Friday, December 02, 2011

Occupy Portland evolves

Tomorrow, Occupy Portland will choose a new home in a “park-like” setting.

The aim is to stay in the chosen city park for two weeks.

The two-week term limit is part of the broader evolution of the movement.

As a Quaker participant in the Faith/Spirit support committee for Occupy Portland, I was briefed this week on how the new Occupation will work.

“Sustainability” is clearly a new watch word. The old Occupy sites at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares weren’t sustainable for all kinds of reasons.

Indeed the movement has decided that no “Occupy” settlement that purports to be permanent will work.

So Occupy Portland will be migratory. Two weeks here, two weeks there....

That moves the message around the city. We could use it here in Hillsdale where Chase Bank wants to build a new branch that this community doesn't need and doesn’t want. (If you don't believe me come to the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association meeting, 7 p.m., next Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Watershed Building, Bertha Court and Capitol Highway.)

Another important evolutionary change in Occupy is that it isn’t going to tolerate hangers-on who contribute nothing — or trouble. People who are just loitering or worse drug dealing or thieving, will be confronted at first in a welcoming way.

Here’s the plan: An active Occupier will approach a questionable character.

“Hi there! Are you plugged in?”

“No, man.”

“Well, you need to get plugged in. How do you want to help? The kitchen? The sanitary crew? The information booth?”

“I don’t want to get ‘plugged in.’ Just leave me alone.”

At that point the first community member calls over another. “Hey, this person doesn’t want to be plugged into the community.”

“Hi, let’s get you plugged in! What do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to do anything.”

So yet another encampment member is called over, and then another...until the person is surrounded by a dozen Occupiers all insisting that the aimless interloper get “plugged in” in some way.

The process continues until the surrounded person agrees to be “plugged in” or leaves.

Clearly the Occupy movement is evolving and growing stronger and stronger, and smarter and smarter.

A related point:

There’s also been a lot of discussion and planning about leaving the parks as they were when the Occupy groups arrived. Pre-Occupy photos of the condition of the sites have been taken for reference.

Much has been made in the scolding Press of the cost of restoring the original parks at Chapman and Lownsdale. According to Portland Parks and Recreation it comes to about $130,000.

What did that money buy?

Try knowledge and awareness — at last. Mass public education and broad civic engagement.

Try a stronger democracy.

Try the beginning of breaking the stranglehold corporations and the wealthy have on our government.

Frankly, it’s cheap at a price and a fraction of a CEO’s salary. For comparison's sake, Jamie Dimon, Chase's CEO, is compensated to the tune of $19 million a year. What's he done for democracy lately besides buy a few members of congress with campaign contributions? Is Dimon really "worth" 146 times the "cost" of Occupy Portland's witness for justice.

If anything, Dimon and his like should pay the social costs of their wrongs. Talk about not being plugged in....

Will future Occupancies cost the taxpayers of this city money? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely...if we back this movement for an equitable and just society.

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