After a day in which the Portland Police Bureau, Mayor Sam Adams, and the Portland Police Association all had harsh words for Occupy Portland after Wednesday night's clusterfuck of a march spilled into eastside rush-hour traffic (and saw a bike cop pushed into a bus), Police Chief Mike Reese has decided to make a serious change in how his officers deal with marches: Riot gear must be at the ready for all officers, all the time. No exceptions.
According to a bureau-wide email obtained by KPTV and picked up by other media, Reese (a potential mayoral candidate who might have the ear of the anti-Occupy business community) told officers that they are all "on a national stage":
Because unpermitted marches pose a significant threat to marchers, police and motorists, incident commanders will have the authority to order appropriate action if marchers are not staying on sidewalks and obeying laws.
As we move forward, we must continue to be prepared. Due to the strain on patrol officers, I am ordering all sworn members to begin wearing their Class C uniforms and duty belts, effective Friday, November 4, 2011. All sworn members will have their gas mask, baton, and helmet immediately available. Exceptions require branch chief approval. All sworn members should be prepared to deploy with their required equipment in a timely manner. I am also reaching out to other agencies, asking for mutual aid agreements for this prolonged event.
Some at Occupy Portland are trying to frame Reese's order in less dire terms. Reid Parham, a media volunteer, was on Twitter afterward saying he didn't think this was grounds for a "raid" or "escalation," but rather simply a move to keep costs down and give a nod to the Portland Police Association. (And, maybe, you know, to help make a few more occupiers nervous enough to go home or start acting up.) I'm told that message was also broadcast to last night's general assembly meeting.
And, indeed, word about the new order came hours before police officials released a new and more detailed accounting of overtime costs associated with policing Occupy Portland: $208,796. The new figures even include some of the costs of the Jamison Square arrests, the Terry Schrunk Plaza arrests, and the march on Wednesday—with the caveat that those costs might go up as more officers submit their OT slips to be reimbursed. The last tally was $186,400 through October 23.
Not surprising, it seems the regular policing of the camps is what's been cheapest for the bureau, at least in terms of OT—with half of all that overtime coming on the first two days of Occupy Portland, when 10,000 people marched through the city and then when the camps at Chapman and Lownsdale were settled. The bureau told me this week that it's still working on accounting "straight time" costs—meaning how many cops have been pulled off regular-shift duties to help out.
If costs might be used as a lever to pry Occupy Portland out—something the president of the rank-and-file police union is arguing for—then these new numbers hold some promise for occupiers. It's not the day-to-day camp policing that's adding up so much. Instead, it's routinely been the haphazard, unpermitted marches. So how to keep costs down? Take up the mayor's suggestion and AT LEAST TELL HIM AND HIS STAFF WHERE AND WHEN PEOPLE WILL BE MARCHING. Or, you know, occupiers could even go one step beyonda and obtain free-speech permits for their rallies and marches, which are—hey!—free.
Some occupiers, meanwhile, issued a statement last night on the Occupy website disavowing what happened to the sergeant who was pushed during the march. They've got to be hoping it's not too little, too late.
On November 2nd, Occupy Portland participated with several other groups and organizations including Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, on a march through Portland in solidarity with the Oakland California general strike and in support of Marine Corps Veteran Scott Olsen who was critically injured when he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister shot by police in Oakland on Wednesday, October 26.
During the solidarity march, an individual previously unknown to the Occupy Portland encampment and who has had a criminal past according to news sources* allegedly shoved a Portland Oregon Police officer into a moving TriMet bus sustaining minor injuries. The individual responsible was subsequently arrested.
The Occupy Portland movement unequivocally condemns this event. and restates it absolute commitment to peaceful, non-violent action.
Occupy Portland movement has maintained an excellent working relationship with the City of Portland and the Portland Police Department and look forward to this continuing.