SO MUCH for Occupy Portland's hopes for a two-week reoccupation of the South Park Blocks.
Occupiers seemed to claim an early victory in their quest on Saturday, December 3. After dozens of aggressive riot cops arrested 19 people and cleared Shemanski Park in the South Park Blocks, occupiers regrouped by flooding the streets downtown, eventually surging back into the park for a dance party that lasted into the wee hours.
But by late Monday, December 5, after the reoccupation had dwindled to a few dozen or more campers, cops made them pack up their tents and booted them once and for all—Shemanski was empty. This might be Occupy's last official attempt to defy park curfews and city camping bans.
Whether to camp or not increasingly looms as a fault line for Occupy Portland, particularly as it works to maintain a sense of unity without a permanent base.
Earlier Monday night, occupiers formally voted to suspend attempts to set up further 24-hour occupations. Instead, any future reoccupations would hew to park hours. Essentially: If enough people aren't willing to actually hold a park after hours, why bother?
"If you want to have an occupation, you need to occupy," said Mary Nichols, who was at Shemanski on Monday morning, complaining that support had dwindled.
Some prominent occupiers insist that housing needs, and shelter for occupiers and others with no place to go, ought to remain a central part of the movement's message. They also insist that First Amendment concerns are paramount, and that curfews and parks rules are inherently opposed to free speech.
"We would all prefer to be comfortable and indoors, we are not doing this because it's fun to camp in a park in near-freezing temperatures," says a statement recently posted on the group's website. "We occupy to continue to have a dialogue with our community."
But others would rather settle for indoor office space—or daytime occupations. They say they'd rather focus on upcoming actions that hew closer to the movement's national aims, like a plan to shut down the Port of Portland on Monday, December 12, as part of an Occupy call that's gone out up and down the West Coast, and even into Texas.
They also point to events like a rally on Tuesday, December 6, at the home of a woman in Parkrose who vowed to be arrested before being evicted for a pending foreclosure.
"If you're camping and not engaging people with jobs, families, homes, etc., you are just having fun and preaching to the choir," occupier Justin Allen tweeted.
And even without the issues presented by a camp dynamic at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares that occupiers acknowledge quickly grew "overwhelming" amid health and safety concerns, it's sometimes been difficult for the movement to continue to define and police itself.
Managing Occupy's money, for example, remains a challenge. Amid the much-hyped dissolution of the movement's first finance committee in mid-October, one occupier eventually wound up refunding thousands in donations kept in his PayPal account.
Now occupiers are working on tracking thousands of dollars in cash donations left at the old camps. Curiously, of the more than $5,000 worth of receipts for expenses that have been provided, the Mercury has learned that close to $3,000 in donation money was spent on 500 ugly "Occupy Portland" T-shirts printed in Cincinnati, Ohio, and never approved by Occupy's general assembly. The shirts, languishing unwanted in the Chapman Square info tent, were handed out for free in the hours before last month's eviction.
A similar issue erupted when another occupier, Owen Sanders, approached the spending committee about a much smaller run of Occupy sweatshirts he'd recently had printed up, also without official approval. Further complicating matters, he'd also been canvassing on behalf of Occupy, hoping to recoup his costs but also to steer any profit back to Occupy.
"It can't represent Occupy Portland if Occupy Portland hasn't said it's okay," said Kip Silverman, a media volunteer and finance committee contact.
Silverman said details about an official fundraiser, and info about fundraising in general, will be posted on occupyportland.org this week.
"Anyone who's been solicited for money should check with the website first to determine if it's come through" an Occupy governing body, Silverman says.
Sanders, a camper since the first week of Occupy, says he took the initiative, spending his own cash to create a fundraising opportunity. (He also said the shirts were locally designed and printed, for just a few hundred dollars.) He also understands why other occupiers are sensitive.
"I plan to have everything I'm doing fully integrated," Sanders says.
The movement, meanwhile, hasn't totally given up on settling in for another long-term occupation. Attorneys working with the movement are still building a case for a restraining order that would keep the city from enforcing its camping ban.
Just moments after Shemanski was cleared, a law student from Lewis & Clark, Pamela Frazier, was on hand. She was urgent: "I need to talk to everybody all at once." And people listened. The road to any new camp may come through the courthouse.OCCUPY! ...AND OCCU-PIE!
Support the 99 percent, but not too psyched on camping? On Sunday, December 11, the Mercury and youth politics group Bus Project are teaming up to host a panel discussion about the future of the Occupy movement and what people can do to promote economic equality.
The discussion will focus on both individual change and collective action. Panelists from Occupy, local advocacy groups, media (including our own Denis C. Theriault), and city and national political representatives are signed up to help facilitate.
The event starts at 4 pm at the Cleaners at the Ace Hotel (403 SW 10th). Plus, best of all, it's sponsored by pie food cart Whiffies and Random Order Cofeehouse & Bakery, so... FREE PIE!