May Day Land Action Aims For Community Liberation; Three Local Groups Stand in Solidarity

photo by Kendall

by Adam Rothstein

Spokespeople from three Portland coalitions gathered together in front of a decrepit, bank-owned property today, April 26, to announce that they would be organizing a community-based takeover of property on May 1, as a first action in a series of efforts to liberate property for the use of those who reside in the immediate area. Activists from the Portland Central American Solidarity Council (PCASC), Jobs with Justice (JwJ), and the Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC) each spoke in turn about their motivations and plans for the day of action that promises many actions across the globe.

The activists stressed that the people who live on the land ought to be the ones who decide what happens there–not banks, development corporations, or the city. This action, and all following actions, would be about “community control of community resources.” They said that this was not a new idea–their efforts are part of a tradition that includes the Back to the Land movement, and similar efforts in Greece, Spain, New York, Chicago, Oakland, and many other cities in all countries. They said they want to “reclaim what is rightfully ours”, and in order to do so, they invite “all workers to unite under one banner.” The time for waiting for the government to fix things is passed. Isabel Charle, spokesperson for PLOC, said “this system isn’t broken–it’s working exactly how it’s supposed to.”

The bank-owned building behind the speakers at 33 N Fargo Street, with its boarded-up windows, neglected rose bushes and broken railing, served as a poignant example of how well the system currently functions. Someone put years of love into this house and garden before it was taken from them. This is “probably” not the building that PLOC is planning to liberate, smiled the activists. They left open the possibility of returning a foreclosed family to their home, taking a larger building for use as a community center, or utilizing vacant land as a garden space. With these potential direct actions, the activists will take matters into their own hands.

photo by Kendall

JwJ spokesperson Marco Mejia also mentioned the permitted march and rally beginning in the South Park Blocks at SW Salmon Street on May Day. He said that march has adopted the St. Paul Principles of respect for diversity of plans and tactics, so even though that march is permitted and the PLOC plans are not, both actions will stand in solidarity. The theme of the day is that “we won’t be divided,” said Mejia.

As to the potential of conflict with the city authorities over the actions, the group said:

We call on Sam Adams to cooperate with and support our plans.  Sam Adams last November offered this support to the Occupy movement: “It is my sincere hope that the movement, with its focus on widespread economic inequity, will flourish in its next phase — a phase where we can focus all of our energies on economic and social justice, not on port-a-potties and tents,” Adams said [LA Times, November 10, 2011]. That phase is here, Sam, we call on you to support the movement by restraining your police force.

The PLOC action will begin with an announcement and rally at Woodlawn Park, at 9 AM on May 1. After the rally, activists will march to the property, which will remain undisclosed until that time.

photo by Kendall

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  7 comments for “May Day Land Action Aims For Community Liberation; Three Local Groups Stand in Solidarity

  1. edward
    April 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM

    I strongly support PLOC in its actions. This is the kind of “occupying” we need to start thinking about: reclaiming our homes, our schools, our workplaces, for the people who actually utilize/need these areas.

  2. Teleri Williams
    April 27, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    Good luck with the campaign for community control of community resources. Why should the bank own this property – it doesn’t look as though they’re using it.

    • Steve
      April 28, 2012 at 7:33 AM

      “Why should the bank own this property”

      Maybe because they are the ones that PAID for it.

      • charlie
        April 29, 2012 at 9:27 PM

        I don’t think there would be such a strong movement around space liberation had the banks actually used the bailout money to help homeowners hold onto their homes. However, they did not. Instead they gave insane bonuses to their executives and are sitting on millions of rotting empty homes around the country while families are tossed out onto the street. According to Sometimes what is illegal is not wrong. Sometimes what is illegal is just. It’s time we ask ourselves who is benefitting and who is suffering. At some point it becomes our duty to correct the injustices regardless of the “legality”.

  3. Ken Moholt-Siebert
    April 29, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    This house is not owned by a bank. It is owned by the same person who has owned it for many years. The house suffered a fire and some other setbacks. I have been working for a couple years with the owner and PDC to save, move and restore the house. Before making an example of this house, it would have been prudent to check the facts, which are readily available. Ken Moholt-Siebert, Architect. 503-227-0321.

  4. John Wood
    April 30, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    My concern is what does one do with the property after it is liberated? In the first place, how do you keep it liberated? The police just come back after the marchers go home and arrest those that won’t leave. Even if you’re able to keep possession of the property, if it’s a house, do you just camp out in it, because without ownership of the house, how do you get the utilities turned on? I’m for this in principal, but I wonder if anyone has thought out the logistics of it.

    I’m definitely in favor of liberating empty lots and using them to grow food for the community.

    • Anonymous
      April 30, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      It’s quite easy to get utilities turned on, the companies just want more customers. How do you think squatters usually get along?

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