As Alex Z. posted right below, one of the many things that has stood out in Portland's occupation, compared to those in other cities, has been the encouraging response by its police commissioner, Mayor Sam Adams.
So the Mercury this afternoon obtained a week's worth of emails exchanged among the mayor's staff and other city officials that shed some light on how the mayor's response evolved—and what his priorities were, behind the scenes—as tension and questions mounted over yesterday's rally and today's ongoing camp drama in Chapman Square. (Read them here, here, here, and here.)
One thing is very clear: Even before this week, the mayor was paying rapt attention to the challenges that an Occupy Portland event might pose. Staffers in other city offices, like parks and police, were asked to report on their contacts with organizers on whether there would be a permit for the march yesterday or not. Reports also came in after the general assembly meeting Tuesday in which it was decided there would not be a permit. And staffers were monitoring march route possibilities even as police were saying they had no such information.
Adams' staff this week also compiled news accounts and statistics for other Occupy events nationwide. Seattle's example—which featured arrests, but then an offer to camp outside city hall—was particularly noted. As was Los Angeles'—where the city council toured a site much like some Portland commissioners did today.
The emails don't mention whether the office purposely steered marchers to Chapman Square on the eve of the Portland Marathon. But it did show, that as the deadline for the marathon to take over the space came and went today, the mayor's office, responding to community outcry and calls from Occupy organizers, also took the lead in trying to set up a compromise.
But one email from Adams really stood out. It came Monday morning, and it was an urging of sorts to the police bureau's acting chief, Eric Hendricks—that seems to have set the tone Adams has maintained even in his public communications. Adams sent it after sending himself a link to the Occupy website apparently as a reminder.
The emails also reveal that his office, despite eventually allowing the campers to set up in Chapman and Lownsdale squares last night, really didn't want them to camp in those parks, or any park at all. An email exchange between Adams' chief of staff, deputy chief, and spokeswoman over the wording of a statement at one point raised the idea of "other locations"—which sources say likely refers to Portland City Hall, given the staff's close watching of Seattle.
In the end, a desire to avoid the kind of bad press and arrests in other cities, as well as the kind of bad press Portland cops have earned after previous protests nearly a decade ago, won out.
That concern over the substance of the city's comments continued through this afternoon. A release sent out by the police bureau earlier today was edited, for example, for the sake of "nuance." Sliced out by the final draft was a line that said the police would enforce "all laws" during the open-ended occupation of Chapman Square.
His office this morning also sent a note to the police bureau's two spokesmen lauding their handling of the "messaging" surrounding the event thus far.
• The mayor's office insisted, back when there were rumors the camp would alight on Waterfront Park, that the sprinklers for the winter-long re-seeding of the park not be turned on.
• Nick Fish, as parks bureau commissioner, declined to get on board with the mayor's statements, deciding that the mayor should have precedence as police commissioner.
• Adams' office was concerned enough about bathroom conditions at the camp to be looped in on maintenance issues.