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Mayor Sam Adams is Not a Friend of the Occupation

December 6, 2011

Photo by Lauriel Arwen

Mayor Sam Adams is in the perhaps enviable position of being portrayed in the media as sympathetic to the Occupation in his city. Such a portrait makes his harsh directives against the Occupation look like compromises, and when not taking steps against the Occupation, his inaction looks like support. However, this rosy picture of our mayor is complete fiction.

Sam Adams’ personal political opinions are his own, but his actions as Mayor have not helped the Occupation, and have harmed it and its participants. The reasons for the false claims of sympathy are easy enough to track. It began on October 6th, when he put in a short appearance on the sideline of the initial Occupation march, shaking hands and waving. When the Occupation inhabited Lownsdale and Chapman Parks, his judicious decision not to send in the police to physically push people out of the parks was seen as an act of support. As the duration of the Occupation increased, Mayor Adams was generally available, either himself or through his staff, to communicate with people from the Occupation, which was interpreted as a dialogue. When he decided to withdraw his clemency on the two parks, the fact that police waited for half a day and produced only a few serious injuries was presented as peacefulness (note: that Justin Bridges, arrested on November 13th, is still in a wheel chair and has not regained the use of his arm). When police violence thrust Portland onto the national media scene on November 17th and the police responded by scaling back to let the protesters again organize themselves without incident, this media-savvy reaction was touted as tolerance. And now, even while protesters are pushed from public spaces into the streets, Mayor Adams releases press releases condemning the methods and organization of the Occupation, phrased as if he alone was in possession of a victory strategy for us, which is perhaps intended as leadership, though one wonders how that might be at all believable.

This is what Mayor Adams’ “sympathetic dialogue” with the Occupation looks like:

- Portland Police Bureau lied by blameing systemic drug and crime issues on the Occupation, while refusing to work with protesters to arrest offenders, on orders from above, according to the police

- The city liaison team of the Occupation was ignored prior to the eviction from Lownsdale and Chapman Parks, leading to unnecessary, serious injuries

- The Chief of Police and the PPB Information Officers are given free reign to malign the Occupation with propaganda disguised as press releases, including an attempt to blame the Occupation for the police force’s failure to deal with a rape case, a hideous act for which the Chief has yet to apologize to Portland’s citizens.

- Sgt. Pete Simpson, Portland Police Bureau Public Information Officer, told KATU News on November 13 that low level violations and misdemeanors do not warrant the use of force against protesters. Police in riot gear have implemented strikes, pushes, or tackles on Occupy Portland demonstrators on multiple occasions, including November 12, 13, and 17 and December 3 and 5.

- PPB, which is a bureau under the control of the mayor, continues to harass and intimidate the Occupation with their escalation of combat tactics in the face of non-violent free speech (and we realize that Mayor Bloomberg’s recent statement about his police force being “his own army, by the legal organization of Portland’s government, has resonances in our city as well)

- The city government is allowed to blame its budget woes on the Occupation, via inflated police overtime purportedly stemming from the escalation, and falsified park damages claimed against the Occupation

- The Mayor and city officials, despite making overtures about dealing with systemic city homelessness and public health issues, have inadequately done so

- The Mayor and city officials, despite making overtures about steering the city’s investments away from predatory financial institutions, have not substantially done so

- The Mayor and city officials, by making patronizing statements to the media about what they think is in the best interest of the Occupation, earn themselves a resounding vote of “no confidence” from the Occupation; in that the Occupation is a direct democracy, and no “leader” of any repute, experience, or outside position could ever lay claim to what it is “really about”, “in its best interest”, or “true to its values and/or goals”

- The Mayor sends riot cops to the street, while posting meaningless statements of criticism and empty “support” for unnamed “goals” from his Twitter account, which Occupiers are expected to read and appreciate while ducking blows from city-owned batons

To make it absolutely clear from the perspective of one person within the Occupation: the Occupation knows itself. The Occupation needs no one to lecture it on what it is, or what it needs. The Occupation knows what it needs, and it knows these needs because those who support the Occupation do so with alliance in furtherance of these needs. The City is not an ally — at best, they are patronizing, and at worst, violently antagonistic. The former police and city liaison team of Occupy Portland, in their public resignation statement put it best: “It seems that when City Hall wants something from us you make every effort to reach out, but when you plan to do something to us, communication is halted and you let the police do the talking with their batons.”

The Occupation will not be patronized, and the Occupation will not be intimidated. Dismissal and derision by city officials, castigation and lies delivered via Mayoral press releases, and physical threats and violence brought by the city’s police force will not sway the Occupation and its allies from proceeding in their course, defined each day as the participants make it. Our brief history thus far speaks to this resolve. These antagonistic actions by self-described “friends” of the Occupation are obvious for what they are, and will not masquerade as logical arguments that might convince us that free speech is not a human right, that what we are attempting to speak freely is not fundamental and crucial to continued human life, or that we somehow might be satisfied on these human levels by going home, and folding our hopes and efforts back into the old system that has failed us and continues to fail us, each and every day of the Occupation.

The time when such transparent efforts might have succeeded are past. Immense power of control continues to exist in the banks, the big businesses, their insidious associations and institutions of corruption and influence, and the politicians and police that allow these groups to gut our society. They are exposed to our eyes, and they are disgusting to us.

It will not always be popular to enact the change needed to fix this power structure–if it was, it already would have fixed itself. These powerful controlling institutions will not change themselves unless we stand firm to show them that there is no other option. Those individuals blessed with lifestyle-security by the fact of these entities will be hard-pressed to reject that comfort and join us. And liberal officials who might agree with the Occupation in general will not practice what they preach; more likely than not by fact of their position, a position with the power to ignore, to marginalize, to dismiss, and to detract, ensconced by a system that has continually persecuted, castigated, blamed, beaten, and betrayed the many for the benefit of the few.

A suggestion, Mayor Adams: engage with our Occupation process like any other individual. Come to the GA. If you have proposals, make them as we all do. If you have suggestions for the best course of action, volunteer with a committee, as we all do. Those with the privilege to look down at us from office windows and to speak only to cameras will be considered by their actions, not by their words. So, Sam Adams — thanks for the occasional fatherly word, and for not having the police force beat the crap out of all of us, all the time. But “friends” like you we don’t need. We needs allies. Allies are those who work with us, in the street.

From one individual, representing only himself, just as anyone does, be it mayor or otherwise,

by Adam Rothstein

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17 Responses to Mayor Sam Adams is Not a Friend of the Occupation

  1. Sarah Morrigan on December 6, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Now we know Adams is a liar like all other politicians. http://cjoccupology.blogspot.com/2011/12/for-your-health-and-safety-government.html

  2. Tami Lynn on December 6, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    Though I fully agree with most of this article, I wanted to point out that Mike Reese DID apologize for the “rape situation”
    http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/11/northwest_news_police_chief_mi.html

    • rothstei on December 6, 2011 at 1:07 PM

      He has not apologized to me. You might say that is quibbling, but I disagree. A press release is not an apology. After such an accusation, I believe he ought to personally apologize to the occupation, if not resign.

      - Adam Rothstein

      • Reid Parham on December 6, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        I’ve seen people challenge him to simply apologize, in private, to the 15-year-old victim he was using as a political pawn. I like that idea.

        I wholly agree that a press release is not much of an apology.

      • rob on December 8, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        Mr. Rothstein-
        You inaccurate representation of events is just as bad as the PPB. The Chief did apologize. It was covered heavily by several news outlets. Propganda is expected by the PPB. I was hoping that the same would not be true of Occupy. Sadly that is not the case.

  3. Nicholas Caleb on December 6, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    This is fabulous writing. Puts to words the frustration many feel about the hypocritical response from the City.

  4. Justin Myers on December 6, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    The mayor was a friend of Occupy. He took a lot of flak for his defense of the original camps. He came down in person multiple times to ask the campers to clear the road blocks and the campers jeered and howled in his face. The camp devolved into a hazard to itself and others and proved all of the mayors detractors right.

    He did come to the streets. He did make proposals in person. The campers used unilateral force to block the streets. Claiming that only people who can show up to GAs are the only people’s who deserve to be listened to is elitism and unanalyzed privilege.

    • rothstei on December 6, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      Taking flak in the media is not the same as taking batons and pepper spray to the face. I don’t see how we should praise a lame-duck mayor for getting bad editorials written about him, when he still sends riot cops to the street.

      “Jeered and howled” is not accurate. I was there several times when Mayor Adams was at the camp, and occupiers shook his hand and listened to what he had to say.

      “Elitism and unanalyzed privilege” is when someone can sit in an office and comment negatively on the actions of others, and claim to know what is in their best interest, without taking part in what they are doing. The Occupation is a direct democracy. People who are there, make it what it is. Punditry isn’t helpful, participation is.

      • tyler on December 7, 2011 at 7:57 AM

        Adam I think you missed the point of Justin’s comment.
        Occupiers disobeyed Sam’s multiple requests to clear the streets. They “jeered and howled” at the city’s request to leave the park. The encampment of .7%(at your largest point) was unsafe to the remaining 99.3% of those in Multnomah county alone that. You’re protesting for rights of the 99%, but your encampment is a screaming contradiction. Sam balanced your needs with those of the city. I think he deserves a bit more credit for his leniency.

        • Reid Parham on December 7, 2011 at 9:46 AM

          False. The city misled people to make them believe the occupation presented a safety issue.

          Sewage: false and proven by Mult Co Health
          Crime: PPA admits the PPB did nothing
          Crime data: not statistically valid
          Fights: angry assholes doing stupid things
          MRSA: unproven
          Lice: false rumor

        • rothstei on December 7, 2011 at 11:10 AM

          That the encampment endangered every person in Multnomah County is obviously not true. The number of people injured by the police is far greater than the number ever injured by the camp.
          Police brutality is not leniency. People were pepper sprayed for being on the sidewalks. A man was put in a wheelchair for being in a park at 9 AM. If that is leniency, then tell me what is brutality?
          I am protesting for my rights. I make no claims as to what Everyone would want, only the ethics that I believe Everyone should follow: human rights, free speech, and a government that respects these ethics.

          - Adam Rothstein

          • tyler on December 8, 2011 at 12:28 PM

            Adam- Mob mentality is a stinky cologne. The actions of individuals in this case are representing the encampment. When a molotov cocktail is thrown by one, it is thrown by all. When drugs and alcohol are being abused by some, the entire group is culpable. This is a safety concern for the city. I understand your rosy outlook toward your actions and can sympathize with your cause. Police brutality is not leniency. Occupying outside the bounds of city law isn’t right either. Police actions should be expected. Speaking of expecting…if you have a broken back, and choose to be confrontational with police, you should EXPECT your prior injuries to be escalated. I have no remorse for Mr. James for his lack of responsibility and rational thought in this situation.

          • rothstei on December 8, 2011 at 1:36 PM

            James Bridges was translating, as an ASL interpreter, at a public meeting in a public park, which previous police communications led the participants to believe would be allowed. If you believe this activity justifies his being paralyzed, then that is your ethics. I, and other Occupiers, continue to believe that we should hold our society to a higher ethical standard that you do. Your lack of remorse is your own problem.

  5. tracygroom on December 6, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    What are these leaders so fearful of? Occupy Movement is to simply do some Good in the world by changes the current flow of government and they have the ability to think and question after all its their FUTURE!!!

  6. Anne LaFleur on December 6, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Thank you for this article. This is not about personalities, it is about politics about power. Keep looking at the powerful players in Portland, expose their deeds and demand justice. Just a few examples of what we face:
    *The brutal treatment of Occupy Portland demonstrators.
    *Cops have routinely gotten away with excessive use of force to the point of murder targeting mentally ill people and people of color in this town.
    *Sam Adams signed a deal with General Electric to help build the “Oregon Sustainability Center” which is green-washing to the extreme.
    *The lead story in today’s Oregonian shows that the Portland Development Corporation and the city housing dept allowed public money for affordable housing for low income residents to be used for public housing for the well-off. This is criminal!
    *Businesses in the PBA refuse to cooperate with the Healthy Working Rivers commission to stop polluting the Willamette.

    Mayor Adams hopes to divert attention to Wall Street. It is our job to show how this manifests right here in Portland.

  7. Brian R on December 6, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    The Mayor and government has obviously been way to lenient with the occupier law breakers. A lot have demonstrated in a legal manner which is their right. But it is not right to block traffic and shut down business’s. We can only hope that the long shoreman at the ports will take care of business and do away with this trash, by whatever means it takes.

  8. Mitchell on December 7, 2011 at 5:48 PM

    So incredibly well written. Thank you.



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