The Portland Police Bureau, taking the initiative in what could become a public relations battle over the protests, issued a statement last night strongly encouraging the group to obtain a permit. But the matter won't be settled until tonight, says organizer Viani Rivier, when Occupy Portland's general assembly, with some 200-300 people expected to show up, meets at Waterfront Park at the foot of SW Ankeny. As for how the group will decide?
"There's a 50 percent chance that will happen," Rivier says. "It's a direct democracy. We give everybody input and go from there. The organizers are not the leaders. We're not pushing any centrist agenda. We're calling for a collaborative agenda to emerge out of consensus."
The group, however, is taking relations with the police very seriously. Last night, in the dry oasis beneath the Burnside Bridge, attorney Kenneth Kreuscher led a workshop called "Know Your Rights," telling participants to be respectful and eschew violence but also to be wary of talking with police officers who can be "tricky." He also told participants how to manage any contact with cops if they can't avoid it in the first place—shut up, demand an attorney, and loudly refuse to consent to a search.
One uniformed officer was on hand to watch the event, Lieutenant John Brooks of East Precinct. "I'm sort of a liaison," Brooks told me when I introduced myself, adding that the bureau, as he put it, wants to make sure the protesters can express themselves peacefully. I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't a few non-uniformed officers also quietly watching in the crowd.
Rivier says she's been in touch with Officer Scott Johnson to talk about Occupy Portland's potentially complicated relationship with police officers.
"He's concerned about the 1 or 2 percent out of the crowd that may be more driven to express themselves violentely—and we are, too," she says.
Rivier says the organizers have asked for volunteers among the group to join peacebuilding and safety committees, with classes and videos offered on how to keep cool. And there may be a dozen or more volunteers who will wear "identifiable" clothing and help internally manage crime or violence.
"The main thrust is peace in each step," she says. "Even so we're prepared to deal with and educate and really crate bridges for people."
Here's the cops' full statement from last night:
Initial efforts are aimed at assisting the group in obtaining a permit for the event. The permit provides for a coordinated set of guidelines. The guidelines spell out the route, authorizing event participants to lawfully be in the street and it is designed to ensure the safe flow of all traffic in the downtown core. Experience has show that working with organizers on obtaining a permit makes the event more collaborative which increases the overall success of the event for everyone.
We are committed to vigorously pursuing the goal of allowing participants to express their view which is there free speech right. Our overall objective is to take all appropriate action to help make this event happen in a way that is safe for participants and the general public alike. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with 'Occupy Portland' to ensure a safe event for everyone.
Rivier says Occupy Portland means it when they use the word "occupy," though.
"I know that this isn't just a protest march. It's much bigger. We're about a movement," she says. "We're not going home at 2 o'clock. Portland will be occupied. That is our vision. That's what we're going to do. We are unstoppable."