Mayor Sam Adams is Not a Friend of the Occupation

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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