It would so much easier if the world just laid itself out at my feet with people wearing black hats & white hats. This way I could just sort out the bad guys from the good guys and move through my day unscathed. Alas, it's not that way for me.
Within this context: enter Occupy Portland. This is something I could get behind from the beginning. These are a group of people that are tired and pissed off about the fact that a bunch of banks and Wall Street types set us up for the long con. A con resulting in a massive economic meltdown for vast numbers of Americans. The anger at the arrogance of those in positions of power lying and stealing and cheating the rest of us--all without arrests or recompense is appropriate and entirely justified. And to add insult to injury, we taxpayers bailed out these fiends without any strings attached to the checks our lawmakers decided to send them.
Occupy carries on the long tradition of civil disobedience in this country. Ironically they're much like the real and original Boston Tea Party, whose members rebelled not only against an arrogant government, but against a corporation that ran roughshod over the people: The East India Company. The current group that's taken on the Tea Party name bears little resemblance to this band who flung tea into Boston Harbor. In fact many of their population, based on what I've seen and read, spent the time to date belittling the Occupy movement--complaining about dirty hippies daring to speak up. Unsurprisingly, the roots of their namesake has been lost on them, the repercussions of buying into their own jingoism.
And so the camp was formed in downtown Portland. A sit-in that offered no list of specific demands in order to vacate. They just wanted to be heard by those who had consistently turned a deaf ear.
But as the days turned into weeks, things began to transform in the camp. Occupy Portland became a refuge for many of the 2000+ homeless persons in Portland's inner city. They were attracted by free food, blankets, kindness and some unreserved acceptance. Jason Renaud of The Mental Health Association of Portland was a frequent visitor to the camp. He told me that he continued to visit because he received daily requests from various Occupy Portland organizers for training, intervention, navigation.
"Our chronically homeless are for the most part untreated and un-treatable by the City and County's underfunded social service system," Renaud said. "They have been literally abandoned to the elements. Any open door is better than a wet and windy doorway. And Occupy Portland found them annoying and demoralizing and wanted them gone."
Renaud went on to say that Occupy Portland also contacted County mental health agencies and County bureaucrats for assistance but doors were not opened. They further asked the police and paramedics to intervene and were rebuffed.
Thus conditions in and around the camp continued to deteriorate. Somewhere along the line, the camp became as much or more about the homeless population and late stage drug users than about its original intent.
I don't know where the bad guys start and the good guys end in this tale. Certainly Mayor Adams appeared, at least on the surface, to try work with those whose intent was to participate in civil disobedience. But the city is also unwilling or unable to substantively deal with the homeless and late stage drug addicts that infiltrated the camp. Something had to give.
I don't think anyone's especially thrilled with the reported cost to repair damage to the parks. Or the overtime for the police presence, although having been down to the parks since Sunday's eviction, it seems like the number of vehicles and riot-gear wearing police circumventing the area are overkill. But the idea that this cost is somehow meaningful relative to the billions of dollars lost in the economy due to modern day robber barons is ludicrous. The media focus on these costs is a distraction from holding our so-called leaders accountable for failing to do their jobs.
Occupy Portland is about something good and right. I want to see it move forward. But the city has to take some responsibility, too. And those in higher office need to hear the frustrations of those of us out here in the real world as opposed to the lobbyists and well-heeled power brokers who currently have their attention. The Occupy Wall Street movement has real potential to be a part of getting us there.