Top story of 2011: Occupy Portland

Top story of 2011: Occupy Portland

Credit: Courtesy: Occupy Portland

Top story of 2011: Occupy Portland


by Jeff Thompson, Staff

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 20 at 12:51 PM

PORTLAND -- It started with a huge protest, followed by a high-profile breakfast and a long camp out in two Portland parks. Since then, Occupy Portland has resulted in 150 arrests and nearly $100,000 in damages, and it's changed the way Portlanders look at local politics.

The Occupy Portland movement began with a rally in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street protests around the country. Portland's Waterfront Park hosted one of the largest rallies in the nation on October 6.

The rally and march were followed by encampments at Lownsdale and Chapman Square parks, which were permitted that weekend of the Portland Marathon. Both groups got together and decided to share the space, with protesters volunteering for the marathon and runners joining the movement.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams told the group they could continue to camp in the two parks indefinitely, but they would have to clear out SW Main Street, which bisected the encampment.

Photos: Inside the Occupy Portland camp

By mid-October the damage to the parks was estimated at $19,000; within weeks the police announced that overtime hours dedicated to the encampment and marches had grown to an estimated $186,000.

Protesters attempted to expand to the Pearl District's Jamison Square, which they considered a symbol of wage disparity in Portland, but police moved in and arrested 27 people.

With the blessing of the visiting Michael Moore, the group next attempted to occupy Terry Schrunk Plaza. Federal police moved in, clearing tents out in the early morning hours and arresting ten people.

During an unpermitted march the next day, a police officer was pushed into a moving bus. The suspect was not part of the Occupy Portland movement, but tensions started to escalate at that point. Portland Police Chief Mike Reese announced that all on-duty officers would begin carrying batons, helmets and gas masks.

Within a week, during which a "chain-in" group occupied Schrunk Plaza, an offshoot group vandalized two banks and a man in the camp was accused of a Molotov cocktail fire.

Then, Adams issued an eviction notice. He gave campers a deadline, after which police moved in and removed campers from both parks.

During that long standoff, police in riot gear held back protesters while fences were installed around the parks. One officer was injured and police said 51 people were arrested.

The next huge clash between police and protesters came during the N17 (November 17) protests, in which demonstrators held a rally at the Steel Bridge and then marched through downtown Portland to "disrupt business as usual at banking institutions." Protesters, relegated to the sidewalk for the unpermitted march, spilled out into the street and tangled with officers. Police said that day they used pepper spray for the first time since the movement began; 50 people were arrested.

Related: Video adds to debate over pepper spray

Chief Reese, who had been considering a run for mayor, was bolstered by the tactical approach at the original encampment. But after indirectly blaming the N17 protests for a postponed response to a rape call, he apologized and soon announced he would not run for mayor.

Protesters attempted to set up a new encampment in the south Park Blocks, but police in riot gear again moved in to remove tents and demonstrators from the area.There were 19 arrests, and Mayor Adams said the protest seemed like a private dance party and called it a "low point" in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Meanwhile police overtime estimates had exceeded $1 million and and itemized list showed nearly $86,000 in damages at the original encampment.

In December, Occupy Portland joined in a shut down of ports all along the West Coast, meant to slow international commerce. Port of Portland Terminals 4, 5 and 6 were blocked for one day, and union members distanced themselves from the movement.

The following weekend, members of the movement took part in a permitted march for International Migrants Day and later an unpermitted march to commemorate the three-month anniversary of the original Occupy Wall Street protests.

While the group has splintered, reorganized and regrouped over the last few months, there's no indication that it plans to stop fighting for the "99 Percent." 

KGW's coverage of the movement has been intensely scrutinized by critics on both sides of the issue, and TV crews have even been berated and assaulted while covering the story. Whether our readers find Occupy Portland infuriating or inspirational, it has definitely drawn more attention than any other story in 2011.

More: Occupy activists help rake damaged parks