On July 4, Bobby McMahon stopped eating.
McMahon is a 28-year-old Portlander who works in a pizza shop and is one of 11 drivers who deliver Willamette Week to boxes around Portland. Starting last week, McMahon and two other protesters have been sitting in lawn chairs outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Southwest Portland—and consuming only water with a dash of sugar and electrolytes. The goal? Getting Portland City Hall to yank the permit that allows ICE to lease its office building from a private landlord. (On July 10, City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly said a city attorney had ruled commissioners cannot revoke the permit unless ICE violates it.)
WW sat with McMahon in front of the Occupy ICE camp this week to discuss protests, Gatorade and the Portland City Council.
WW: What are you consuming?
Bobby McMahon: I have a 40-ounce water bottle that I fill a lot. I have dissolvable electrolyte tablets. And then a little bit of sweetener to maintain stable, livable blood sugar levels. That's it for me.
What happened to the Gatorade that camp organizers asked for?
We're asking for no Gatorade. It's funny because Gatorade is electrolytes, sugar and water, which is the recommended diet for a hunger strike, but I've read the comments and I've read the Reddit posts about "If you're drinking Gatorade, that's not really a hunger strike, right?" OK, if you don't want me to drink Gatorade, I'll drink water with a little bit of electrolytes and sugar.
What are your goals?
I think of it as a three-part goal. Getting [Portland] City Council to revoke the conditional land use permit [for ICE's building]. And then that would get this building inoperable. And then, ideally, that domino-effects into the abolishment of ICE.
How are you going to deliver the paper during the hunger strike?
I've been delivering with another person, so they're just going to take over for now.
Are you confident your hunger strike will get results?
My confidence varies moment by moment. Yesterday, when I called City Council, I learned that this issue is not on their agenda for tomorrow's City Council meeting, so that kind of got me down. But then other moments I think, this isn't how I'm going to die so it's going to work. This isn't how I'm supposed to go. So it varies.