Death to tyrants”.  Someone had even put up a picture of Teddy Kennedy next to one of Che Guevara

Occupy

Image by K. Kendall via Flickr

A man in a rainbow shirt welcomes us to the occupation. We smile hello and are greeted by a woman sitting on the ground, her wares spread out on a blanket beside her, selling beaded bracelets and bran muffins. Her sign proclaims her to be a student and not homeless.  I’m glad that she can clear this up. Later I see the relevance in the sign as we go deeper in.

It all reminds me of a bad Mad Max remake, but with a  dreadlocked D.J. providing  a glitter rock soundtrack. We skirt around the art tent and the first aid booth, with its free condom jar smiling proudly.  There is a lending library and a green  Medical marijuana tent next to a small one labeled “chill”.  A sign proclaims fortune-tellling and a local radio station has a booth, broadcasting live.  

Near the community “garden” there stands, most impressively, a food line, serving what one man exclaimed to be “good shit” around a statue of pioneers, now riddled with police tape and spices.  Someone has put up a sign  asking for dish-washing volunteers and they seem to have a handle on recycling and waste management.

In a way, I am impressed, there is some organization here.  It is good work to serve and feed the needy. But isn’t this supposed to be a protest?   Nobody really seems to be protesting anything, or advocating anything either, just occupying. 

Tent City

Image by kuow949 via Flickr

We reach the other side of the occupation in the adjacent park.This one is a bit more crowded and a lot raunchier.  A blue haired woman kisses a blond rat on her shoulder, while the “cute” tweaker couple in front of us fight over a cigarette.  A heavy-set  woman in a red dress puts a scarf over her head and screams “Starbucks!”  I smile and drift away, thinking of chai lattes.  M.M brings me back to reality when he points out the group of about 20 bikers laughing and partying in the midst of it all.

We obviously don’t belong here and it shows.  We look like total tourists. Most of the occupiers don’t seem to notice us and go about the business of “occupying” which apparently consists of sitting around smoking cigarettes, drinking and yelling out  random drunken nothings.  

 It finally dawns on me that the park is mostly filled with people who have no where else to go.  I saw the local media coverage of this phenomena, most of the people featured in the coverage of the marches and protests seemed to be from all walks of life. I guess those people went home because 99% of these people left here squatting in a public park in the middle of our downtown are obviously street people and the mentally ill. Some look  downright scary.  

I had heard of problems here.  A major uptake in crimes. Theft, damage, assaults, and rape.  Even with the police presence across the street, a certain lawlessness prevails. Seeing all this makes an impression on me.   

In a city that prides itself in weirdness, this wins hands down as one of the weirdest moments of all. But to what end?  Who will occupy what next?

Dare 2 Dream too homeless camp

I think about protests in the past and how this one is different.  It has become bigger than itself and  it’s taking us to a place of no return.  

 Occupy Reality

 The sentiment behind it all, the one that started it, is valid but it has grown into  a monster that lives on the backs of  well-meaning activists and YOU; the citizen and taxpayer.  This monster serves not equality and change, but chaos. These occupiers are setting a precedent that does not bode well for actual social and economic progress in the future.  I believe in the cause but I believe it does not justify the means.

To the occupiers I ask: To what end?

I hope more people don’t get hurt. 

      Stay Safe.             Strawberryindigo.

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18 thoughts on “Occupy What Next?

  1. Pingback: Mind the Gap–The One Hundred Percent | My Life In Color

  2. strawberryIndigo,

    I scanned your blog.
    I speed scanned the comments added to your blog.

    What next?

    Changing places: We already have rights to public areas. I think limited camping is good and legal. But we should take our cause to the places where it counts, and the people who need the message. Occupy the transition areas between the public roads and the private, (or more likely publicly funded but restricted,) entrances and exits to the one percent-ers gated communities!

    Occupy the gated communities of the 1%. We should station un-employed or under-employed 99%ers at the last public place near each gated community, the ones with the vanity gates. We should take pictures of the comings and goings; be there to talk about our message. Wish cleaning and maintenance people well, maybe with tax records of the properties inside, if anyone wants to talk about such.

    Regards, Cactusmitch

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      • We all seek to minimize unnecessary pain and suffering. The motivation for the Occupy Movement is based on a realization the pain and suffering are increasing as social stratification alienates growing portions of the population. Though it be gradual, the harm may well warrant increasingly bold actions.

        Courage!

        I mentioned your post and my comment to my county Democratic Party group.

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      • Have a message is first priority. Having a true message, (like showing how fuel economy goals are contra-productive, (see Jevon’s Paradox,)) is the place to start. Then the idea of surrounding, (occupying,) the enclaves of the 1-5%ers is the the biggest bang for the bucks we occupy sympathisers don’t have. It will get the attention that will be necessary to advance the movement. Read Eric Hoffer’s “True Believer,” a study of mass movements and for suggestions of groups to recrute.

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  3. Pingback: Occupy Standoff | My Life In Color

  4. Thanks for the first hand account of what’s going on inside one of these camps. I watched the extremes of live feeds from both Occupy Nashviille (where they spent several hours talking about how they were going to get arrested, only to get to the end of the 6 am curfew without incident) and Occupy Richmond, where tents and personal belongings were bulldozed and dumped into dump trucks. My question after watching for several hours was the same as yours. “To what end?”
    I too support the idea; sadly it seems that the message is being weakened and undermined by the actions and behaviour of some of the people involved. It certainly seemed to me that some of the people in Nashville were just sporting for a fight and hoping to get arrested. When one was asked for his reasons for being there, he completely avoided the question, which leaves one questioning whether he was there merely as a provocateur.

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    • Hello @Nouvelle Fille. Some interesting observations you made. It makes me think. In my city too, the occupiers are pushing the envelope. I don’t see how this is doing any good. Time will tell.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

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    • for a long time protest movements have been split between the “non-violence” tendency, who think they can bring down capitalism by holding hands, and the more action oriented “street-fighters” who think the state can be toppled by breaking a few windows. Funnily enough both tendencies find anarchists heavily represented.
      Neither is really an effective long term strategy but scuffling with the riot cops is certainly the more exciting option for young people

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      • @revrendhellfire: You make an observant and very valid point. It is unfortunate but money talks and all the screaming in the streets will not make any real or lasting change. It sounds naive but I think we have to work with the system to change it. Still I am holding out hope. Perhaps this all may inspire those with clearer heads to get involved.

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  5. This was an interesting experience to read about. Forgive me if I over-generalize and put you in too small a box with what I’m about to say. I only have your work here to go by, and you may be entering a period of consciousness-raising about what is occurring. You seem to be drawn to order and beauty, which you’ve shown here through lovely photographs.

    Sociopolitical movements that grow out of social injustice are ordinarily messy and chaotic. They are functioning via donations and they don’t have lobbyists. Local governments bulldoze the camps, steal their generators, and gas non-violent protesters. The occupy movement looks different in each city, and even differs day by day as manifestations address local issues, and as each group responds to tactics used against them. It’s exactly like the equal rights and anti-war movements I lived through in the 60s. It will be stinky and ugly and dangerous sometimes because poverty and a lack of hope does not always inspire the noblest response from people.

    This has come about because of great evils; enormous & unfair income disparities, the assumption that profit taking need not require risk or accountability, political gridlock and a refusal to address unfunded wars waged not for cause but in the interest of certain industries. You said it yourself when you wrote “these people have no where else to go”. There are more people every day who have no where to go, who did everything they were supposed to; veterans, children living with food insecurity, people foreclosed on who qualified for re-financing or adjustments, people whose retirement accounts were stolen, students whose loan debt equals a home purchase with no opportunity to use their education.

    I believe it’s going to keep changing shape for awhile. Re-assessing the basis of materialism in order to determine a more just balance between incentives, regulations and opportunities is no small or simple task.

    Thanks for writing something worth thinking about. I’ve posted a couple on these related topics too: http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/understanding-the-u-s-occupation/ and
    http://invisiblemikey.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/would-it-kill-ya/

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    • @ Invisible Mikey. Thanks for your insight and thoughtful comments. You add value to the discussion.

      Times are tough. We 99% are getting the raw end of the deal. There is no doubt to the validity of the sentiment behind the protests. But I think that the actions of a few zealots will set the stage for a confrontation that willl lead only to misery. The true message is being lost in this occupying. Hopefully all this will eventually lead to a more reasoned approach to the obvious unbalance of society.

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  6. You make some thoughtful observations, but I’m not sure I agree with them all. I live in the Bay Area, where some of the largest Occupy movements are going on. While some people might assume those protesting are unemployed, I don’t think that’s true. I know a lot of people who have set-up camp and leave to go to work and then come back. Other Occupiers are students, who have more flexible schedules. Most of the protests have been very peaceful, except when the police have gotten too extreme and violent. Like any large crowd of people though, some fights are bound to happen, but that doesn’t mean we should prevent any large crowds from gathering ever (like fairs, amusement parks, concerts, etc.).

    Like you, I don’t think most people know when the Occupy movement will end or what the specific goals are. I think it can be argued that some progress has already been made – people are more aware of the transgressions of big corporations and some of those corporations have begun to implement changes (like Bank of America reversing its decision to charge people to use their debit card).

    Will the Occupy movement take us to a place of no return? Maybe, and hopefully that place is a better place than where we’re at now.

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    • @Peas and Cougars. thank you for your comments. You make some valid points. However, Bank of America reversed its decision on charging for debit cards because of the people who were protesting with their money by taking it out or threatening to. Unfortunately it is money that talks in this society. That is why the 1% rules over the 99%, it is because they have all the money.

      I too hope that this takes us to a better place. Time will tell. But in order for real change to be made a dialoge must begin and the criminal activities must stop.

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  7. Excellent observations. Your story gave a very clear picture of the occupy movement. I see a movement that started with a distinct purpose of rallying for fairness, and protesting against big banks and Wall Street.. It is slowly becoming a movement of “no one really knows what’s being protested”. Keep up the good work.

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