FRENZIED HOLIDAY SHOPPERS ended a days-long occupation last Friday, November 25, packing up tents outside stores like Gresham's Best Buy as doors opened for Black Friday sales.
Meanwhile, the comparatively ancient Occupy Portland group headed to the mall for its own special event: a Friday afternoon flash mob against consumerism.
Notably, for a movement recently marked by heavy-handed police, the anti-Black Friday mall protest went off smoothly. Despite the presence of mall security, the boisterous protest proceeded without incident (the same can't be said, sadly, for shoppers at a Walmart near Los Angeles, 20 of whom were pepper sprayed in one woman's quest for an Xbox).
At 2:30 pm, the second and third floors of Lloyd Center, above the ice rink, were full of people straining to look nonchalant. An awkward half hour passed before the scheduled protest finally started with a chant on the mall's second floor. The mob morphed into a march that paraded around the mall, distributing flyers and chanting, "Don't buy it, occupy it!" for nearly an hour. A second protest also sprang up in the mall: A group dubbed Buy More Stuff, and dressed as millionaires, encouraged shoppers to hurry up and spend their paychecks. They crossed paths with the Occupy march as both groups alternately engaged, entertained, confused, and irritated holiday shoppers.
Police departments around the country could take a cue for handling protests from the Lloyd Center security staff. The mall has taken heat in the past for its rough handling of protests—in 2009, a guard tackled and handcuffed a man protesting the mall's pet store ["Dog-Piled," News, Feb 12, 2009]. But on Friday, the security squad was completely hands off. Numerous officers watched the protest proceed through the mall and picked up the flyers activists left behind on tables and chairs. But no one was tackled, handcuffed, or asked to leave. Having made its point, the protest eventually dissipated calmly.
Lloyd Center General Manager Wanda Rosenbarger emailed a statement that the mall cops were simply following policy: "Our primary focus and responsibility at any given time is to maintain a safe environment for our shoppers, tenants, and employees while preventing disruptions." The mall's security operations manual forbids use of force to "resolve conflicts or disruptions."
Watch a video of the start of the Black Friday protest in the mall!