On October 6, 2011, I got home from work, pumped up my perpetually low back tire, and biked downtown to see if I could catch up with the Occupy Portland movement. I missed the march from the waterfront to Pioneer Square, said to be up to 10,000 strong, but I caught up with a critical core of hundreds who had occupied Chapman Square and Lownsdale Square at SW 3rd and Main. Around a monument to Oregon's war dead gathered a line of speakers waiting for their turn at the bull horn. Each spoke for a minute or so, starting their speech with the words "Mic check," and then rapping with a cadence of clipped lines echoed by the crowd for the benefit of those out of earshot. (This is called the "human microphone" by Naomi Klein.) Each speaker's words were carried by the lips and into the hearts and minds of every other member of the crowd. By speaking in unison, we ceased to be individuals, but became cells in the body of a rapidly evolving organism. Later that evening, I sat on the damp concrete and took part in my first General Assembly, as Occcupy Portland democratically worked out our responses to the difficulties inherent in occupying our city.
In just a couple days, the occupation has transformed from a march of disenchanted citizens to a living experiment in direct democracy. We have set up a Temporary Autonomous Zone that is evolving to meet the needs not only of its residents but of the continuing Occupation.
Occupy Portland is a flame in the prairie fire that has been lit by sparks flying off the Occupy Wall Street movement in NYC. A raging inferno, Occupy Wall Street was itself lit by embers floating across the Atlantic from Tahrir Square. The Arab Spring caught fire when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, torched himself rather than continue to submit to corrupt officials. In honor of Bouazizi's courage, I write this blog.
These Occupations represent a spiritual, cultural, and political awakening. Follow The Hemlock Report for a first-hand account of Occupy Portland as well as a philosophic, pragmatic, and poetic exploration of responses to our current crises.
Finally, thank you to the 99% who have awoken in 2011 of their slumber.