A proposal to expand Occupy Portland from Chapman and Lownsdale squares and set up a branch in the gentrified Pearl District—in Jamison Square—is apparently in the works, the Mercury has learned, after the group's consensus-driven general assembly approved the proposal during a meeting last night.
Jordan LeDoux, a media representative for the occupiers, confirmed the decision and said notes from the meeting would soon be posted on Occupy Portland's website.
We had one of our interns, Suzette Smith, on hand last night and she told me this afternoon that the expansion would be more about "testing the water" than fully committing to expansion. After a march planned for noon on Saturday, October 29, occupiers will head into the Pearl around 4 pm with sleeping bags, but not tents, Suzette says.
She summed up the discussion in an email:
As I assume you know, there's been some weirdness in the Occupy camp between people who want to abuse alcohol/drugs and people who want to not do that so much. The guy who put forth the proposal said that Jamison Square would be a place where people who didn't want to be involved with the substance abuse problems could go, also an answer to overcrowding, also for the people who were recently displaced by fire lanes.
The proposal passed despite concerns that Jamison Square is not as symbolic a spot as the current location (although they aren't leaving, just expanding), concerns that it's just surrounded by rich people, and that it's in a residential neighborhood so it wouldn't be able to grow much. One woman said she thought that if the people who lived surrounding Jamison Square could see a "clean, well-ordered camp" they would feel encouraged to join Occupy.
I'm not sure the welcome mat would roll out from the condos surrounding the park no matter how orderly a camp might be. Remember, neighbors had a hard time accepting a Portland Loo in their midst (although they later came to like having one in the park.)
I asked Mayor Sam Adams' office about its response—remembering that the mayor clearly said location was among the reasons he's blessed the current camps.
"The mayor has been clear: All parks rules are in effect at all other parks," said Adams' spokeswoman, Amy Ruiz, refusing to get into "what-ifs," a frequent refrain from Adams' office, and noting that there's still no timeline in place to end the occupation. "Police are reminding people that the rules we currently aren't enforcing [at Chapman and Lownsdale squares], that's not going to be the case at any other parks."