A YEAR AND A HALF after a series of police sweeps nationwide largely cleared out the oddball camps that gave the Occupy movement its name, it's tempting to consider any postmortems about what exactly happened, and why, the stuff of ancient history.
The movement itself has long moved past questions about whether it even needs the symbolism of a public campsite. And "occupying" has led to dozens of other efforts—like the robust and ongoing defense of homeowners defying eviction orders by remaining in foreclosed property or vigils like the camping-ban protest outside Portland City Hall or the thousands-strong march against Monsanto this past Saturday, May 25, around Lloyd Center.
It's good to look ahead. It's also worth looking back. Because new documents about the evictions keep bubbling out—thanks to a few people who decided it was worth the long legal fight—and they get closer to answering whether what happened across the country in fall 2011 was the result of a government plan.
Reality, as revealed in Occupy emails obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, increasingly falls short of that conspiratorial mark. But what has leaked out—including what's inside dozens of pages focused on Occupy Portland released just this month—is still both disturbing and occasionally amusing.
• Taking notes! The Occupy camps in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares, and protests around downtown, occasionally flashed on the federal radar. Chapman is across SW Madison from federally owned Terry Schrunk Plaza and catty-corner to the city's federal building, under construction at the time. But the feds didn't pay rapt attention until tents went up in Schrunk in late October 2011. They cleared them once, then let them stay—and watched like a hawk, starting a daily update by November.
• The buildup! The path to eviction started in mid-October. Federal emails show unnamed employees noting an outcry from the business community and cops on October 21 to shut the camps. The feds later blamed businesses—and their threat to sue—for the city's actual eviction announcement in November.
The emails also suggest that the Portland Police Bureau's routine email blasts of Occupy-related crime and mayhem served to publicly bolster the cops' private argument for eviction. Reports of a firebomb attack nearby didn't help.
• The eviction! Despite setting a deadline of Saturday, November 12, 2011, for everyone to scoot, the city was secretly prepared to wait until next Tuesday, November 15, if necessary. But the numbers thinned enough by Sunday, November 13, that planning meetings for November 15 were cancelled and the eviction happened as we remember it.
• The fences! Post-eviction, all three parks were fenced for weeks. But that, it turns out, was a source of conflict. The feds were ambivalent at best about fencing their park. The city begged them to reconsider. The feds deliberated—and then the city fenced the park anyway. It touched, as the emails say, a "nerve."
The feds like to be in charge, not the other way around.