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November 16th, 2011 ANNIE ZAK | News Stories
 

Occupy Elsewhere

Other cities’ Occupation camps have seen even bigger problems.

news3-occupydenver_3802TOUGH TACTICS: Denver police used force, including pepper spray, against Occupy marchers Oct. 29 - IMAGE: tannerspendley.com
Born from the same political movement, each Occupation around the country has differed in size, level of violence and the degree of tolerance by government.

Roughly 70 U.S. cities have seen Occupations, including the first, Occupy Wall Street in New York. Some, such as Seattle, have had only a few arrests; others have had serious police clashes.

So, where does Occupy Portland fall along this spectrum?

Occupy Portland lasted longer than many others—39 days—before police cleared the camp in Chapman and Lownsdale squares Sunday. Even with the force used by police, the scene was less violent than at other cities’ encampments.

In Denver, police used pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters during an Oct. 29 march.

In Oakland, Calif., an Iraq war veteran suffered a serious head injury Oct. 25 when he was hit by a projectile lobbed or fired by police (it may have been a tear-gas canister) during a general strike. Police cleared the camp without serious incident Nov. 14 after the mayor set an eviction deadline.

Jeannie Hartley, a media liaison for Occupy Denver, said the camp there has also dealt with a homeless population. “I see it as a problem because they’re homeless,” Hartley says. “I don’t see it as a problem because they’re coming to us.”

She says Mayor Michael Hancock hasn’t set a deadline to vacate protesters from a city park and that officials in other cities have done a better job of handling Occupations. 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa handed out ponchos to rain-soaked protestors. Local police officers in Albany, N.Y., refused to arrest protestors when ordered to do so by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who later had state police step in. 

Diane Reiner, media liaison with Occupy Oakland, says the Occupation there is particularly charged because it is such a diverse city. 

“There’s a lot of positive energy at Occupy Oakland,” she said last week, “but there’s a real intensity about what can really happen, which might not be happening elsewhere.”

In Portland, Mayor Sam Adams set a deadline of midnight Saturday, Nov. 12, for protestors to evacuate—taking the step before a serious injury or death took place. 

But it took Oakland Mayor Jean Quan until someone was shot and killed Nov. 10 at the edge of camp before setting an eviction deadline. Police said there was no apparent connection between the camp and the shooting but believed the area was no longer safe for Occupiers.

“People have been able to separate the Occupy movement from the encampment,” says Sue Piper, a spokeswoman for Quan. “The encampment is problematic for the violence, drug deals and harassment going on there.”

Seattle Police Department spokesman Sean Whitcomb says Occupy Seattle has been “exceptionally nonviolent,” with only a  handful of arrests, most for civil disobedience. The Occupations have been split between Seattle Central Community College and city hall.

Occupy Seattle media liaison Aliana Bazara says the city’s Occupations have not had major problems, but there have been fewer protesters than in other big cities.

“Working toward sending a cohesive message to the public,” she says, “that’s been a problem.”

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