Evicted Occupiers in Portland and Seattle regroup, become mobile
The dismantling of the Occupy Wall Street mother ship in New York has sent shock waves to Occupy protest movements around the country, not least in the Pacific Northwest, where liberal mayors in both Portland, Ore., and Seattle have already moved against downtown encampments.
Seattle’s once-boisterous street camp at Westlake Center in the heart of the downtown shopping district was shut down and has relocated to a tent city on the sidelines at Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill, where about 100 protesters maintain a full-time presence.
In Portland, police moved in over the weekend and dislodged thousands of Occupy Portland supporters, leaving a handful at Portland State University to plot their next moves.
In both cases, occupations have gone mobile: Massive downtown tent camps are gone, and in their place are daytime protests and periodic marches.
Occupy Seattle was preparing to march back downtown Tuesday in solidarity with evicted Wall Streeters. Occupy Portland has scheduled a protest Wednesday in connection with a student walkout at Portland State University, and another major march through downtown Thursday as part of the Occupy the Banks movement planned in many cities.
"It’s frustrating. We want to maintain a presence at Westlake Part, definitely. There’s a lot of visibility here, and we’re looking to grow the occupation, and just being at Seattle Central doesn’t allow us to reach out to more of the community," Aliana Bazara, a spokeswoman for Occupy Seattle, said in an interview.
Portland protesters were still smarting from the weekend’s events when police moved in to dislodge thousands of them, spurring light clashes with baton-armed officers and about 50 arrests.
At a news conference Tuesday, Occupy Portland leaders were critical of the crackdown, which freed up two downtown parks that city officials said had become a sanitation hazard. Nearly 70 dump trucks of garbage were removed after police closed in.
"You decided to cave to pressure from your friends at the Portland Business Alliance, the Police Assn. and other groups interested in maintaining the status quo of economic injustice and issued us an eviction notice," said Alaina Melville, a member of the group’s former police liaison team, reading a prepared statement directed to city leaders.
"Instead of allowing us to address conditions within our encampment in a transparent and democratic way, you chose to enlist the full apparatus of police repression to destroy our encampment," she said.
Illona Trogub, a spokeswoman for Occupy Portland, told The Times that public complaints about grass-trampling and trash (not to mention an incident with a Molotov cocktail) that helped spur the city to action do not reflect the general public attitude in Portland. That became apparent, she said, when thousands of new people joined the movement late Saturday night at the time of the mayor’s announced midnight deadline.
"Here’s a very small, vocal minority that believes there’s nothing wrong with the world because they have yet to stop being comfortable," Trogub said. "But there’s a very large majority in the U.S. that is very uncomfortable and is very upset, and I think that it’s obvious that in the end the reason why all the Occupy movements are existing and calling themselves the 99% is because we are a majority."
But the minority’s patience continues to wear thin.
Even at Seattle Central Community College, Occupy Seattle’s back-up fortress, college officials have said they’re getting fed up. On Tuesday, they canceled the college’s regular meeting with Occupy organizers without explanation. The encampment is costing the college $20,000 a week, spokeswoman Judy Kitzman told Seattle’s KING-5 TV.
"We're finding needles, hypodermic needles, in our child-care center area," she said.
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Occupy Seattle's alternative home at Seattle Central Community College. Credit: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press
Video: Police move in over the weekend against camps at two downtown parks in Portland, Ore. Credit: Occupy Portland