Tag Archives: Occupy Portland

SR editorial: Keep pushing Occupy…

There’s a lot of white noise enveloping the Occupy Wall Street movement, but one truth still resonates: OWS  has awakened a sleeping giant, and despite tense confrontations, the menacing numbers of riot police, and even the immense gravity of the status quo — it is a positive force in which we can all find strength.

At its core, the movement seeks to reverse the policies that have resulted in mass foreclosures, rampant and unwavering unemployment, skyrocketing student debt, downward mobility and widening economic inequality for 99 percent of Americans. It is about the positive change people desire and deserve as citizens of the richest country in the world. It’s about decency. Continue reading

The Occupy Homeless Movement

From the artist, Ronnie Goodman: “The print I call The Occupy Homeless Movement is about the persecution of being homeless. It’s also about my life having to deal with rats and bedbugs that you may encounter being homeless. But also, I believe that the musicians that I put in give hope. They represent the rhythm of life.

The Occupy movement was always there in the print even though I started the print before the movement. In it you see the struggle of the people — the rich people against the little people and the little people are tired of getting stepped on. But I was working on this and the Occupy movement came and it gave a voice and a name to what I was doing. Occupy speaks not only to homeless people but it gives voice to everyone whatever they’re going through, foreclosure, job loss, et cetera. It’s the voice of the people.

The bridges in the print are ironic because people say, ‘at least I’m not sleeping under a bridge.’ And I thought I’ll never be there, too. But, here I am, sleeping under a bridge. So I’m using this image of a homeless guy being crucified on a bridge. It’s like he is both dying because of the difficulties he faces but he is also condemned by society. And the UPS truck, that is just there because those are the guys that wake me up every morning when they come to work.”

Artwork made possible by the Western Regional Advocacy Project.

Read Street Roots editorial about homelessness and the Occupy movement.

Labor unions join Occupy Movement today

Protesters block Steel Bridge, photo by Israel Bayer

Labor unions led the way in the latest Occupy Portland demonstration, this one challenging police to marching rights over the Steel Bridge. In the end, the peaceful marchers were matched nearly one for one by police in riot gear.

Among the groups displaying banners and signs at the event were the Teamsters, Jobs With Justice, the Service Employees International Union and the Laborers International Union of North America. The marchers, hundreds in strength, began early this morning and are now gathered in Waterfront Park for a rally. Today, “N17,” has been declared an international day of non-violent direct action by the Occupy movement, and plans are to push forward demonstrations at major corporate banks throughout the day. Continue reading

Calling City Hall, Occupy Portland on housing…

In spirit, the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland protests over the past five weeks are about creating social change, locally and nationally, on a range of policy matters from poverty to foreign wars.

For better or worse, many of the organic protests staging camps throughout the country have gotten a hard dose of reality about what life is like for hundreds of thousands of people experiencing homelessness in the United States.

Occupy Portland, the media, City Hall, police and others around town have more times than not keyed in on the mishaps and barriers to people experiencing mental health and homelessness at the downtown camps. What none of the parties have effectively done is put things into perspective, and call on specific policy changes and resource development for people experiencing poverty.

In one of many of Mayor Sam Adams communiqués to general public he said, “The Occupy Portland movement has highlighted the challenges our community, like many across the country, are facing with homelessness. Too many in our community are without a safe place to call home. Despite fiscal challenges, the City has continued to invest in long-term solutions to end homelessness. Commissioner Fish and I will be working closely with our dedicated network of service providers to make sure everyone at the camp is aware of the resources that are available. Experienced outreach workers will be reaching out to the homeless people at the camp to help them access existing resources in our community, like health care, emergency shelter, permanent housing placement assistance, and short term needs.”

The problem is that adequate resources do not exist for permanent housing or mental health services in our community.

The City of Portland is anticipating significant federal and local cuts that will challenge its ability to keep the safety net intact and provide housing for those most in need. No doubt, we live in challenging times. During a period of increased need for our services, and the people of Portland, budgets are declining — seriously declining for the Portland Housing Bureau.

In fact, if projections are correct, the city’s essential housing agency is on pace to lose tens of millions of dollars next year due to the decline in tax increment financing, cuts at the federal level, and sweeping city-wide cuts of between 4 and 8 percent to all city bureaus. In addition, one-time general fund dollars allocated for homelessness and housing services are always a crisis away from disappearing. The other side of this coin is unsustainably high unemployment and dwindling support systems to staunch the flow of tomorrow’s homeless.

The system is teetering. Hence, Occupy Portland and the call for social change.

What’s the answer? Nationally, the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been met with mixed results and a growing movement of people who call the group disorganized, fractured, and lacking in planning and objectives. Saying that, even in the face of apathy and a conservative backlash, the movement has inspired close to a million Americans over six weeks to move their accounts from larger banking institutions to local credit unions and community-owned banks. The movement also influenced other banking institutions to drop debit card fees — showing that regardless of all of the white noise — consumer power still has muscle, even if on a smaller scale.

Locally, the signs of success are harder to pinpoint.

City Hall and others have said Occupy Portland needs a goal, and contrary to the big picture messaging, that goal doesn’t have to be a nationwide sea change to be a success. There are real solutions within our reach, within sight of City Hall, and responsive to the issues Occupy Portland as amplified.

Here’s what Street Roots thinks the city and Occupy Portland should work toward:

—   Secure $1 million dollars for rent assistance this winter, protecting vulnerable renters from losing their housing. It is always less costly, and more humane, to preserve housing than to restore it.

—   Waive the budget cuts to the Portland Housing Bureau in the 2012-13 budget due to the financial, employment and housing crisis.

—   Guarantee one-time allocations towards homeless, housing and mental health services in the 2012-13 budget. There are thousands of people who are one service away from the streets, and countless services struggling to manage that demand.

—   Loosen the stringent laws around camping to allow churches and private businesses to host orderly places for people to sleep. (See our editorial.)

—   Work with the county and state to develop a strategy to backfill millions of dollars lost for mental health services.

—   Aggressively pursue a regional strategy – working with willing partners at the federal state and local levels — to develop sustainable, long-term resources.

If Occupy Portland and City Hall are both serious about creating social change and effecting policy in a healthy environment for people on the streets — the bullets outlined above are what help get us there. Everyone deserves a safe and decent home. Everyone deserves opportunity.

Occupiers can learn from those who succeeded before

By Devan Schwartz, Contributing Writer

I opened Augusta Dwyer’s “Broke but Unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and the Radical Solutions to Poverty” on October 6th. It was the morning Occupy Portland began. For weeks I’d followed Occupy Wall Street coverage: articles, interviews and tweets either optimistic or pessimistic, enthusiastic or embittered, angry or dismissive. Some politicians disavowed OWS while others supported it. Unions located in cheap-rent buildings near the Twin Towers site and Zucotti Park had started to show support. The protests were modeled after Arab Spring protests, in turn influenced by Civil Rights-era protests in the U.S. and others across the globe.

Call them trickle-down protests. Portland is a fraction of New York’s size and certainly not the epicenter of financial institutions on the scale of Wall Street, even if concentrated wealth is reflected in West Hills mansions and Sunset Highway Porsches. Portland is a city known for its natural beauty, gray climate, vibrant arts and music. Yet like many cities, Portland suffers deindustrialization aftershocks and is propped up by a flimsy service economy. Unemployment ranks among the top in the nation, as do the figures for Portland’s homeless population. Continue reading

Another piece of occupied land: People’s Park

More than 40 years on, the creation of People’s Park remains an inspiration for modern movements

by Mary Pacios, Contributing Writer

The year was 1968, the place Berkeley, Calif. When eco-activist Chuck Herrick was killed in a car accident, a few of Chuck’s friends planted trees and flowers on a piece of public land at the corner of Dwight Way and Telegraph Avenue, near the University of California. We called the small area Herrick Peace & Freedom Park. The Berkeley Barb, an underground newspaper, called it a “people’s park.”  For a few months, in Chuck’s memory, we served free soup and bread at the small piece of “liberated land.” Continue reading

Taking space to dream

Photo by Nat Needham

By Amanda Eckerson, Contributing Writer

On the corner of Third and Main Street, a village is being constructed. The organizers and allies of Occupy Portland have begun laying down hay to cover mud, hanging tarps to keep out the rain, and developing internal infrastructure to support their movement. Seven blocks away, members of the Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2), have taken over the lease of an empty lot by the Chinatown gate, and begun constructing a rest area for houseless members of their community.  There are very real differences between these two instances, which have recently occurred in Portland: one is an occupation of public land, the other has a lease on private land. The occupation has been given tentative permission by the city, while R2D2’s occupancy is being disputed as illegal.

People are virtually abandoning their homes to join the Occupy Portland movement, while members of R2D2 are reacting to the fact they have no place to sleep. Despite these elements, there is a deeper strand of solidarity that exists between these two movements. Both groups are responding to the larger inequality of our social system, the lack of access to political power, and the rights of all of us to dream. Continue reading

Occupy Portland, Jobs With Justice to bridge Portland, Vancouver

Occupy Portland activists say they will be joining with Jobs With Justice in a joint march across the Interstate 5 bridge tomorrow to “connect struggles on two sides of the river.”

Like similar marches, the event is being billed as Portland and Vancouver Rising in support of union campaigns and in defense of safety net services, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs. Those programs are all under the threat of cuts by the so-called Congressional “Super Committee” in Washington D.C. as it sorts out federal spending. In particular the event is pointing a finger at Wash. Sen. Patty Murray, co-chair of the committee, and demanding those programs be preserved intact. From the Jobs With Justice organizers:

“The times have been changing in the last weeks. The occupations of Wall St., Portland, and other places are highlighting the fact that there are plenty of resources in our society – it is just that the 1% is grabbing all this abundance for themselves. At the very least, we have enough resources for good jobs for all and an enhanced safety net! Join us! This is a great time to come out and help make the changes we need.”

People at Occupy Portland have said they intend to join the march in solidarity with people struggling with unemployment and homelessness. Staging for the march begins at 11 a.m. Here are the details from Jobs With Justice:

Portland meeting place: We will meet at the field just off of Northbound I-5 Exit 308. The field is on the East side of I-5, between the highway and Taco Bell. Parking is available on N. Jantzen Street. and other side streets. The #6 Tri-Met bus stops at N. Jantzen St.

– Esther Short Park is at West 6th and Esther Streets in Downtown Vancouver.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl


Occupy Portland visits Right to Dream Too

Around 200 people marched from the Occupy Portland headquarters in SW Portland to the Right to Dream Too rest area tonight. The group listened to homeless individuals, including two Street Roots vendors who talked about their experience with homelessness and how they are in solidarity with Occupy Portland.

Photo by Sue Zalokar

The most recent photo shows the rest area has grown from three tents and six people in the lot on NW 4th and Burnside to more than 40 tents with an estimated 100 people.

Posted by Israel Bayer


Occupy Portland sends open letter to city officials in support of homeless

Occupy Portland has sent the following letter to city officials…

This open letter from the General Assembly of Occupy Portland affirms our solidarity with the homeless people in our city.  We ask that City ordinances currently used to criminalize homeless people be suspended until new solutions are found.  This request is in accordance with the official Bill of Rights for Children and Youth as adopted by Portland and Multnomah County:  “Shelter:  We have the inherent right to shelter.  The City of Portland and Multnomah County should continue their efforts to provide adequate shelter to those who need it.”

The number of unhoused people living on the streets of Portland has steadily increased over the past ten years in spite of good intentions to reduce homelessness to zero.  Instead, Portland city officials are now cracking down on the efforts of a nonprofit homeless organization, “Right to Dream Too” (R2DToo) to open their self-help site, a rest area for those forced to live outdoors (located next to the Chinatown gate on Burnside Street).  Their goals are modest and very basic: “The right to rest, the right to sleep, and the right to dream, too.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement is calling attention to the increasing inequality and economic injustice across the country.  One frequent grievance is the rise of evictions due to home foreclosures, a trend which has been exposed as caused by banks’ irresponsible manipulation of loans.  Many more Americans are now on the precarious edge of living one or two paychecks away from joining the homeless.  This is a state of economic emergency which calls out for extraordinary action by governments.

We encourage you to open dialogue with alternative solutions — such as the R2DToo rest area, which is legally leased on private property, and is run by experienced volunteers with support from the community. Such efforts in self-determination and bootstrap self-help cost the City nothing, as they are funded by charity and managed by the hard work of volunteer organizers.  Such projects are in the American vein of self-reliance and also strengthen community bonds.  We invite you to help such grassroots solutions.

Finally, The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth can be found prominently displayed on the reception desk of Mayor Adams’ office, and is also online at the County website.  It affirms what Occupy Portland also affirms: the inalienable right to survive, which requires shelter.  Families and individuals who cannot live indoors, for whatever reason, should not be swept out of sight and mind. They deserve the human dignity to be seen and to exist in our city.

Thank you for considering this appeal, and we welcome your response.

Occupy Portland, General Assembly

Street Roots is waiting to hear back from the Mayor’s office, and it’s also been rumored that a march will take place sometime this evening in solidarity with the homeless rest area on NW 4th and Burnside.

Occupy Wall Street PDX shows up big…

An estimated 5,000 people showed up today for the Occupy Wall Street PDX event. The group who represents a wide-variety of interests continues to march.  Several hundred from the group plan on camping out tonight at Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. Continue reading

SR editorial: The alarm has sounded. Are progressives listening?

Wall Street protests. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

It’s easy to think that in a country as massive as the United States, individuals are alone and isolated from doing anything to really alter the course of the current state of affairs, here or abroad. The momentum for the progressive movement feels almost nonexistent.

That is until you look beyond our own city on a hill to realize that the world today is actually alive with progressive social movements  — it’s just a matter of having the right set of circumstances and group of people willing to sustain them. When does enough become enough?

No one expected the masses (helped by technology) in Egypt, Syria and Palestine to create non-violent social movements that would turn their own countries and the world upside down.

And while it’s true that the outcomes are still unknown in those countries. What is known is that when people unite behind each other, and support one another’s collective will to say enough is enough, big things can happen.

Why not dream big?

When you look at the current Occupy Wall Street actions that are taking place, it’s almost as if progressives are collectively holding there breath, hoping something more will happen. Will it amount to anything? What possibly could come of a small group of people waving banners and chanting, “No justice! No peace!” Well, not a lot. Unless that group swells, and enough are willing to carry on.

That’s what is happening in New York currently where thousands of people are simply not leaving Wall Street. From faraway Portland, a city that once knew a thing or two about non-violent direct action, it feels like the protests aren’t so much a response from Wall Street directly, but a distress call to the rest of the country to respond.

The real question then isn’t what the Wall Street protests mean, or how effective they will be in changing Wall Street, it is are we listening, and more importantly, are we willing to stand up and say enough is enough.

Other cities and countries have seen a spark — London, Paris and Madison. Nothing has stuck. As of press time, there are scores of cities around the country, including Portland, holding actions in solidarity.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. Another protest, really? Won’t it just be the  a bunch of poverty groups like Street Roots, and other predictable protesters? Maybe it will and it will go nowhere. We hope that it would be more.

From the photos and videos we’ve all seen in New York, it sure doesn’t look like just the typical riffraff out making a statement. It looks like common everyday folk — the same kind of folk that packed Waterfront Park to see Barack Obama speak three-plus years ago. The protests in New York look like the same people in Portland that are forced to choose between child care, bus transportation and being able to look for a job. The same people who have been on the unemployment lines for months, if not years, and have to choose between the water bill and not having a place to live.

It’s high time we stood up and made a statement as progressives. Now is as good a time as any, and if we think things are bad now, wait and see what happens if we do nothing. Join in and make your voice heard in Waterfront Park, Oct. 6 at noon.