Where will the movement go next?
The inevitable has finally happened. After weeks of camping out in the rain in makeshift tents and yurts, the protesters have finally been made to go home, for those who have one. After Mayor Adam’s eviction announcement that occupiers must vacate the area come Sunday at midnight, the movement was met with a huge swell of support. Though Saturday night found thousands joined together for one last hurrah, Portland police had every last protester out by the end of Sunday.
If you drive Main Street passing the Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, it’s a sorry sight. A few scattered police officers stalk the recently erected fences that now cage the empty parks. The once-grassy area is now dead and muddy, and there are cleaning crews sweeping around to gather the last pieces of debris.
It’s almost baffling to imagine that this area represented a city-like haven for Occupy as long as it did. As much as city officials are scoffing at the funds they will have to provide to restore the parks, spending some money on new grass seed may have been worth the message that was allowed to be made.
“While it’s sad to see the progressive shanty-town gone prematurely, I think it helped accomplish some important steps; it started and facilitated a conversation, and brought a torrent of attention to lots of crucial issues, local and global,” said liberal studies junior Rebecca Waits.
Criticisms have been shot at Mayor Adams for the quick dis-assembly deadline as well as the amount of force he had Portland police use. Many questioned how necessary it was to deploy police toting riot gear, tear gas, non-lethal ammunition and batons. However, much of this is just basic procedure for what materials they are armed with for any protest or gathering that could potentially get out of hand. It’s their job to protect Portland and it’s citizens from any riot or violent commotion that occurs.
“The Portland Police tried very hard to work with Occupy,” said arts and letters senior Mykle Curton. “For example, during every rally and march the Portland police would ask for a map of the route and the number of people marching, so that they could clear traffic and protect people from traffic.”
In the end, the confrontations between police and protesters was considerably minimal compared to the possible outbursts that could have easily erupted like they have at other Occupy sites across the US.
“When given more then enough time to leave, Occupy stayed and pushed up against the police. I think that the police showed incredible restraint in dealing with Occupy, they never over reacted even after an officer was hurt,” Curton said.
There is of course a pending discrepancy over how much police had a hand in the injury of protester Justin James Bridges. As unfortunate and saddening as Bridges’ trauma is, I can’t help but continuously think this all could have been so much worse.
Both sides, protesters and police, should really be commended for their continuous efforts to keep the peace. Portland’s occupy still remained one of the most successful in its patience and nonviolence compared to most others. Mayor Adams announced on his Twitter that with a few police and protesters hurt on both sides, the disassembly was not perfect, but that it managed to be one of the largest and most peaceful protests in Portland history. The ending to the occupation wasn’t a blaze of fury, but a mark of triumph for how harmonious everyone tried to remain.
“Just because Occupy Portland has ended does not mean the movement is dead. It has changed the dialog of this country, it has became a dinner conversation in every home from sea to shinning sea,” said Environmental Studies sophomore Adam Walters, an advocate of Occupy. “It has planted an idea in the minds of every American in this country. That being, real change has to occur from the most important part of the pyramid: the base.”
The question that remains most tragic is where many of the homeless will now go that their home at the camp has been removed. Portland homeless aid agencies are putting forth its best efforts to provide shelter for those who have been relying on Occupy for food and a place to sleep for weeks, but there are no guarantees.
The loss of its two major parks does not mean a sharp end to the movement. There are still statements to be made and ways to do it. The protesters’ location may have been stripped from them but their message and ideas are still very much alive. Besides, there is no way for a progressive movement like Occupy to continue unless the people supporting it are willing to adapt and evolve. Protesters knew very well going into this that simply existing would prove to be a challenge. It is both surprising and inspiring that they were able to last as long as they did, even in the cold and with police tensions rising.
What they had going they should look upon with pride. And it is with the same sense of strength and determination that they should now move forward.