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3 Lessons From The Occupy Portland Camp Clearing

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Well, it looks like the cities had had enough of the Occupy Movement and they are starting to clear out the parks all over the US. In Portland, we had an action-packed weekend and I think the Portland Police (PoPo henceforth) did quite well to minimize conflicts, injuries, and property damages. Occupy Portland took the form of a massive campsite in two adjacent downtown parks. Here is what went down last week along with the 3 lessons we can learn from the Occupy Portland camp-clearing process.

Thursday – Mayor Sam Adam gave a notice to the Protesters to clear out by midnight on Saturday.

These were some of his reasons:

– Small business owners reported a spike in shoplifting and littering in the area. Generally, there was also more violence around the area.

– 2 cases of OD in the camp. I guess it was a chance of the lifetime to get high right in front of city hall….

– Homeless people congregated in the area and it was becoming a homeless camp.

– The park was getting damaged.

– There were only a few toilets for 500+ people.

Fast forward to Saturday.

I walked by Saturday afternoon and the PoPo were in riot gear and I could see they were tense, but everybody was civil. I never felt threatened while walking through the area, but I hadn’t walked by late at night either.

The protesters called, tweeted, and posted on Facebook for reinforcements and thousands of supporters turned up on Saturday night.

Gas masks were sold out across the city…

At this point, things looked like they could have escalated.

Here are the 3 things the Portland Police did right

1. Did not push the issue at midnight and bide their time

I was in bed by the time the deadline came. Sorry, I didn’t make it, but it was a cold and stormy night. 🙂

Many of the protesters and homeless took the warning seriously and left the camp Saturday evening. The number of tents was reduced, but supporters kept pouring in throughout the night. I’m sure a large percentage of the crowd came down just to see what’s going on.

occupy portland camp clearing

flickr - rayterrill

From what I can find, the police tried to move in around midnight, but they backed off because there were too many people. The protestors put up barricades to prepare for the big dance at midnight and the situation could have gotten out of hand quickly. See picture of barricades at flickr (not common creative so I can’t share here.) They took down the barricade in the morning because they thought the police had given up.

 2. Portland Police took the initiative

By morning the Occupy Protesters and supporters were tired and thought they kept the park since the deadline had passed. Many supporters declared victory and went home to sleep. Others went off to get breakfast, “relax, and regroup.” At 9am (or noon?), the PoPo saw a window of opportunity and moved in. They quickly pushed everyone out from one park and the park department started to set up a chain link fence. The protestors were now in full retreat, but stood their ground in one corner of the second park. The police moved in after a warning and arrested anyone who didn’t leave. They arrested over 50 people in this park.

occupy Portland camp clearing

flickr - freelin1

There were some scuffles, but most of the protesters advocated peaceful protest and did not fight the Police. The Occupy Movement organizers also got a lot of credit because they went through the tents the day before and removed makeshift weapons and dissuaded people to not attack the police.

3. Minimal Brutality

The PoPo did not use tear gas, rubber bullets, or other riot control tools. Only a few people got hurt and most of the action involved shoving and not full on skull cracking. I think if they pushed the issue at midnight, it could have been a lot worse. The large crowd probably would have rioted and I’m sure the property damage would have been much larger. Less violence is good for both the Police and the protesters.

All in all, I’m glad the camp is closed down. I’m as sympathetic to the Occupy Movement as anyone and I had a great time talking to some of the Occupy Portland protesters. I agree with many of their grievances – see my Economic Inequality is bad for your health post. The Occupy Movement is just too disorganized though. They should pick a cause or two and work within the system to fix the problems. The camp also got out of control and turned into a big homeless camp. The holiday season is coming and suburbanites want to shop in peace.

The protesters could take some lessons from the PoPo here. Learn to bide your time and then seize an opportunity when it presents itself. I’m sure many protesters graduated from college and couldn’t find a job, but did they really do all they can? They could have majored in profession like Computer Science which has a high demand. They could temporarily move to a low unemployment location like Williston, ND for a few years while the economy recovers. There are many things one can do instead of camping out for months on end. It was good to bring some attention to the problems, but it’s time to move on and be more productive.

What about your city? Did they clear out the Occupy Movement camp yet?


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{ 34 comments… add one }

  • 101 Centavos November 16, 2011, 3:27 am

    I sympathize with some of the protester’s sentiments. Glad to hear the clearing was handled civilly, and with as little disruption as possible. Do you think we’ll see a repeat performance if the economy continues to move sideways, or takes a dip?

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:15 pm

      I don’t think the mayor will let another camp crop up. They can protest and march, but no more camping out. I think it will cost around $1,000,000 after all is said and done. Most of that is Police overtime pay.

  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc November 16, 2011, 5:25 am

    I am glad that this was handled in such a responsible way. It could have easily gone poorly. Sometimes these stories never get written about: when some organization does something well. However, if the police had brutally dealt with the protesters, that would have made widespread news.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:16 pm

      I agree. They did great and it could have easily went the other way.

  • Little House November 16, 2011, 6:42 am

    It’s time for the Occupy movements to disband. Since there wasn’t a clear focus or goal, I’m not so sure they accomplished anything. Good to hear the police were civil and the situation didn’t get out of control. I haven’t been following the movement here in LA, but I’m pretty sure they have been working on removing the movement from the areas near City Hall.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:17 pm

      They need to regroup and figure out what they want. There are a lot of supporters out there. They just need leadership and organization. I don’t think this movement will quietly disappear as long as the unemployment stay at 9%.

  • PKamp3 November 16, 2011, 7:17 am

    Props to you for visiting – it was good you went without viewing the protest through the filtered lens of the media.

    It’s unfortunate that some of the protests turned violent, but I am happy that they were cleared with minimum brutality.

    Wonder what happens next?

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:18 pm

      I should have stayed the night, but I’m not a young guy anymore. 🙂
      In the old days, we would have partied and hung out until morning.

  • Jeff @ Sustainable life blog November 16, 2011, 9:30 am

    Thats nice that the park was cleared out with no injuries or people getting hurt. I also am curious to see what will happen next.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:19 pm

      A few protesters were hurt, but it could have been much worse.

  • Aloysa November 16, 2011, 10:28 am

    Minimum bruatlity if any at all in Salt Lake City. The camp is cleared, everyone’s moved to a different location. No overnight camping!

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 12:20 pm

      Did they find another location to camp out? The protesters here want to move to another park, but no consensus so I think it fizzled out.
      It’s getting cold and wet anyway.

  • AverageJoe November 16, 2011, 12:51 pm

    It’s a plus that no 80 year old women were hit with pepper spray. Good commentary on this topic. It’s interesting how, over time, this movement is gaining attention. I think they WANT to disrupt shoppers so people notice that things aren’t the way they should be.

  • Hunter - Financially Consumed November 16, 2011, 3:13 pm

    Glad the Portland Police managed the clearing humanely. This movement really needs to get organized (still). By now they could have formed a structure that could push for legitimate issues. The shock factor of the camps wore thin with most people after about a month. They should have taken the initiative and changed their strategy.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 9:15 pm

      They should study the Tea Party movement and see how they got off the ground. I think this movement attracts younger people though and they probably don’t have the organization skill of the older set.

  • krantcents November 16, 2011, 6:14 pm

    It seems it is spreading that cities are cracking down. I agree they have the right to protest, but hot the right o live there. It is destroying public property and affecting private business.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 9:15 pm

      Just in time for the Holidays. 😉

  • SB @ One Cent At A Time November 16, 2011, 7:31 pm

    Joe I have this fear always in my mind…what if I write on this controversial topic and my employer finds it out…not sure if you have the same fear.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 9:16 pm

      Not really. As long as I’m not doing this on company time, there is nothing they can do. If they fire me, I’d sue… That’s America!

  • My University Money November 16, 2011, 8:46 pm

    I am a big fan of asking people to move to North Dakota. They have tons of work down there, and as a Canadian, I find the climate downright balmy! Jon Stewart had an excellent feature on the zaniness and awkwardness that is the occupy movement on his show tonight.

    • retirebyforty November 16, 2011, 9:18 pm

      People aren’t willing to make the sacrifice. It’s not that bad yet…

  • Untemplater November 16, 2011, 9:59 pm

    The police raided part of the Occupy SF early this morning because tents were starting to take up too much of the sidewalk in one area. I went over there about a week ago and the tent area looked really dirty and unsanitary. I wouldn’t be surprised if the police go back to take more of the tents down. There are a lot of homeless and drug abusers in SF and I think many of them are camping out there too so the mayor is worried about lice and other diseases spreading. -Sydney

    • retirebyforty November 17, 2011, 9:52 pm

      I suspect Portland and SF are similar as far as homeless and drug abusers go. Portland is smaller, but that just make it seems there problems are more concentrated.
      The cities are spending quite a lot of money on Police overtime and I think they are getting very tired of it.

  • Kris @ Everyday Tips November 17, 2011, 5:31 am

    Last I heard, the Detroit occupiers are looking for somewhere indoors to occupy as it is getting pretty cold. It has been pretty peaceful here though.

    • retirebyforty November 17, 2011, 9:52 pm

      Good luck, but I don’t think anyone would be willing to host such crowd.

  • 20'sFinances November 17, 2011, 12:46 pm

    I think it is when this type of thing happens, then things get attention. I’m a huge fan of peaceful protesting, so I’m glad they didn’t resort to violence.

  • Andy Hough November 17, 2011, 2:54 pm

    It sounds like they handled it pretty well. I live in a small,very conservative, city so there hasn’t been much of an Occupy movement here.

  • Christa November 17, 2011, 3:43 pm

    What a terrific job on part of all parties; the police worked well in ending the movement, and movement officials helped make the transition more peaceful. I hope the protesters can accomplish some changes, but I agree with you that moving on and becoming more proactive may help.

    • retirebyforty November 17, 2011, 9:56 pm

      I’m very glad there were minimal injury and damages. We all live in the same city and should respect each other. Peaceful protest is the way to go.

  • Miss T @ Prairie EcoThrifter November 17, 2011, 8:23 pm

    We have had a small occupy movement start downtown but it is nothing like some other cities have seen. As far as I know there hasn’t been too much ruckus caused.

    Glad to hear this one got all cleaned up in a smooth fashion.

  • Buck Inspire November 17, 2011, 9:08 pm

    You have another career as investigative reporter! Glad everything turned out ok and no skulls needed cracking. Good point about the younger folks not as experienced in organizing. Pretty feisty of you, “If they fire me, I’ll sue!” What’s sad is the movement is talking about wealth and unfair distribution, but with their lack of leadership and focus, the city ended up burning one million on police overtime!

    • retirebyforty November 17, 2011, 9:58 pm

      I don’t mind getting fired actually. 🙂

  • youngandthrifty November 17, 2011, 10:55 pm

    We haven’t had too much ruckus either (though I haven’t been keeping up with news stories LOL). I’m actually kind of glad this is all over. Our taxpayer money was paying for the OT the police were doing. 🙁

  • Money Reasons November 17, 2011, 11:23 pm

    My buddy that’s in the police department where I live told me last year that all police are called PoPo by some.

    I happy no police officers were hurt. Underneath the uniform is just a man or woman trying to make a living to pay their mortgage off and feed their kids. They are just people like we are. They are not the ones that go looking for trouble, but they are the ones that have to risk personal injury and death to keep society running civilly.

    I have to admit, I wish I was there just for the experience. It would be exciting to look back and think that you were there for a moment, even if I didn’t agree with practically anything they were about…

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