Assassination by Media? 

Occupy Portland: News Alerts Undermine Our Message

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ARE PORTLAND OFFICIALS stealthily building a case for ousting Occupy Portland?

The Portland Police Bureau and Mayor Sam Adams' office were both insisting, as of press time Tuesday, October 25, that the answer is no. No firm timelines were in place for booting occupiers from downtown's Chapman and Lownsdale Squares.

But curiously, just days after Mayor Adams stood before a phalanx of reporters on Thursday, October 20, and promised that the camps could stay—so long as the occupiers behaved—the Portland Police Bureau has steadily ramped up news alerts about each and every incident reported at the camp.

Some were tangential. One release involved crime statistics that even bureau officials, talking to KPTV, acknowledged weren't statistically sound. Then came a decision on Tuesday to begin releasing unfiltered incident logs.

The change raised eyebrows among some occupiers. But police spokesman Lieutenant Robert King blamed the media for the change in policy—especially TV and radio reporters.

"If I wasn't getting the requests," he says, "I wouldn't be giving this information out every day. We're not tying the release of information to any long-term strategy."

Meanwhile, the occupiers, who are about to begin their fourth week of protesting and living in tents, are consciously trying to reemphasize their original message of economic justice and move past the distractions of daily crime reports. More marches and classes are in the works, and the camp's media machine has grown more sophisticated. They even directly challenged news reporters to elevate their coverage of the movement.

Still, city officials are keeping a close watch.

Emails obtained from Mayor Adams' office reveal that city officials—not just maintenance workers—are regularly walking through the campsites and attending general assemblies, reporting back on sanitation concerns and rumors about discontent.

The intelligence-gathering comes as business leaders and foes of the Occupy movement gripe that the camps have increasingly become a haven for homeless Portlanders, addicts and the mentally ill.

"People say this is the problem with the movement," says occuper Chapman Clark, a 30-year-old nonprofit manager at Portland State. "But that's the reason for the movement."

Since Adams' press conference, given just before he left for a 10-day trip to Asia, a growing number of cities that had tolerated long-term occupations have decided to shut camps down. In the case of Oakland, California, well-armed riot cops announced that decision.

Interestingly, the occupiers themselves could be the ones who decide to go. Also on Tuesday, the Mercury learned of a proposal, purportedly by the camp's frustrated peacekeeping committee, to vacate the camps by November 5 in favor of private space. That came a day after occupiers voted to march into the Pearl on Saturday, October 29, in hopes of expanding to Jamison Square.

That also could spark confrontation. Says Adams' spokeswoman, Amy Ruiz: "The mayor has been clear: All parks rules are in effect at all other parks."

Upcoming at Occupy Portland

PATRIOTIC SING-ALONG—Friday, October 28, at noon, Pink Martini and Storm Large hope to fill Pioneer Courthouse Square with Occupy folks and friends for a sing-along of songs like "This Land Is Your Land." Plus: speeches by politicos like Earl Blumenauer.

BANK ACTION—On Saturday, October 29, the protesters are set for some sort of direct action at Bank of America. We're not sure what's going to happen—handcuffs? Ceaseless drumming?—but people are meeting at SW 1st Morrison at 11:30 am.

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