Sleep Is A Human Right

photo by Lauriel

by Shawn Fleek

On the evening of January 31st, an overnight sleep-in is scheduled outside of City Hall in Portland, to raise awareness of the city’s camping ban and to attempt to overturn the ban. The following morning at 8:30 AM, a rally will be held on the same topic. Though these actions are not officially endorsed by the Occupy Portland GA, the people involved have specifically requested that Occupy express solidarity and help draw attention to the issues being presented.

The vigil outside of City Hall is lonely at the wee hours of the night. Kernel Moses is on his third shift, and erects a makeshift tent of bamboo and duct tape. “I’m building a meditation hut, to help keep our sacred implements dry.” He says this not with a wink, but with a defiant stare at his craftsmanship as he wraps the intersection of two beams. Tents are a dangerous implement in the 99% movement. At least, according to the 1%.

Occupy Portland was evicted from its camp at Chapman Square and Lownsdale Park in downtown Portland after a 37 day violation of the “camping ban,” which states plainly that sleeping overnight in tents in a public park is unlawful and cause for citation or arrest. Just up the street from Occupy, having appeared just before the Occupy camp sprung up in the late Autumn, another camp stands. This camp, at the corner of 4th and W. Burnside, is “Right to Dream, Too”. Ibrahim Mubarak, co-founder of the R2D2 camp and Dignity Village, speaks eloquently and often about the need for house-less people to sleep without harassment. Volunteers and residents at R2D2 wax poetic on the psychological effects of a lack of rest, from behind bleary eyes which tell the tale of sleep-deprivation.

photo by Lauriel

The Occupy Portland camp, when still functional, served hundreds of free meals daily, provided free basic medical and mental health care, and gave the city’s ever-increasing houseless population a place where multitudes could sleep without police harassment. Many of the problems that plagued the camp from day one were related to the overabundance of deeply impoverished and transient people simply looking for food and rest. The 99% includes the poorest, most disadvantaged, disabled and distraught people in the country, people the 1% would just as soon forget. Occupy Portland’s camp was, before eviction, a symbol of the resolve and generosity of the Occupy Movement. Now, R2D2 is the only camp of this sort close to ground-zero of the local War on Poverty, Downtown Portland.

The rules posted at R2D2 reflect a similar ethic to those posted at Occupy Portland’s camp. R2D2 insists on no drugs, no violence, and no alcohol. They have, as of January 25th, 2011, had zero Police incidents, while allowing 70 houseless people per evening to rest. Portland has already evicted the much larger and more-threatening-to-the-status quo Occupy camp. But R2D2 knows they are next. R2D2 is holding a rally on February 1st at 8:30 AM to ask the City to overturn the camping ban, and allow more camps like R2D2, or Occupy Portland, to spring up. As a sign hanging on the perimeter of R2D2 states, “Sleep is a Human Right.”

Join the slumber party and pancake breakfast on the steps of City Hall with Occupy Portland Allies this Tuesday Night, Jan. 31st, then rally the next morning at 8:30 AM. Sleep is a human right regardless of whether you can afford a house or not.