It was a strange end to a focused, intensively planned afternoon of benign mayhem in Portland—whose call-out to target members of the American Legislative Exchange Council echoed nationally and led to more arrests and more contention in cities (like New York and Los Angeles) where many more symbols of corporate power abound.
In all, Portland cops said, seven people were arrested here: Two were accused of climbing on/damaging a van outside the Verizon store on Broadway; two more were arrested away from the march in a protest at a Bank of America at NE 12th and Broadway; and three others were taken into custody after chaining themselves to the office of Paul Cosgrove, the state corporate co-chair for ALEC—the group the protest was targeting.
Really, after cops ceded the streets, with early blockades by bike and motorcycle officers quickly getting overwhelmed, there were just two flareups where things could have tilted. The first was outside the Justice Center when the Verizon van arrests were made, And the second was near the Wells Fargo tower, when a cruiser tried to turn into the crowd, got surrounded, and then needed mounted officers and, eventually, a small line of riot cops who merely stood by with their batons, to crack the car loose again.
But those seven arrests weren't the only ones I heard about yesterday. Two occupiers I spoke with at the end of the march, Dustin Hawks and Andre, said they were pinched a block from the house they were staying in near NE 42nd and Alberta Court. They said their house is an Occupy house—and not a squat house, like the kind that cops have been busting up recently—but that police have been keeping tabs on the place in recent weeks.
The morning of the march, they were listening to police scanner traffic and heard officers calling the house an "anarchist house" and counting who was leaving. After they left, they said, they were stopped, asked for ID, and then arrested and cited (according to the tickets they showed me) for the puzzling charge of "improper crossing on a highway."
Neither arrest was mentioned in the police statement. "It's an intimidation thing," Andre said. "That's all it is."
Occupy Portland's post-rally release:
Today Portlanders joined over seventy cities across the nation to target corporations and legislators involved in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Portland’s march - which included nearly 200 yellow “ALEC Exposed” umbrellas, many colorful banners and a 50 foot anti-corporate wave - visited offices of many ALEC members, including ExxonMobil, McDonalds, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Verizon, FedEx, Taco Bell, Walgreens, Shell, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Responding to a national call from Occupy Portland, this is the Occupy Movement’s largest coordinated action this year, confronting ALEC corporations in the cities in which they do business throughout the nation.
“We took action today to challenge ALEC, a group made up of the world’s largest corporations, as well as many state and federal politicians. ALEC writes legislation focused on amassing more profit for the wealthiest 1% at the expense of our communities,” said Nicholas Caleb of Occupy Portland.
The final action of the day was an occupation of the law offices of Lindsay, Hart, Neil & Weigler and Paul S. Cosgrove. Cosgrove is the state corporate co-chair for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Activists with the Animal Defense League made their way to the 34th floor of the Wells Fargo Center, chaining themselves together in Cosgrove’s office. Three members of the group were arrested.
“Paul S. Cosgrove, Oregon state corporate co-chair of ALEC, facilitates the creation of laws that systematically abuse animals trapped on factory farms, caged in laboratories and surviving in the wild,” says Courtney Eastman of Animal Defense League.
While the sit-in occurred on the 34th floor, members of We are Oregon and the Portland Central American Solidarity committee rallied against Wells Fargo’s lead role in home foreclosures and prison privatization.
“Wells Fargo more than quadrupled its annual spending on lobbying since the Great Recession began. I can tell you that money isn’t going to help struggling homeowners,” said Arelys Thompson, a member of We Are Oregon, which organized the assembled marches in a phone-in flash mob to Wells Fargo’s offices.
Nationally, actions against ALEC corporate members ranged from sit-ins and pickets to street theater. Some of the more creative actions included foreclosing on Citibank in Long Island, a “Corporate Debutant Ball” in Salt Lake City, UT, teach-ins in Norman, OK, Naples, FL, and Bryant Park, NY, and an Ice Cream Bloc in Oakland, CA. Three distribution centers of Wal-Mart were shut down in southern California, as well as the World Corporate Headquarters of Pfizer in Connecticut.
Portlanders gathered at 11:30 AM at SW Naito and Ankeny and marched between stops at nonviolent actions organized by some 15 social justice, environmental, and anti-capitalist groups. Many long-standing community groups, working under the banner “Portland Action Lab,” assisted in organizing the day, including Rising Tide, the Animal Defense League, We Are Oregon, Jobs with Justice, the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee.
ALEC is comprised of state and federal government legislators and many of America’s biggest corporations. In ALEC task-forces and committees, lobbyists work directly with legislators to draft and advance cookie-cutter “model” bills. According to ALEC’s figures, nearly 10% of state laws originate from their efforts. Wisconsin Act 10, attacking public employee unions, mirrors ALEC’s anti-union agenda and was introduced by Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC member from 1993-2002. Arizona’s widely criticized anti-immigrant legislation (SB1070) also has roots in ALEC model legislation.
“The decisions affecting our communities should be made democratically, not through a corrupt system that hides the influence of the very corporations that benefit at our expense. ALEC is representative of a failed system in which profit and greed are dominant over everything else,” said Kari Koch of Portland Action Lab.
The cops' full statement:
Today‚s F29 rally, march, and demonstrations were well facilitated, generally peaceful, and largely non-contentious. While today‚s events were promoted by organizers as peaceful demonstrations of free speech, some information obtained by the Police Bureau leading up to today‚s events had caused concern because it suggested that there would be large scale, possibly aggressive or violent, direct action resulting in significant disruptions in the downtown core. Luckily, that behavior did not materialize and concerns for safety and peace were largely relieved.
F29PDX organizers were in communication with the Mayor‚s Office in advance of today‚s events. Those conversations were informative and constructive, but neither led the organizers to obtain a permit nor provide a route for the march. However, for the first time, organizers arranged for a police liaison to communicate directly with the police during the protest. Police Commanders on the ground were able to effectively and continuously communicate with the liaison , which greatly helped with the facilitation of a safe route and a reduction of tensions throughout the march.
Additionally, there was less open hostility toward police compared to a recent "anti police brutality march." On one occasion during the march, event organizers helped to keep demonstrators moving and communicated repeatedly to the larger group that the police were not the problem ˆ that they were not there to demonstrate against the police.
At one point during the march, a police car was surrounded by aggressive demonstrators who would not allow for safe passage of the vehicle out of the demonstration. The officer in the vehicle attempted to use lights and horns to clear a path but was unsuccessful. Bicycle officers attempted to create a pathway for the police car to exit the crowd but were unsuccessful. The Mounted Patrol Unit then attempted to use Police horses to create a safe passage for the exit of the vehicle, but were resisted by demonstrators. Finally, crowd-control officers in riot gear were requested by the incident commander to help the police car back out of the area. After the police car was able to leave the middle of the demonstration, all of the officers ˆ bicycle officers, mounted patrol, and crowd-control officers ˆ backed off and allowed the march and demonstration to continue. There were no direct physical confrontations between police officers and demonstrators during that process.
Today‚s events did result in 7 arrests which were performed in a peaceful and respectful manner. In fact, most of the people that marched today were cooperative with police. Of the 7 arrested, two were arrested for vandalizing a vehicle along the route, two were arrested for trespass at the Bank of America at 12th and NE Broadway, and the remaining three were arrested on the 34th floor of the Wells Fargo Bank. The names of the people who were arrested will be released tomorrow. At this time, there are no reports of any injuries during the arrests that occurred.
We appreciate that the majority of demonstrators at the march were extremely cooperative and maintained a positive tone of civil disobedience. Today Occupy Portland and the Portland Police Bureau worked together to ensure a safe and mostly peaceful march for all.