Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Portland: De-escalation Proposal

From 2011-11 Occupy Portland Eviction - Photo

Proposed by Jennifer Alexander on the Occupy Portland Open Group on Facebook:
De-escalation question for a possible General Assembly proposal - I think this would be the appropriate evolution of our Occupation, and would be wonderful if we accepted AND the city accepted.....this WOULD evolve this protest, and bring out those that are currently fearful of joining us:
Could we get a consensus, do you think, on proposing to Sam Adams and the Portland Police Bureau that:
IF, the police, regardless of agency affiliation, who respond to and engage with Occupy Portland protestors agree to no longer respond in full riot gear and agree to treat protestors with respect, calmly arresting those who engage in acts of civil disobedience without use of force,
THEN WE, Occupy Portland, AGREE to remain peaceful at all times, we will agree to follow all traffic signals to avoid creating dangerous situations for vehicular traffic and pedestrians [unless police are present directing traffic, or unless protestors have informed police 24 hours in advance of a specific location that may be impacted - without necessitating a permit], and we will agree to stay on the sidewalks except when crossing the streets [or when police have chosen to close a street in order to open it for us].
FURTHER, any among us who are NOT compliant with this agreement will be presumed to be exercising their right to civil disobedience and not representative of the entire group but instead deemed to have been behaving autonomously, and if the situation warrants the individual's arrest, they should be arrested peacefully without use of force. Rare circumstances may arise where use of force is necessary, and we understand that; however, all use of force should be reasonable and should not be predicated on fear of the "mob." Occupy Portland as a group believes that police are part of the 99% and we respect the work you do for our society. We believe you are paid for with our tax dollars to keep all Oregonians safe, including those being arrested, even if those being arrested are behaving poorly. You are not who we protest against.
There are also some among our group who autonomously believe that police are working with the opposition to the Occupy efforts, and that police are enforcing the will of the 1%. It is very difficult to convince them otherwise when police responding to our protest come apparently dressed for war.
THEREFORE, so long as police continue to arrive dressed in riot gear, there will be those among us who respond negatively, believing that they were correct that police ARE working to destroy our civil rights through use of force to benefit the 1%. Many of us would like to convince them that this is not true, but it is becoming harder and harder to do so, with the increasing use of police presence and use of force in Portland and other Occupy locations through the U.S. In fact, some individuals that did not believe as they do are beginning to become convinced after seeing what appears to them to be excessive use of force by police, making things even more difficult for everyone.
By agreeing to this proposal, we believe that protestors will be able to effectively utilize their first amendment right to free speech and freedom of assembly under both the United States and Oregon Constitutions as well as ensure the safety and comfort of all those in Portland. The Occupy Portland movement is made up of a diverse population that reacts in a variety of different ways to the sight of militarized police on our city streets, from fear to anger, as well as indifference. In addition, some respond with amusement or feel that the scene is entertaining, including both some within our movement as well as some of those opposed to our movement (as well as media on both sides). This idea that the militarized conflict with citizens is "entertaining" disturbs many of us, and creates an even more volatile situation - we believe a de-escalation is necessary to ensure the peace and safety of all.
While we understand that the mayor and city officials would like us to get permits and inform officials of a route prior to protests and marches, this is truly an impossible task. There is no person leading the marches, there is no body planning the events in detail - this is not a parade. Ideas are created in an organic environment, that anyone is able to divert from alone or in large groups at will. The intent of our protest is to reach the 99% to engage them and motivate them to demand change from their government. Any given idea is subject to change, by consensus or individuals, in advance or while in progress. We don't all agree on the solutions, nor do we all agree on the individual causes of the problems we face - therefore we don't all agree on where the protests are best applied. Sometimes we find a lot more support for one particular issue - like N17 (directed at the 99%) - then we do for other issues - like the Chase CEO protest (directed at the 1%).
We DO all agree that our government is no longer listening to us, if it ever was. Our one demand is that our government prove that it can hear us and is listening to us (even when our government disagrees with us, or when we are in the minority in our population). That is really all we want: a government that acknowledges it can hear us and is listening, even if it disagrees after doing so. We aren't necessarily after specific policy changes as a group (although individually, we have a diverse set of specific policy changes that we do work towards), but instead, we want to ensure that our government is still ours: a representative republic. We truly are the 99%.
Mayor Sam Adams and the Portland Police Bureau can prove they are listening to us by no longer sending in police appearing in riot gear, ready for conflict. Come dressed as we are accustomed to seeing you in our daily lives, when we encounter you on the streets. We will thank you by twinkling our support upon your arrival without the riot gear, and we will commit to holding ourselves and those around us accountable to follow traffic signals and laws for the safety of all Portland residents, as well as twinkling our support when the police bureau uses a proper level of force in arresting those committing acts of civil disobedience (such use of force should typically be just putting on the zip ties and escorting them away). If police at any time need to convey a message to us, mic check it so that we can all hear instead of bringing out the vans to blare confusing messages that result in misunderstandings (which sidewalk, officer?) and escalation in use of force. We will respond to such requests, with either actions of compliance or discussion through mic check. These discussions among police and protestors will ensure the safety of all, and ensure clarity from both sides. And the option for non-violent arrests of protestors for civil disobedience will always remain available to police and will be responded to without resistance from protesters.
This will show the world the effectiveness of direct democracy in our local government, and will ensure that valuable tax dollars aren't wasted, and will allow Occupy Portland to engage in peaceful acts of civil disobedience without threat of harm to the individuals, the protestors or the public at large. It will also set the example for how to allow this protest to happen peacefully across the nation. The Occupy protest, along with many others who are not part of our movement [yet] understand that there IS a problem that we are all facing, and the time is now to discuss solutions. Use of force will not discourage this protest, it only increases our numbers and the frustrations on both the part of city officials and protestors. We have always tried to work with the city officials to maintain good relations. We would like the city to return to respecting that relationship and showing goodwill towards protestors, as we will do in kind.
- I intentionally left wiggle room for those among us who will inevitably refuse to conform, and cross against signals or refuse to move from a particular spot, such as a roadway, etc - I get it, and I think our city does too - but I think many of us WOULD agree to this - and it would lessen the fear by the city that they "need" such massive use of force ....

‎**If this is really getting such overwhelming positive support - and continues to - we should really have a vote on this IMMEDIATELY at tonight's meeting as an emergency proposal, as this issue is getting to be quite dangerous and should not be postponed any longer than necessary...

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