In Portland, Occupy activists vow to 'shut down the banks'
Four days after their eviction from two downtown parks, hundreds of Occupy Portland protesters massed Thursday morning near a bridge that is one of the city's most important mass transit connectors, then made their way to a rally on the Willamette River waterfront. Seattle protesters, meanwhile, were squaring off with the mayor over recent use of pepper spray against activists.
In Portland, Ore., about 15 protesters who refused to budge were arrested at the Steel Bridge during the morning commute, with large numbers of police blocking access and then leading activists away in handcuffs without serious incident.
The bridge reopened after the remaining protesters began streaming across a pedestrian walkway below, eventually joining a waterfront rally on the other side of the river targeting large corporate banks -- one of several such rallies underway across the country.
A number of organized labor activists joined Thursday's protests, highlighting upcoming cuts to staff at Portland's unionized transportation bureau at a time when the Steel Bridge -- the symbolic center of the morning protest -- is in need of repair.
"The Steel Bridge rates about a 30 on a scale of 100 in bridge safety in this country, while the public workers that do maintenance on this bridge are being cut," Occupy Portland organizer David Osborn said in an interview.
Later Thursday, small groups of activists planned ad hoc "civil disobedience" actions targeting large corporate banks across Portland.
A number of nonprofits across the city were planning to join in; the Central American Solidarity Committee said it would highlight banks' funding of an immigrant detention center, while groups such as Rising Tide and the Animal Defense League said they would focus on financing of such projects as coal export terminals and mountaintop strip mines.
Angus Maguire of We Are Oregon, which is one of the major organizers of a coalition that includes more than two dozen Oregon unions and nonprofit groups, said his organization works with unemployed people facing foreclosure of their homes. "The goal is to join with other cities to highlight the economic emergency that we're in as a nation, and the fact that Congress is continuing to fail to really do anything to put Americans back to work," Maguire told The Times by phone from the rally.
Elsewhere in the Northwest, organizers of Occupy Seattle said Mayor Mike McGinn's apology Wednesday for the pepper spraying of protesters a day earlier didn't go far enough.
McGinn had said in a statement that he has ordered the Police Department to review the incidents and make sure that "appropriate commanders" are on scene with "appropriate levels of police resources" at future protests.
The mayor singled out the widely publicized case of 84-year-old Dorli Rainey, a well-known Seattle activist, who was among those blasted with the eye-stinging spray. A picture of her face streaming with pepper spray and antidote, taken by Seattlepi.com photographer Joshua Trujillo, has spread quickly across the country.
"To those engaged in peaceful protest, I am sorry that you were pepper sprayed. I spoke to Dorli Rainey (who I know personally) to ask how she was doing, and to ask for her description of events," McGinn said. "I also called in Seattle Police Chief John Diaz and the command staff to review the actions of last night. They agreed that this was not their preferred outcome," the statement said.
Occupy Seattle leaders, in their own statement, said they had notified the city of their intended march and route and it should not have been necessary to greet them with overwhelming force.
"Given that the police blocked our passage and then used pepper spray indiscriminately suggests that it is not Occupy Seattle that is unwilling to work with the city, but rather that SPD is not willing to work with Occupy Seattle," they said.
Rainey told the Associated Press that she had been on a bus when she saw the protests and decided to take part. Police, she said, began shoving their bicycles at the marchers and then opened up with pepper spray. She has no plans to withdraw from the protests, she added.
Occupy Seattle announced that Rainey will be the keynote speaker at a "Voices of the Revolution" rally set for Saturday at Westlake Park, scene of the movement's initial encampment.
"I'm pretty tough, I guess," Rainey said.