Another powerful essay has emerged, this time over at the Guardian, raising the idea that this month's wave of Occupy crackdowns was coordinated nationally and designed to continue to obscure some of the Occupy movement's real message and aims: stricter financial regulations, pulling corrupting amounts of money from politics, etc.
The discussion centers on the timing of, and tactics used in, raids in various cities (in particular, a cluster of them starting the weekend before last, including in Portland) and confirmation that the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the national Police Executive Research Forum had been convening conference calls of city officials nationwide.
The question: If there was coordination, did Portland play a role?
Consider the following email sent to Mayor Sam Adams' office, obtained by the Mercury this week as part of an ongoing Occupy-related public records request. A few hours before the official announcement that Occupy Portland's encampment would soon be evicted, a spokesman for the federal General Services Administration, part of the Department of Homeland Security, made a clear reference to "upcoming police activities." This, of course, was also before news outlets blasted to the world what Adams had decided.
Adams' office has previously rejected the idea that our crackdown was planned alongside others, saying that the most widely reported conference call, involving a dozen and a half mayors on November 10, was more like a "therapy session" than a strategy huddle. (Interestingly, that call also came several hours after Adams announced Occupy Portland's impending eviction.)
But at the same time, Adams' office also tells me there are neither notes nor transcriptions nor recordings of that call—or any call like it, among the half-dozen or so that the mayor's office and police bureau acknowledge joining.
So—given the curious wording of the feds' email—was something, actually, afoot?
Amy Ruiz, Adams' spokeswoman, still says no. She tells me the feds did know that a police eviction was one possibility in the run-up to Adams' announcement—and that they were just speculating on the possibility of a police eviction, like most of Portland also did beforehand. Ruiz stressed that the feds had to be involved. Because, unlike in most other cities, occupiers here also had set up tents and locked themselves to a barrel on federally owned land, Terry D. Schrunk Plaza.
Ruiz pointed me to an email sent back to the feds in which she said, because the announcement was so tight-lipped, she may not have time to send back talking points and told the feds to watch KGW's live feed for more immediate news of Adams' decision.
But the specificity of GSA spokesman Bob Davis' words is extremely interesting. (Davis did not return a call seeking comment this week.) And emails show that Deputy City Attorney David Woboril was working on a draft of an eviction statement the afternoon before—an indication the path had been mostly decided on well ahead of Adams' press conference and could have been communicated. (Ruiz replies that this draft was only one that Woboril was working on while while the mayor made up his mind. )
There is another line of thinking out there that runs directly counter to the federal-coordination theory: Ruiz wouldn't comment on this, but one well-placed city source said, in fact, that the feds were mostly inclined to leave Schrunk Plaza open. It was city officials who cajoled them into getting on board—lest they watch most of Occupy's camp merely move several hundred feet south onto federal land. Which would have been awkward for the city. But also interesting.
And, as for talk of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force being on call? I'm told by the police bureau that Chief Mike Reese and his officers, months after submitting their applications, have yet to be cleared for the "top secret" clearance that would have put them at the table for any such discussions.
But all the same, because of the scrutiny, Ruiz and police spokesman Sergeant Pete Simpson both decided to compile an informal list of any national or regional calls involving mayoral or police employees, according to emails. That list wasn't included in the emails—but Ruiz and Simpson both shared their respective pieces of it in subsequent interviews.
Beyond the November 10 call by U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCOM) involving Adams, Adams' chief of staff, Warren Jimenez, and his deputy chief, Jennifer Yocom, represented him in another USCOM call back on October 13. They also did the same in a November 7 call with officials from Seattle and Eugene.
The emails show a summary from a third USCOM call, on November 16, but Ruiz said no one from the office joined it. I include a snapshot of it, because it hints at the kind of information shared and gathered in the previous calls. USCOM also still wants cities to submit information to a survey they're conducing on Occupy responses.
On the cops' side, Simpson said officials joined two conference calls with the Police Executive Research Forum, on October 11 and November 4. He said cops started sharing information on issues involving homelessness during the first call. But by the second call, after some cities tried and failed to permanently rip down Occupy encampments, discussion had also turned to tactics.
And many of those tips—gleaned in the days before the police bureau began updating its weeks-old eviction action plan—wound up showing themselves in the show of force, the timing, and other techniques used in Portland's November 12-13 eviction. It's entirely possible police offiicials didn't need help from the feds to all get on the same page.
"We talked about what worked, and what didn't," Simpson says. The lessons he says the bureau gleaned? Setting a deadline and moving in right at the appointed time was "surely going to cause a confrontation." And, then, after a site had been cleared, "it needed to be secure and fenced, otherwise people would return."