Occupy moves on

occupy berlin

From its infancy the occupy movement has run the gambit of highs and lows of the human experience. The movement started in New York as a protest against the unbalance of wealth in our society and it has grown and morphed and spread all over the country and the world.

A movement born out of frustrations brought on by hard economic times mixed with vanishing natural resources, dwindling opportunity and the remains of a system once created for the common good that is now corrupted by the few and the powerful who put profits over everything else.

The American dream is slipping through the fingers of many Americans.  Our golden age is tarnishing. We the people have lost our way.

Occupy Portland March - 60
Image by merrick_monroe via Flickr

I believe this movement is only a beginning and it is a sign of more to come.  The events of late have truly surprised me and have caused me to re-evaluate my feelings on the Occupy movement more than once.

I  have always supported the ideals of the movement, in that there has never been any doubt in my mind. However, I have not always supported the means. This occupying has from day one struck me as unsustainable.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions and all the good reasons and high ideals cannot trump cold hard reality. These camps created by Occupy degraded into a health and safety hazard that cost our cities dearly at a time when city and state budgets are strained to the max. This occupying also cost the movement valuable credibility.

They showed why it is illegal for a group of people to take possession of a public park and just squat there indefinitely. No matter how worthy the cause, those ends do not justify that sort of means.

Night march through Portland
Image by K. Kendall via Flickr

In most places the cops have moved in and used a varying degree of force to retake the parks once occupied.  Every city is different and in my city, to my surprise, it was relatively peaceful thanks to all involved. The local police showed uncommon restraint and the protestors themselves seemed to police themselves in many instances.

The crowd, estimated to be 2-3 thousand, gasped as a fiery projectile thrown into a row of mounted police injuring one of them and causing him to be taken away during the eviction last Saturday.

The perpetrator was quickly pointed out by the crowd and the man was promptly taken down and arrested. Then in a move that surprised me, the police backed off and allowed the protestors to form a drum circle in the middle of the street, dancers in the hundreds surrounded the circle, cheered on by the overwhelming number of spectators.  A party atmosphere prevailed into the wee hours. There was a sense of unity shown that gave me a sense of long forgotten city pride.

I felt I had been a bit hasty in my predictions of doom and gloom but then I looked around and found the reaction in my city to be unusual.

Occupy Portland
Image by drburtoni via Flickr

The next day 50 people were arrested and the Occupy encampment was retaken by police.  A handful of protestors remained and helped clean up the disgusting mucky mess left behind in the two city parks held hostage in this all too human drama.  Many citizens came out to see the damage and confronted leftover protestors milling about  It seemed not everyone was happy with all the mess and the cost of the occupy.

Heated debates sprung out on street corners.   People that would have never spoken to each other before were voicing their varied but strong opinions,  exchanging ideas and solutions. Citizens were taking to each other instead of just ignoring.

occupy portland
Image by snap turtle via Flickr

By Monday, a press conference was held by what serves as our local occupy leadership fronted by youngish woman in a bright red cap.  She spoke eloquently as she demanded an apology from the mayor and the chief of police for the use of force during the eviction.  Tears welled in the eyes of a nearby protestor as the woman in the red cap spoke of a member of their group, a sign language translator who had apparently been hurt in the scuffle and was now in a wheelchair.

Evidence is sketchy on this and I have this natural inclination to believe the protestors  though I cannot say as I was not there. I have only seen what is claimed to be altered footage of the event.

When asked if they were planning on occupying any more parks, the spokesperson beamed a smile and said “no comment”.  I had hoped for a sign of leadership or a clear focus from the group.  They seem intent on continuing the movement and will not let anyone but themselves know exactly what they have planned.

On Tuesday, the protestors marched and invaded an upscale shopping mall.  On Wednesday,  they marched in solidarity with local university students protesting high tuition and an unfair treatment of school loans.  Today is dubbed “N 17” and a protest on the banks is planned. Events turn on a dime. Only time will tell how this all plays out and how history will view this phenomena.

A smart person once told me that revolutions can be messy and that all that mess makes people stand up and take notice. I have to agree.

It is  prompting us, forcing us  really to look at ourselves as a community of connected individuals who can all have a say in our collective future . This movement has opened a dialogue with ourselves, all 100% of us. It is a discussion that is long overdue and if we want any real and lasting change for the betterment of us all, we need to have it.  If this movement has achieved anything it is this and it is the most essential.

fire
Image by matthewvenn via Flickr

The Occupy movement has provided the spark. To succeed the spark must grow and for it to grow and become something formidable, it must kindle the fires by adding new converts with clearer heads who can focus the attention on key issues.  For this movement to move it needs the help of everyone.  It cannot afford to alienate.  There are many problems and the protestors have every right to be angry, but their anger and a lack of clear focus hurts the very cause most they and I support so very much.

Strawberryindigo.

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Occupy Standoff

It was only a matter of time  and  the local media is all abuzz. The too-white smiles and scared eyes of the local newscasters reporting live in front of a hostile crowd  tell the tale.  Tempers are high and people are nervous.  Down at the center of it all, our downtown and “Occupy Grand Central”.  A reluctant mayor, feeling the pressure given by  downtown businesses  concerned about the upcoming holiday season and the bottom line.  Drew his line in the sand and called out a warning to the local occupiers.  It was an ultimatum, really;  Get out by midnight Saturday or else. 

The protestors occupying two parks across the street from city hall have vowed to stay. They have sent out for reinforcements and witnesses from other occupy encampments in other cities.  They are making homemade weapons and shields.  They seem to be digging in and readying themselves for a fight. 

 

The stage has been set.  On one side; the occupiers. On the other; the establishment. Stuck in the middle;  The people.  The real  99%.  Victims of circumstance. People from all walks of life. Very human signs of these hard times. 

We decided to pay another visit  before time ran out on our local occupy. So MM and I went down there on this very overcast Saturday morning. 

We have been there before, earlier in the occupation.   I expected much of the same.  I could have not been more wrong.  The tarps and the tents looked the same but that was about it.  With the deadline looming; the people who could or would leave have left and what remain are the chronic homeless and mentally ill.   And with them remain an unhealthy cesspool of waste and filth. And mud, a foul-smelling gunk all over.  The stench is almost overpowering.  Wet garbage and clothing strewn about.  Food containers and human waste lie on the ground mixed with brilliant yellow autumn leaves.  I almost gag.  I want to leave. We go further in.

Gone is the D.J. and the music.  Gone is the library and medical tent.  The art tent is empty and the local radio station has withdrawn its booth.  The food service has dwindled.  The air of hopefulness is gone.  The unity is gone.  All that is left are the ugly remains. 

The tattered would be heroes.  Dirty, hungry and lost, smoking hand rolled cigarettes, huddled together, worn and wary.  A spirited few cheer on the others.  Pontificating and proclaiming to fight. 

 “This is my home.”  Says a young man in a red cap. 

 His friend, the one with droopy tired eyes, calls for “warriors.”

 

A good Samaritan has brought in coffee and a brown-haired girl with big innocent eyes passes out brownies, she looks about 8 or 9.  She is a sweet little thing and stands as a stark contrast to the mess around her.  As does the  teenage girl shivering in white shorts and flip-flops eating a  glazed twist and savoring every bite. Her dirty face looks sad and alone, I wonder where she’ll go? 

A despondent old man in a wheelchair sits forgotten and ignored, a scene erupts around him, involving a woman who is obviously distressed and upset.  She is almost in tears as she begs and pleads with some occupiers to use their energy for good and leave peacefully. A small crowd has formed aligned against her.  Her young daughter hides her face in her Mother’s warm and fashionable coat. 

Cops stand on the corners. Many of them have donned medical type masks. I suppose to keep from getting sick. I feel sorry for them.  They don’t want this.  I wonder what will happen tonight.  There is a certain queasy unease in the air that goes beyond the lack of sanitation.  I can see it their faces and in the faces of the ones with nowhere to go. Those are the ones I feel for the most.

Others have come to witness this. People here and there, like MM and I.  Some are taking pictures. Others have gathered at the parameters in twos and threes, whispering in an almost revered awe and shaking their heads in disgust.   I see surprise in some eyes.  I know the feeling. Whatever the dream, the dream is lying in a ditch by the side of the road.  It’s tired and hungry and it gets the feeling that no one is listening.

Many hand-lettered signs have been left behind and many of these have valid messages.  I think these people and many others in this country and really in the whole world feel they have no voice and that no one is listening.  The world is going to hell and we know it and there is nothing we can do. 

It seems hopeless.  Our problems are so huge and all the occupying in the world won’t change that.  It’s easy to sit here in my nice warm house tapping away on my nice white laptop and judge these people.  It’s also just as easy to  turn and look the other way.  But it is history we are witnessing here, right or wrong, good or bad.  

These people, those people….We the people. We are The People and we are all connected.  Whatever happens to the least of us happens to us all.  All 100%.

 These problems are not going away. Whatever happens on the streets of my city tonight, will not change anything.  It will only put an ugly face on a valid and much needed social movement. 

….And as the rain begins and  the darkness of night sets in across the city, I can’t help but wonder the outcome.  The deadline has been set and we are all watching and waiting……

Peace.

Strawberryindigo.

 

 

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.

We the People

Occupy Wallstreet 10-5-2011
Image by cisc1970 via Flickr

I have been watching with more than just a casual interest, the events unfolding in the streets of many cities across the United States.

It has been building for some time but this public vein has only just opened up recently, about three weeks or so ago, in New York City.

The Occupy Wall Street movement started there but it has spread like wildfire, now to my city as well as many others.  I’ve never  witnessed such a formation of people happen in such this way before.

I have heard many opinions on the phenomena, from television pundits, to neighbors and friends to the crackpots on the street corner.  Everyone has a take on it and everyone has it right on the money.  Again this is new to me, all this agreement.

We have much in common; We the people, We angry 99%.  The American dream, that long gone ideal that’s been shoved down our throats now seems like an impossibility. Our whole way of life is threatened and it’s like nothing will ever be the same.  We are on the losing end of a golden age and we can all feel it.

People are angry and confused.  They feel helpless.  All this marching, this “occupying” is at least something.  We elected a new president who promised us change.  We thought this new president would end the wars, we thought this new president would make us great again.  This new president is too much like the old president.

We elected him. As we have elected all the rest of them.  It is hard to swallow, but in that aspect we deserve them.  It is our system that elects those with the best sound bites and the most money.  It is the system we must change.

Marching will only get us so far, we all know.. but what else can we do?  We the People are at a crossroads and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I see it in the faces, the desperate faces from all walks of life, marching in solidarity. this is a powerful thing, this unity.  Knowing you are not the only one effected by all this decline, this decay. In this way I think that all the marching has been good for the collective national soul.

This movement is in its infancy and without leadership it may die a premature death.    Never before have I witnessed such potential power in a group of people.

It is a shame that this power has no leadership.  We are in search for a leader once again, We are searching for someone to represent us, to speak for us; We The People, and not just the 99% but all 100%.

I don’t know how this all will play out.  Only time will tell…..

…and that reminds me of this quote:

“Waste no time with revolutions that do not remove the causes of your complaints but simply change the faces of those in charge.”

Francesco Guicciardini (1530)

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

For more revolutionary quotes; go to my FRESH QUOTES page

Viva la revolution!   StrawberryIndigo.