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Thoughts and photos from Occupy Portland

Thursdays march stretched nearly the entire circuitous route from the Waterfront to pioneer square. Photo by Allison Johnson

qPDX contributor Nicole McDonald was part of last Thursday’s Occupy Portland beginnings. These are some of her thoughts and pictures experiencing one of the country’s largest “Wall Street protests.”

Thursday’s Occupy Portland protest and rally was one of the largest Occupy Wall Street protests in the nation with a count of around 5,000 people.  I was one of the 5,000 people in attendance at the rally and march because I consider myself to be one of the 99%.  I chose to protest because last year I applied for over 200 jobs and it took me seven months to get hired at a job that was more than 6 hours a week.  I also chose to protest because although I want to go back to school and finish my college degree, I can’t really afford it and am not sure if getting a degree will pay off in today’s economy.  The future looks scary for many people that I know.  I have several friends and family members who have been laid off of their jobs or feel unable to leave their current positions because of the economic situation. In Portland especially I think people have been hit really hard with all of these things.

At the protest, I found that many of my concerns were shared.  While I saw many signs stating different goals and proclaiming different disparities, I think most at the protest believe that corporations have too much power and wealth is bestowed only on a fortunate few while the rest of the nation suffers at their expense.  Many also expressed concerns about the rising costs of education and the inability to pay for it, the disappearing middle class, not being able to find jobs, not being able to use degrees and corporations having more power than the people.

In many articles I’ve read about the Occupy protests, I feel that protesters and protests have often been misrepresented.  Many articles have tried to paint protesters as young, jobless, disjointed and disorganized in their motives and goals.  However, what I saw actually attending one of the numerous Occupy protest was quite different.  At the Occupy Portland protest there were a variety of ages represented and many older people. In fact, I think the majority of people protesting were over 30.  And while many protesters are unemployed, many such as myself do have jobs but are dissatisfied with the direction the nation is headed.

One thing I was really impressed by was the organization of the protest.  Not only was it an extremely peaceful protest, but organizers made sure that everyone could hear what was being said by saying something into a bull horn and then having the crowd repeat it so even the people in the very back could understand what was going on. Organizers told the crowd what to do should they be arrested and gave out a phone number people could call about legal representation.

What I find really exciting when it comes to social activism is when a protest becomes a mass movement, such as with the Occupy Wall Street Protests.  I have been to anti-war protests, anti-George Bush protests, the Utah “No on 3” protests, and the Proposition 8 protests.  In regards to the Occupy protests, I don’t think I’ve so far seen in my lifetime a protest that has had such far reaching effects and a protest that has the inertia and popular support to create positive change nationwide.  I think that protests are also becoming more successful because of the availability of so many different forms of media to spread the word. There are websites, tweets, facebook updates, online articles, youtube videos, pod-casts, etc. that all have all been used as methods of spreading information about this movement.

Since Thursday’s march, Occupy Portland has also attracted attention because of its compromise with the Portland Marathon.  Occupy Portland demonstrators were initially told by police that they would have to leave their base at Chapman Square to make room for the marathon because Portland Marathon planners had booked the adjacent park over a year in advance.  However, city and race officials met with protesters and worked out an agreement that let them stay in Chapman Square.

Marathon officials seemed happy with the compromise that was reached and event director Les Smith said “The Occupy Portland people have been a godsend for us,” and that the protest drew a lot of attention to the marathon.

As of Monday morning, 228 tents remain in Chapman Square and the city park adjacent, up from 61 tents on Friday.

Many protesters have commented on the Portland protest as a model protest because of its peaceful negotiations with police and city officials.  The group of demonstrators has also released its first statement of grievances. It plans to release three more documents: a declaration of demands, principles of solidarity and a guide to forming similar groups.  More information on Occupy Portland can be found at its website: http://occupyportland.org

Here are a few snapshots from Thursday:

 

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