In an extraordinary display of patience and solidarity the stand-off between Occupy Portland and the Portland Police Bureau has thus remained peaceful. Preliminary reports speculated downtown streets were crowded with up to 5,000 supporters, many of whom were not residents of the Occupy Portland Encampment (which was ordered to vacate public parks by midnight last night). It was not the Tiananmen Square massacre the media blitz had prepared for all day.
Big media and its ability to control and spin information has been a bone of contention throughout Occupy protests. In an interview with Portland Police Lieutenant, Robert King, around 1am this morning a TV reporter relentlessly attempted to sensationalize the stand-off. Lieutenant King remained on-point with the message that protestors were in fact peaceful and had given no reason for anyone to believe the stand-off would escalate to violence. The reporter further provoked him by emphasizing that the deadline had passed yet there were still thousands of protestors present. The same question was asked over and over, the subtext of which was: Yes, but when will you start kicking them out? At what time will you force them to leave? How will you physically remove them? An unflappable Lieutenant King reiterated his belief that people would voluntarily vacate the area as the hours passed, the police would give them the space to do so and that they would remain generally peaceful. He was right. The city’s intention is not to stop Occupy Portland, but to merely end the encampment part of it and restore the parks to their original state. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this, but there was mention of several preventative actions the city took in the preceding days to ensure a peaceful transition. Another officer recounted two remarkable incidents he witnessed in the early hours. A policeman was struck and injured by a projectile from the crowd, but rather inciting a flashpoint for violence Occupiers pushed the man who threw the object to the open street where he was apparently taken away. Additionally, a scuffle erupted amongst two protestors who were immediately encircled by a crowd chanting, “Peace! Peace! Peace!” until the fight came to an end.
Currently the situation downtown remains tense, but non-violent as police remove the last of the hold-out shelters. The majority of Occupiers have willingly dismantled their tents and are working together to leave no trace. The city has provided dump trucks and there is still a strong police presence. In the coming days and weeks there will be an opportunity for solidarity in the park restoration effort. Occupiers are already talking about donating grass seeds and shrubbery to the parks which became encampments. Though the movement has not been without its challenges and distractions, overall it has been a success. I heartily commend both sides for exercising tolerance and restraint in the last twenty-four hours. I hope it remains peaceful.
To find out what’s next for Occupy Portland, view a live stream of the scene and support independent media visit their website. We have a voice. We can make a difference. Peace.