M1: Police-Free Zone: What Peace Looks Like

photo by Kendall

This story is part of our feature about the many protest events on May 1, 2012. Visit the feature page to see more.

by K. Kendall

Alicia Jackson has come home. Banksters stole her home and intimidated her into leaving it voluntarily, but she’s fighting the process. With the support of her community, she has decided to remain in residence while her case makes its way through the bureaucracy. The full background of Alicia Jackson’s re-occupation of her home is spelled out by We Are Oregon and the Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC),but Jackson said on May Day that she gained the courage to take this action from her community. “And this is not going to be the last property we liberate.”

On a day when many actions took place in Portland, most involving violent law enforcement officials, this well-planned and smoothly-executed action succeeded in part because organizers insured that the action would be a “police-free zone.” Planners achieved this by several means. First, a police liaison worked to inform police of plans and to negotiate for police to serve as street escorts only. Second, by plan or by coincidence, the marchers in the front (near the police car) kept going forward, while Alicia Jackson and the rest of the march made a right turn and headed directly for her property, thereby leaving the police escort isolated on a main thoroughfare until the community had taken over the property. Third, Black Bloc tactics were used to blockade the entire block where Alicia Jackson lives. Reinforced banners held by multiple marchers were used for the blockade.

photo by Kendall

While a few uniformed police officers were present at Woodlawn Park, none entered the block where Alicia Jackson’s house is located. They were effectively excluded, and because of that, no violence took place.

Other aspects of this action showed meticulous planning.  A coalition of groups including ONE: the Black Working Group, PLOC, and We Are Oregon executed a multi-stage, carefully orchestrated plan that included the following:

–a rally for about four hundred people in Woodlawn Park, with adequate sound
–a march from Woodlawn to Alicia’s home, with drummers, bike swarm, and Black bloc
–a key to the door of Alicia’s home presented to her on the spot
–rituals of reclamation, including tape-cutting and libation, an African custom of offering thanks to the ancestors and soliciting their support
–a moving van with all Alicia’s possessions
–labor to move her belongings back into her home
–trees, seedlings, and gardening equipment delivered to her yard
–labor to clear weeds and brambles from her front and back gardens
–planning and planting of a garden by people who are expert gardeners
–labor to clean out the house, unpack Alicia’s belongings, and collect rubbish
–food and water for the crowd and the block party.

Neighbors expressed solidarity. Many had “We Support Our Neighbors” lawn signs visible. Some brought flowers. Others brought food. A few told me it was their first time to meet “Occupiers,” and they were surprised and pleased to see how hard Occupiers worked in the yard and in the house. The community where Alicia lives was included in the planning, and they shared the enthusiasm of the crowd. This was crucial: It was not a crowd that came in to tell the neighborhood what to do, but a crowd that answered the plea of a neighborhood to support it in restoring one of their own to her rightful home.

photo by Kendall

When Alicia entered her house, Ahjamu Umi said through the loud speaker, “Alicia Jackson has come home.” People hugged each other. Many in the crowd wept, remembering their own evictions or those of their parents or grandparents. A person with a mask over his face shouted out, “She’s doing it for all of us.” A few carried signs saying, “Our House.” In an action meticulously planned right down to the fruit tree and the basil seedlings, the hoes and the shovels, the barricades and the banners, Occupy Portland also came home.

  4 comments for “M1: Police-Free Zone: What Peace Looks Like

  1. joanie brown
    May 3, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    A CORRECTION: The statement “First, a police liaison worked to inform police of plans and to negotiate for police to serve as street escorts only.” is incorrect. I was one of two organizers who designated and briefed the Police Liaison who served during the home liberation. The Police Liaison served an important role, though this description does not accurately represent what that role was, and how it was implemented. Also, the Police LIaison was not the first or primary reason that the Police did not interfere. I have been a part of many actions in the past in which there was a skilled Police Liaison, and where the Police still attempted to violently suppress liberatory activity. Police Liaison is an important role, a tool to be used in specific ways, however effective and fierce community militancy and organizing is essential to defending liberatory movements.

    • Kendall
      May 3, 2012 at 5:43 PM

      Thank you so much for this amplification. I am very appreciative and would love to know more. Please do say more, if you wish to, and explain more fully and accurately what you did and how you did it. No one can do that as well as you. I am very grateful for your comment.

      • joanie brown
        May 3, 2012 at 9:05 PM

        No worries, just wanted to clarify. Thanks again for your awesome coverage and photos! I don’t know that I have the energy right now to write a action planning piece here, however making these skills available is something that some of us are working on. I will try to catch up with you off-line to offer more info.

  2. Teleri Williams
    May 4, 2012 at 5:26 AM

    ‘It was not a crowd that came in to tell the neighborhood what to do, but a crowd that answered the plea of a neighborhood to support it in restoring one of their own to her rightful home.’ This is the vital point for me, that it was a community action organised by the community for the community. I am so glad it was peaceful and that Alicia Jackson has come home. Congratulations to all for achieving this. Long may she stay there!

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