Occupy Portland explains the big picture…

An Occupy image from NYC

KW writes: I have to admit, I am having trouble keeping up with the occupy movement, I feel at a loss to know how to help. “What are they doing now?”, I wonder to myself. And, I think the answer is that most of the occupies are digging in, doing the nitty gritty work of building a community, doing tasks we cannot understand if we are not living among them, on the ground.

At Occupy Portland (Oregon), they are getting press for problems happening at their camp. The government is on a campaign to discredit them, and make arrests.

I really enjoyed the statement put out by the Occupy Portland media committee that explains the crux of the matter: The government has created economic problems; The occupations are speaking about economic injustice; economic refugees are seeing the occupation as helpers and flocking to them; so, the protesters have to gather resources to do the work fixing the problems that the government created. And, then, the government arrests them all — both economic refugees and those that are advocating for and supporting them.

The letter is below. The end of the letter has suggestions about how everyone can help with the occupations and the economic struggle:

Response to Mayor Adams’ Letter
Posted at Occupy Portland: here.
November 9th, 2011
by the Occupy Portland Media Committee

Concerns have been raised about conditions in the political encampments of Occupy Portland. We appreciate that Mayor Adams has been proactive in conducting a public dialogue with us.

Occupations across the world have drawn attention to the fact that the current state of the U.S. economy is not sustainable. The top one percent of American citizens currently hold over forty-two percent of the nation’s financial wealth, and that number continues to grow. Meanwhile, the bottom eighty percent of the population holds a mere seven percent of the wealth. Results of an economic system driven solely by profit include poverty, starvation, disease, addiction and homelessness. These conditions are especially visible in urban centers nationwide. They existed in downtown Portland long before the arrival of Occupy Portland at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. They will only intensify until the glaring problems of our economic system are addressed.

It is abundantly clear that these encampments are inhabited by various types of economic refugees including the unhoused population, the street youth population, the rainbow family, the mentally challenged, and the chronically unemployed. While the focus of our occupation has been to generate political discussion and action, in the process of doing so we are also providing valuable services and help to the most vulnerable citizens of Portland.

The existence of the Occupy Movement has given a public face to members of our society that are too often dehumanized by mainstream media, federal and local government, and corporate power structures.

Having a large number of economic refugees living closely together with constant media coverage has exposed the greater Portland community to a number of social problems that those in power would rather see swept under the rug. The mayor, city agencies, media outlets, and large numbers of citizens are now acutely aware of such problems as lack of food security, lack of stable housing, chronic substance abuse, violent behavior and petty crime. We share the concerns of the mayor and other public employees regarding these issues as they manifest both within our camp and in other areas of Portland. We are proactively addressing these concerns by increasing visibility and transparency through restructuring of camp. We are also increasing the amount of safe spaces and education and welcoming social workers into camp to assist those most in need. We are thankful for the years of training and experience that these skilled public employees bring to our encampment. We share their desire for action leading to real economic changes that empower marginalized communities to provide for themselves. We look forward to working with all City employees to address acute symptoms of economic injustice. We also ask the City to work with us to address the root causes.

Certain incidents within our camp have gained widespread local media coverage, which some feel has detracted from the message of our movement. This coverage exposes the realities of economic injustices in America, specifically in Portland, which intensifies our call for systemic change. This is why we occupy. We are holding space and disregarding only those ordinances that infringe on our Constitutional rights: to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances. We invite all citizens of Portland to take advantage of the General Assembly and also go directly to City Hall to voice concerns and discuss solutions to the greater societal problems we’re all addressing, not just camp issues. The dialogue between Occupy Portland and the greater Portland community needs to shift to the topic of solutions.

Many of Occupy Portland’s supporters have vocalized solutions on our forums, in our chat rooms, and in person at the information desk. We welcome all solutions. What is most valuable to us now is the implementation. We call on all citizens of Portland to help end the economic injustices plaguing America. Ways to do this include:

—Educating oneself, friends and family about the reality of corporate dominance in the US.
—Taking action to hold corporations accountable when they actively maintain the poverty of our fellow citizens through predatory lending, monopoly-building and other immoral behavior.
—Volunteering with appropriate local entities that are taking action to address the symptoms of economic injustice. Examples include City Repair, Outside In, Eco-Districts, and the Community Food Security Coalition.
Volunteering with us on any committee of Occupy Portland, which is currently the frontline of the struggle against both the causes and the effects of an unsustainable economic model.

Portland already leads the way in sustainability in the United States. By all of us committing to engage with these and similar organizations, we will help create the moral economy we want to live and thrive in.

***This statement was not brought forth for approval by the G.A.***

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