Our Tax Dollars at Work

UPDATE BELOW: Awesome picture from New York.

Today Occupy Portland was scheduled to meet at 8:00am at the East end of the Steel Bridge, so I went down to take a look.  I walked along the west side waterfront, figuring that would give me the broadest view of what was happening, and alert me to any apparent changes of plans, since I was a little late.  As I approached, the obligatory choppers plied the skies, knots of police hung out in clusters, some with black SUV’s and riot gear and others on bikes, news trucks stood at the ready, and there were even two County Sheriff boats on the river.

One thing was conspicuous in its absence: protesters.  As I approached the bridge, the only indication that an Occupy event was underway was a lone guy on the middle of the bridge, rhythmically thumping a metal washtub and some cowbells.  I asked him what was going on, and he said, in effect, whatever we want to go on.  “You can get arrested, or you can just observe and bear witness,” he said.  “But all I see is cops; is anybody here?”  He smiled and replied, “What does it matter how many people are here?  It could be thousands or just a few hundred; what matters is that they,” gesturing toward the cops, choppers, and boats, “are certainly taking this seriously.”  Hoping his enthusiasm wasn’t unwarranted, I decided to walk to the East side and see what was going on.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous.  Everywhere I looked, clusters of police and their vehicles were massed as though awaiting an insurrection; the bridge, which ordinarily carries not only the railroad on its lower deck but buses, light rail, and vehicular traffic above (and shakes disturbingly in so doing), had been closed to all non-transit traffic, creating a pointless inconvenience for motorists, but maybe that’s the idea.  Good for some “man on the street” TV soundbites about how those danged hippies are preventing upstanding citizens from getting to work.   Who says cops are bad at PR?

Of course, all the riot gear sent a quite different message; no tomfoolery would be tolerated, even though at this point I’d still yet to see any protesters.  Did the cops throw a party and no one came?   Fortunately, as I entered the Transit plaza on the East side of the river, I did see, finally, non-uniformed people, and quite a lot of them.  They’d been herded onto a median between the light rail tracks, ostensibly to allow the trains to pass,  yet trains and buses were still backed up, waiting for a slow-moving police contingent to get off the roadway.  I then concluded that creating traffic snarls were indeed a feature, and not a bug, of the police strategy.

Just as I got there, people began to move forward toward the pedestrian deck of the bridge.  The crowd, probably a little less than a thousand in number, had the familiar feel of a Portland protest, which was why it was so laughable that the police felt the need for such overkill.  Are they really afraid of a bunch of ordinary people, many of whom were AARP members, walking across a bridge?  I noticed a fairly large contingent of union signs and insignias, which pretty much belied the Oregonian’s constant refrain that Occupiers were losing the support of working people.  There were a few homeless, and a few anarchist types, both of who were significant in only how rare they were among the more ordinary majority.

As we slowly snaked down the ramps and onto the bridge, followed by a couple dozen bicycle cops, I was delighted that there would be at least something for the numerous choppers to film, and it did look impressive enough, although not enough to remotely justify the enormous police presence. A young hipster behind me had a bullhorn, which he used to heckle the sheriff’s boats in the river.  “What are you guys doing?” and such.  When he said, “Why don’t you catch a fish?” I couldn’t help but turn around and smile.  That was the mood so many police created, albeit unintentionally: amusement.  Note to cops:  when they’re making fun of you, you’re losing.

I did run into the guy again with the wash basin and cowbells, who was now manning his post and playing with considerably more fervor than before, blessed by an appreciative audience.  As we walked, the bullhorn guy was chatting amicably with the bicycle cops, who were now mingling with those of us at the back.  When we reached the West side, the riot cops and SUV’s had disappeared, probably out of embarrassment.

We assembled in the same plaza where we had assembled prior to the October 6 march, and after some of the requisite chants, the bullhorn was passed from person to person, who told in turn their 99% stories.  A march was presumably planned afterward, but it started raining and I decided to leave.  In the ensuing hours, the Oregonian reports that they went from bank to bank, effectively shutting them down completely without any violence; the querulous banksters had already barricaded themselves in well in advance, behind phalanxes of security guards.  That’s customer service for you; maybe they’ll use the idle time to come up with a new fee to compensate them for their Depends and smelling salts.

Watch for it on your next statement.

UPDATE:  The building on which this image is projected is the VERIZON Building.  Marvel:

VErizon99.jpg

10 Comments

  1. mikeinportc says:

    Might have been even better if nobody but that one guy ( & you ) showed up, at least not there. The ridicule, of the police could do as much as any protest. Maybe it’ll give somebody ideas? ;)

    ********************************************************************

    CHNN Occupy NY, Upstate Update Version
    * Albany : At a press conference ,Tuesday, outside the Capitol, the Albany County GOP Chairman,upset at the presence of the DFHs within the sight and sound of our betters, demanded that Cuomo appoint a special prosecutor, to investigate and prosecute said DFHs breaking curfew by staying in the park (“Cuomoville”) after dark. [ Yeah, the state doesn't have enough superfluous officials,and is of course overflowing with extra cash. ;) ]
    *Binghamton : A small march to the county courthouse, and some banks. Other than that, no change. No tourists have been harmed . ( So far. ;) ) The big fracking hearing is drowning out all other news at the moment.
    * Buffalo : The city has taken more-or-less the same hands off approach as Binghamton. The was a march from the protest site, to a police station ( headquarters?) to thank and compliment the police. One concrete demand of the protest,is for the city to sever it’s ties with JP Morgan Chase

    * Cortland : Twice weekly general assemblies . More discussion than protest.
    * Ithaca : No permanent site ( that I know of), with one day protests, in various locations,a few times /wk. Among them, a withdrawl march from bank to bank, with a stop to deposit in a credit union.

    * Rochester : At first , the city went Bloomberg on the protesters in Washington Square Park. Arrested some. Banned the use of tarps or blankets, while still allowing some to sleep on the sidewalk . After some negotiation, the mayor changed course. Protesters are back occupying the park. ( Last I heard.)

  2. Ché Pasa says:

    “We are unstoppable! Another world is possible!” This was being repeatedly projected on the Verizon Building before the 99% went up, this while the crowds were going onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The fist pumping, horn-honking and V-signs from the drivers were great too.

    The police overkill must have something to do with using up all their DHS grant money, don’tcha think? We’ve been trying to get a read on just how much it costs to send the full riot squad to arrest one “curfew violator” and haul him off to the hoosegow three blocks away. Figure it’s some tens of thousands for overtime alone. Each time.

    But the local polizei got a grant from DHS (or some fed agency like that) and they must have to spend it or lose it. Same thing in Portland, I would betcha. And everywhere else on doG’s Green Earth.

    Of course you gotta laugh. Well, it’s that or cry, and we’ve seen more than one cop tear up over the utter stupidity of what they do.

  3. nswfm says:

    Look at the pictures.
    http://wonkette.com/456712/annnd-shepard-fairey-remixes-his-obama-hope-poster-for-ows
    “coolhandnuke November 18, 2011 at 10:25 pm
    When this Portland Police officer is asked by his grandkids ” grampa what did you do during the second American Revolutionary War?” he can answer with pride “I saved an ATMs life.”"

    • cocktailhag says:

      That’s nice, especially when they’ve had a half dozen or so rent-a-cops at that branch for weeks. I particularly like how tough he looks, saving people from excessive ATM fees. Or something.