Writing this an hour and a half after the authorities’ midnight deadline for clearing the parks, estimates are between four and ten thousand protestors NOT going anywhere. The local media is flummoxed on how to cover what’s going on. Most are trying to stick to the narrative that it’s a bunch of anarchists and young folk – and although there are quite a few young folk out there – this crowd is not such a single easily identifiable demographic.
The media are now worrying that tension is rising to earlier levels. Since before midnight it’s been quite the party atmosphere. Folks dancing in the streets. Cheering. Carrying signs. That may be changing. The police have been trying to keep streets open, but the crowds are growing and that is going to be increasingly difficult. There are reports of protestors pushing the police line back with regard to blocking the streets.
Occupy Portland’s live cam has 5K viewers, but that number might be as much as ten times higher with mirror sites.
There are reports that the police are pushing back now. Earlier in the evening the official police spokesman referred to their job of “controlling” free speech. Inartful? Or a moment of unexpected truth-telling?
The sense is that the police will wait until the adrenalin and the crowds subside and then move in. Portland is a very “blue” city and the police are under considerable pressure at the moment not to create a riot (as they have done repeatedly in the past).
This evening a large number of prominent clergy came to the protest to “bear witness” to the threatened eviction of the protestors. That may have helped the authorities to decide to refrain from Oakland or NYPD-style tactics.
Community leaders, as general rule, have been very supportive of the occupation. Today, a letter signed by an impressive set of organizations and individuals (clergy, union leaders, activists) asked authorities to refrain from pursuing a violent eviction.
How it’s all going to turn out, no one knows. My suspicion is that there will be arrests but that the occupation will continue.
UPDATE @ 2:00 am
Police are announcing over loudspeakers that they will use up to “chemical agents” and “impact weapons” to clear the streets. But even the local media admit that the chanting crowds could not possibly hear that “fair warning”. There are reports that objects are being thrown at the police by persons in the protests. No idea how many folks were involved in that. More police in full riot gear are moving in.
Chants of “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off that riot suit!” have been reported. Also there is (this is VERY Portland) a crowd of bicyclists riding around and around in streets (as they are legally permitted to) in support of the protest.
UPDATE 2:15 am
The police are announcing again by a loudspeaker van that they want to “open the streets to vehicular traffic”. Mind you, it’s two a.m. – there is never much vehicular traffic in downtown Portland at this hour so this appears to be a pretext for a potential police instigated riot.
The talking heads of local media are opining that the reason for an eviction late on a Saturday night is to minimize the disruption for downtown businesses. They’re also commending the police for their “peaceful” behavior. No such commendations for the peaceful protestors. We have one talking head explaining that the police batons are not offensive weapons, they’re just about “crowd containment”. Amazing. White is black, up is down.
Reports of protestors donning gas masks and goggles in preparation for an expected riot. A number of protestors are sitting down on the street, other protestors are moving in closer to the police lines.
UPDATE 2:30 am
One of the protestors was interviewed by the local media and he pointed out that the protestors were overwhelmingly peaceful but that when the police up their presence and push protestors it is that which ups the tension and ensures confrontation. He went on to note that it isn’t the protestors who are armed to the teeth and full riot gear.
UPDATE 2:45 am
Local reporter Derek Sciba (KGW) announces “we” want the protest to be shutdown tonight because “we” don’t want more protestors to arrive in the morning to “reinvigorate” the protest and allow it to continue. So now “we” know what “we” want. How helpful, eh?
UPDATE: 3:00 am
It appears that the protestors and the police have reached a tense stand-off. Occupy Portland reports: “Two more hours until free speech is legal again. Clergy still in Chapman holding candles. Reports say protesters are directing traffic at 3rd and Main, because the police are not there any longer. Carrie, our social media PoC, says she was sprayed with pepper spray. She’s okay enough to tweet, though.”
The “two more hours until free speech” refers to the parks being re-opened to the public at five a.m. The excuse the police are using to evict the occupation is that it is illegal to be in a public park between midnight and five a.m. Mind you, that is a law that is only enforced when it serves a political purpose such as controlling free speech or the homeless.
At five a.m. the protestors claimed victory since they were still there protesting and had not been evicted or arrested by the police.
At six a.m. the police asked the protestors to move back into the parks so they they could “open the streets” – which put the protestors into an interesting situation since the mayor had officially “closed” the parks to the public. Were they to follow the police order to violate the mayor’s order. By six thirty, though, most protestors vacated the streets and returned to the parks, leaving the police behind, while chanting, “Who’s blocking the street now?”
By nine a.m. the protestors were cleaning the parks of debris and are apparently vacating the parks for the moment. There is an emergency General Assembly meeting called for noon at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse square for folks to decide what they want to do from this point on.