Late-Night Meeting at Occupy Portland Addresses Safety Concerns

PORTLAND, ORE.–(ENEWSPF)–November 6, 2011.  Late Saturday night and early into Sunday morning, an emergency Occupy Portland meeting composed of concerned individuals, including people from several committees, was held to discuss what many volunteers felt was becoming a growing problem. They discussed, at length, the issues surrounding illicit drug use, violent behavior, and otherwise disruptive conduct that was being exhibited by some of the people camping at Chapman and Lownsdale Squares.

Many of the occupiers present at the meeting expressed exasperation and frustration at what they felt was a dangerous distraction being perpetuated by people who use the area as a “free drug space.” In an ongoing survey of occupiers there has been an almost universal consensus that safety and violence are primary concerns.

At the meeting it was decided that in order to address the situation some kind of action had to be taken. Ideas that were discussed included obtaining a permit for the space to allow exclusion of dangerous or unsafe elements, involving the police immediately to address situations as they arise, and even stopping services that the camp provides to those who do not involve themselves in the process or the movement.

While the group that met felt that some of these actions, such as obtaining a permit, could not be taken without a larger discussion among the occupiers, other actions, such as limiting services and police involvement, seemed more feasible.

Many of these problems have been brought as concerns by others, including the City and the Portland Police, but previously Occupy Portland has attempted to solve these through dialogue and outreach. The meeting was called because it was felt that those options had been exhausted and the problems not solved.

“As part of the 99% it is our duty to listen to all those who we try to reflect,” Patrick Dougherty said as a camper at Occupy Portland. “Their concerns have been clear. People say they support the movement, but they preface it with concerns about some of the people who use the camp instead of working with the camp. And frankly, these things concern many of us too.”

Occupy Portland didn’t create these problems however it has become a space for some of them, and it distracts from the message of the movement and the effort of our volunteers. Occupy Portland will never support dangerous, violent or destructive behavior, as restated by the General Assembly on Saturday, and volunteers will be meeting Sunday afternoon to discuss further steps to take, including coordination with the City and the Portland Police to address these issues.

While Occupy Portland is open to anyone, and we do not wish to exclude people, behavior which is destructive to the community should not be tolerated or allowed. We do not wish to be an impediment to the efforts of social workers and public safety officials who exist to address these issues.

Those who met planned to work with the Portland Police, established drug treatment programs, and other civil services to eliminate these problems from the space. It is important that any movement which tries to address society’s concerns is welcoming to the people of the city, and we will immediately work to eradicate the aspects of the camp which abuse our goodwill and inclusiveness at the expense of the people’s voice.

Occupy Portland was formed out of a popular sentiment that systemic problems within society were preventing the 99% from having a voice in our government, in our economy, and in our lives. We continue to focus our efforts on these things, and in creating a space for the people, we must remove the elements which are a danger to themselves and others.