What's Next for Occupy Portland?  

Protest Eviction Means New Lifeā€”and New Headaches

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ONE MORE WEEK, and Occupy Portland may not have needed a push from Mayor Sam Adams to pack up from Chapman and Lownsdale Squares and fade away.

Some of the camp's most committed activists had left, with others preparing to follow. The weather had turned. And the struggle of embracing, feeding, and policing dozens of Portland's neediest residents was taking a toll. But then? The mayor issued his eviction order on Thursday, November 10. That night, hundreds showed up for the general assembly. Then, on eviction eve, thousands of supporters flooded downtown—and days later, many were still coming back.

The camps may be gone, the parks entombed in chain-link fencing. But not the movement. Fueled by the police raid, and in solidarity with evictions across the country, it has clearly been reinvigorated after weeks of bad press and bureaucratic pressure—and now occupiers say they have Adams to thank.

"We were in the doldrums," says Micaiah Dutt, an Iraq War vet who's been at the camp since October 6. "Adams' timing was beautiful, he gave us a royal flush. He thought this would end us, now look where we are! This isn't a five-week camping trip anymore, this is real."

The question now: What's next?

The answer, judging by the dialogue at a 200-person general assembly on Monday, November 14, won't be easy to divine. The group lacks a central location and is grappling with questions of where and whether to reoccupy. It has also, as of Tuesday, November 15, broken off regular liaison talks with Adams' office and the Portland Police Bureau—demanding an apology for Sunday's sudden police raid and rough actions by some officers.

First up? Many occupiers—especially those without homes—want to camp again as soon as possible, at locations like Washington High School or in a foreclosed building. Dutt told the Mercury after Monday's meeting that some occupiers have firm plans to take at least three unrevealed locations within a week. For now, participants are staying at home, with members of downtown's First Unitarian Church, or in Waterfront Park.

But Reid Parham, an Occupy Portland media volunteer, isn't as focused on camping. The movement, he says, is stronger than a physical occupation. Committee members are still meeting or chatting online. There is talk of occupying official office space.

"I hope we continue to hold demonstrations but work beyond just that, incorporating the city, county, or even state," Parham says. "There are far too many naïve people involved. We need to reassess our goals."

Occupiers are also weighing some kind of state ballot measure, although time is running out before the December 5 deadline to file a draft with the Oregon Legislature.

Following this weekend's clash with riot cops, Occupy's city liaisons representatives read aloud an open letter announcing their resignation from the jobs on Tuesday in a "direct response to the deplorable police actions of this past weekend and your refusal to communicate clearly with us during that time."

Parham said police and city officials stopped their previously open communication with Occupy's liaisons the previous week.

"It was a power grab. It's unfortunate that the police spokespeople are now treating this as a war," Parham says, urging the bureau to work openly with the occupation, rather than "spreading rumors as if they were true."

Adams, speaking to the Mercury a day after praising the raid of Occupy Portland as "peaceful," acknowledged mistakes were made. But he says he won't apologize—even though he wants to keep meeting with Occupy liaisons.

"It's been five weeks and from what I can tell, two police and three protesters have been injured," he said. "That's amazing. I don't think we acted perfectly, but I don't think Occupy Portland should assume they were perfect either."

Already bracing for heavy budget cuts next year, Adams says that the city has already spent an extra $1 million in Occupy-related costs. Most of that, at least $750,000, involves police overtime. Adams—a vocal supporter of the Occupy Wall Street message—says he wants to help Occupy find focus.

"This is one of the largest and most peaceful protests in the nation. It's something to be proud of," he says.

Occupy's next planned action, however, may challenge that. As of press time, the movement was full steam ahead in joining key labor unions for a rally on the Steel Bridge on Thursday, November 17. The rally is expected to include a traffic-blocking occupation.

Reverend Kate Lore of Portland's First Unitarian Church has been working to school occupiers on the ways of nonviolence, because she expects police brutality. Lore, who has been working to house occupiers since the eviction and whose church has hosted many Occupy committee meetings, says clarity for Occupy's new movement is on the horizon.

"It's kind of like we have some November fog," she says. "There's something there behind it, but it takes some time to watch it emerge."

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