Occupy Portland, Report from Day 1
Sorry for the lateness on this report, it was filed via carrier pigeon from my erstwhile Pacific Northwest Correspondent, Lazlo:
I walk down to Waterfront Park at 2:30 PM and see demonstrators moving from the edge of the Willamette River towards downtown. There are recently erected six-foot high steel fences surrounding the large grass fields and only the narrow paved paths can be accessed. I notice that some people are slowly moving through this area while others were heading south on Front Avenue to join the whole group. The incoming demonstrators immediately take over the street and join the march. I follow them north on Third Avenue watching them take a big left, surprised that they only take up the west bound lane of Burnside, but realize that this keeps them more compact and avoids splitting the group along the center divider.
The demonstrators take another wide turn to the left heading south on Broadway for the possible homestretch. And introducing… my new movie… Occupy Portland! Apparently every person on the sidelines of the march has a camera. I guess this means we’re not going to see someone get iced with a snub-nose .38 in the middle of the chaos. And hey, what better way to get a thirteen year old from Medford into revolution than her older sister sharing videos of those people yelling, “WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!” Or maybe it won’t work that way.
The chants and drumming grow louder. It’s the same sounds from the oddly bygone days of the Iraq War protests. But the outrage this time around is more hungry than principled; it is closer to a loosely formed tribe than a group of concerned citizens. I see a large contingent of weird scruffy people that run the gamut of the pale diversity we enjoy in the City of Roses –tattooed chicks, Timbers Army supporters, anarchists, jobless hipster couples, Anonymous, old hippy bachelors. I think, my god the left has woken up from some boozy weed torpor and realized that the nightmare scenario has finally happened: two wars still raging, a three year recession, and a right wing movement that is kicking everyone’s ass. There is no hope or change, and that’s a lot harder to swallow than it was resting assured that “Backseat” ran the show like some Burmese general.
I scramble up to the front of the march in hope of seeing a phalanx of unsympathetic suburban cops brought in for back up. No luck, as it’s just our regular boys in blue displaying usual restraint as there don’t appear to be any schizophrenic meth fiends to shoot. What catches my eye is the one-percent of the 99 who wear rumpled black suits that makes me think underemployed Cannabis lawyer, but their blue arm bands, and attempts to slow down the march that is stretching too thin, dissuade me of this notion. The show is organized and it will go on.
Later in the evening I go to a muddy Chapman Square and wander through the tarp-slung encampment. The park sits right smack in the middle of City Hall, the County Courthouse, and the Justice Center. As there’s no real financial district in Portland, this is probably as good as it gets. Keep the action close and let City Council weep from the teargas if they want to get tough. Not sure if everyone is thinking this way yet.
If there’s anything Portlanders can do it’s camping. It is a common interest that can bridge the gap between a crusty-punk drinking Earthquake with her mutt under the Fremont Bridge and that realtor guy who blows his mind on MDMA every Memorial Day weekend at some Trance Festival in the Gorge. There’s already intelligent talk about keeping booze and drugs out; however, cigarette smoking is rampant, making me wonder if the greasy trappings of sixties existentialism will win out over the pure body/mind ethos of the Left when the going gets tough. Then I see this guy who’s like a snapshot of a young Bill Ayers, from the lazy seriousness of his curly mustache to the studied disrepair of his yellow sweater. But no one here is going to pull stupid shit like that… RIGHT?