MAYBE YOU'VE HEARD. Occupy Portland is throwing a bit of a bash this Friday, January 13, in honor of what amounts to a pretty big step in its evolution: the occupation of some indoor organizing space—its first permanent home since its eviction from two city parks in November.
Which leads to a question: When a social movement throws a housewarming party, what are you supposed to bring? The answer is actually easier than it sounds.
Just bring yourself. Please.
The open house—at St. Francis Church, over at SE 12th and Oak (6-9 pm)—is Portland's best chance yet to reintroduce itself to the movement in its midst. And maybe do more than that. With Occupy still trying to figure itself out—is there really room for everyone under its activist umbrella?—it's an even better time to get involved and start shaping it.
No more braving the cold in downtown parks for long governing meetings. No more having to find scattered spaces around town to organize events. No more waiting until warmer weather for the ability to comfortably gather, socialize, and share ideas.
"It's a central place," said Alex Pio, a media liaison for the movement, who acknowledged, however, that walls and doors still represent a "barrier" just as much as wind and rain do.
And now, what was supposed to be a quiet time for Occupy is looking anything but. Occupy is planning a visit to Salem, for the start of the legislative session. There's a planned occupation of the courts. Occupiers are also fanning out into neighborhoods and planning local rallies.
Where do you fit in? How can you help? The Mercury has assembled a quick guide to Occupy Portland's working groups—they're the heart of the movement, and about way more than just camping.
BUILDING THE OCCUPATION
Policy Solutions Committee
It's billed as a "policy think tank," a forum where occupiers and allies can come together to brainstorm would-be ballot measures and policy changes. Or, better, a place where the seemingly inchoate ideals and goals of Occupy are molded and shaped into something that local and national politicians can grab and run with. This is one place where ideas currently making their way through Portland's political process—instant runoff voting and Mayor Sam Adams' resolution tackling corporate personhood—were first hashed out.
An incubator and communications hub for occupiers looking to plan direct actions: rallies, marches, and demonstrations. Less an operational planner, this committee is really more the place for occupiers to turn for conceptual assistance, advice, and resources. It's also tasked with keeping the movement, and the city, up to date on what's happening, through Occupy's wiki page and calendar.
Portland Action Lab
This is the group behind the November 17 "Occupy the Banks" day of action—the one that brought one of the strongest Occupy police crackdowns to date. Its planners stayed together and reorganized as the Portland Action Lab—and now they're planning a series of similar events for the new year. Among the biggest? Shut Down the Corporations on February 29. The Action Lab also serves as a nexus point for smaller groups of activists looking for help planning protests.
Formerly Occupy Portland's library team in Lownsdale Square. Our School is still doing that—bringing books and media to events and meetings and would-be occupations—and it's still hosting workshops and seminars on economics and nonviolence. But the name change also reflects the group's new mission: helping educate the rest of the community. It's working with the grassroots organizers to send panelists out to community groups and schools to spread the gospel of Occupy. It's also taken on the interesting goal of serving as Occupy Portland's living archive.
When Occupy was planning its short-lived "re-occupation" at Shemanski Park in early December, the women's caucus nearly sank the camp proposal by raising strong, legitimate concerns about unresolved safety issues. The caucus will likely keep bird-dogging that issue this spring, if and when there's another groundswell in support of a new camp. In the meantime, its members say they're "committed to making women's voices central in the Occupy movement, both here in Portland and beyond."
A place for activists who "look forward to alternative forms of post-capitalist economics and social relations." Not everyone in Occupy thinks our current system of government can be salvaged, and this is one of the groups that are openly planning for a communal future. That's not to say caucus members have shied from local issues. They have taken up arms over police accountability, helping flood recent city council meetings on changes to citizen oversight of police. They also have embraced Right 2 Dream Too, the homeless rest area at NW 4th and Burnside. Its meetings are open to anyone from any ideological background.
Occupy Portland Elder Council
In a movement of the 99 percent—but led and fueled, in practice, by the young—the Elder Council is a place where older activists have been gathering under the auspices of Occupy to plan and support actions that poke at Wall Street's outsized influence over politics. (They've even put out a call for baby boomers.)
Contact: Lauren Paulson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The United Performing Arts Collective
Forgive the funny acronym (TUPAC). These are the occupiers who bring music to marches, plan concerts, and help organize flash mobs. They're always looking for performers and graphic artists.
Contact: email@example.com, @pdxtupac
Occupy Portland, back in November, joined a hundreds-strong downtown march and rally that laid out demands for universal healthcare and included dark stories about the harsh costs imposed by our current for-profit health system. This committee, which meets weekly, remains focused on the fight for single-payer healthcare and serves as a link to statewide and national groups also advocating for a better healthcare system.
Contact: Tommy Murray, @tboypunk
SELLING THE OCCUPATION
Grassroots Organizing/Occupy Portland Assemblies
This group is looking for volunteers who can host panel discussions or help organize general assembly meetings throughout Portland's far-flung neighborhoods. The goal is not only to sell the movement to the working people it's trying to help, but also to get neighbors to plan their own direct actions—taking on local issues. To wit: Friday, January 13, Occupy St. Johns is helping neighbors rally against a planned 7-Eleven up on North Lombard. The group's panels also visit schools and community groups.
The Portland Occupier
Occupy Portland's online newspaper has been taking submissions for months, and is imminently going to hit print. Good writers, capable editors, and people with opinions—maybe even writers who don't see eye to eye with the movement or its tactics—are encouraged to get in touch.
Contact: Adam Rothstein, firstname.lastname@example.org
Filmmakers with the "the goal of kicking the one percent square in the, well, you know where!"—this group has produced dozens of short films. Initially the shorts mostly depicted life at the old Occupy camps—but lately they've been focused more on spreading the movement's economic message.
Contact: email@example.com; @OccupyPDXMedia
Why follow Occupy on Twitter when you can watch it live, with helpful narration? The livestream crew hosts monthly open meetings hoping to recruit volunteers, technicians, and donors who can keep their nonstop broadcasts of Occupy events and meetings up and running. Maybe you'll be the next occupier to help interview Mayor Sam Adams?
Portland is filthy with graphic designers, some of whom might even qualify as "professionals." Occupy's Design Collective is always looking for new hands to help design flyers and T-shirts.
SUPPORTING THE OCCUPATION
Financial management, in the early days of Occupy Portland, was something of a sensitive subject. There were questions about donations not showing up or being refunded, and some occupiers were never comfortable with the idea of collecting cash in the first place. If you've ever thought about sending money to Occupy, but worried what would happen to it, this might be a good committee to observe or even join. Its members track and publicize all Occupy donations, including those for specific projects like helping with the restoration of Chapman and Lownsdale Squares.
The other side of the cash-management coin. The spending committee was cleaved from the finance committee months ago to put a little distance between those collecting the cash and those charged with giving it out. Members of this committee track and approve the movement's expenses, including weighing in on individual occupiers' spending proposals.
Contact: Carrie Medina, 503-369-8731
The thriving kitchen at Chapman Square, with chow lines stretching dozens deep during mealtimes, is now just a memory. This unit has been described as more of a "sleeper cell" now—but occupiers are still working to line up donations, prepare food, and then port it to Occupy events and actions whenever they can.
Medical/Peace and Safety
The medics also are technically "on call," these days. But people with first aid and other medical expertise are always welcome during big marches and events—especially if there's a chance of pepper spray or worse in the forecast. Peace and safety, charged with keeping Occupy events safe and secure, also meets monthly and is open to volunteers