I think most have heard about the nationwide protests that are surging up. Well, I wanted to see the camps for myself so while in Portland, my friend, David, and I ventured into the heart of the city to see the organization in movement. The main camp is a small village taking up nearly three blocks near City Hall. Among a cluster of tents, there are public sections arranged like an inner city with all the amenities including a main kitchen and cafe, library, kids camp, art tent, science tent and sacred space run by a group of chaplains. The image here is taken under the main kitchen tent, erected at the center of the camps, over the Oregon Trail statue in Chapman Square ironically named, “The Promised Land.”
The protestors are ready to stay in this camp for as long as it takes. A lot of people wouldn’t be capable of surviving at this ground level and others have no choice. Even as they process the food donations and work on the Community Garden, they are in high spirits; music is abound, art is made for the cause and the kids are running around happily.
Before we went to the camp, we walked over to Jamison Square in the Pearl District where a large group decided to camp for the evening. It was quite peaceful in the afternoon when we were there but in the middle of the night several protestors were arrested. The Pearl District is a slightly more affluent neighborhood and the Mayor refused to allow them to stay past midnight.
The marching protestors were escorted by a handful of officers on bicycles while the park was monitored by two on horseback. When one officer was asked his opinion, he simply replied that he didn’t have one; he simply does his job and goes home. The group was docile, diverse and highly organized; we stayed long enough to hear them begin a meeting on the right to camp in public space and one’s rights when approached by a police officer. There were young kids in halloween costumes, elders sitting quietly propping up their signs, fiery long haired young women sporting a peace sign, and a middle age mom sucking on a lollipop. Everyone and their mom is there. The most inspiring sign I saw there was one sitting in the lap of a young woman writing: “My brother died for oil, I’ll die for ideas.”