July 16th, 2013 | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Activism, City Hall, Health, Environment

Mount Tabor Occupation Ends After Four Days

taborposterThe Mount Tabor occupation on Saturday, July 13. - Aaron Mesh

The occupation of Mount Tabor is over after four days.

The organizer of the Camp Cascadia protest against covering the city's open-air reservoirs tells WW that demonstrators are leaving the mountain, concerned that further chanting, honking and police presence would alienate neighborhood backing.

"After four days, we're not interested in alienating the people we want to work with," Jessie Sponberg says. "We were teeter-tottering on losing the support of the community."

Unlike the Occupy Portland camps that tied up two downtown parks for months in 2011, the occupation of Mount Tabor turned out to be brief, pastoral and anticlimactic.

Despite promises by leaders of "a strategic, organized siege" and challenges to police, the protest against covering the city's open-air reservoirs turned into a family-oriented picnic with just seven arrests in four nights, as most demonstrators voluntarily left the park each evening shortly after midnight.

Last night, about 100 protesters decided not to confront about 30 riot cops in the park. Today, Sponberg and other protest organizers announced they had "decided to declare a small victory" and not return to Mount Tabor.

"Cooler heads and the reality of the situation prevailed," Sponberg says. "Did people expect we were going to spend the night in jail? Not necessary. We all agreed we wanted to end it on a positive note."

Protesters say they'll make their regular appearance at City Hall on Wednesday morning.

Mayor Charlie Hales has easily quashed a repeat of the protracted Occupy Portland camps.

Protesters—a blend of water-purity activists and Occupy veterans—had demanded the mayor rescind his announcement that the city would stop fighting federal regulations calling for replacing the Mount Tabor drinking water reservoirs with underground tanks.

He didn't.

"The decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that we have to do something about our reservoirs is not something any of us are happy about," says Hales spokesman Dana Haynes. "The city, once upon a time, spent $2 million to sue the EPA over this. And lost."

Haynes called on water activists to join the city in finding a new use for the Mount Tabor reservoirs. 

"We hope the advocates understand: The park's been great. It's a gem of the city," Haynes says. "How do we make it even better, now that it's not a working reservoir?"

Sponberg, who promoted the event with escalating calls for confrontation with city officials, now describes those comments as "varying degrees of hyperbole." He says the last four days have attracted new attention to dissent against covering the reservoirs.

"This isn't about my ego," Sponberg says. "This isn't about me standing on Mount Tabor and seeing if I can scream the loudest. This is about the future of our water supply."

 
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