The #OccupyPortland Interfaith Guild of Chaplains
An open letter from Sarah to fellow Occupiers and all Portlanders: Mic check! I am typing this as the mayor was wrapping up his press conference. It is important to remember in this occasion that the Occupy movement is far bigger than the three parks in downtown Portland and it must become even bigger to occupy the hearts and minds of all people. We are at the forefront and beginning of a major social, spiritual and political transformation. While I share the sentiment of sadness and disappointment, as well as a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty for the future of this community, I also have a faith that this movement and our community will ultimately be stronger and bigger as a result of this latest development.
Having said this, however, a number of things really do bother me. The Occupation thrived, survived, and received supports from many Portlanders including elected officials -- as long as the Occupation was still portrayed as a group of younger middle-class activists who voluntarily left their homes to pitch tents. The public opinion and the attitudes of the government officials changed as soon as this perception changed into another "homeless encampment." I smell a classist double-standard here. The city attempted to crack down on the Right2Dream Too on the very first hour of its opening in contrast, because it was publicly advertised as a "homeless rest area." Even within our own community this was the issue that divided us. We have done what the city, county, and the non-profit sectors failed to do, not only by housing and feeding them, but more importantly, incorporating as valued members of our community, as equals, as humans -- instead of just another caseload, another number, and another disempowered (euphemistically called) "guest." All of sudden it was OUR problem, and OUR fault.
As a protest, the #OccupyPortland community brought up the hidden white elephant -- the long-standing and worsening social issues no one wanted to admit that they exist in this city -- in the very eyes of public officials and business owners. It comes not surprising, therefore, that the timing of the mayor's announcement coincides with the building pressures from local department stores, malls and retailers as they prepare for another orgy of consumerism that has long replaced the original holiday spirit of sharing, generosity and community with the "Black Friday" insanity. As such, I strongly believe that what the mainstream media deride us as "homeless camp" was an integral part of our exercise of free speech. Furthermore, it is for us a matter of conscience to provide all willing Occupiers a space to camp and food, regardless of how they might look outwardly or their socio-economic status, or whatever the other factors. Especially, from a social justice standpoint, we believe in a "preferential option for the poor" -- it would be against our conscience to deny the marginalized, vulnerable, and dispossessed individuals a campsite and food -- as well as an equal place and voice in our community and authentic human relations that are never replicated or imitated by the carefully controlled social service and charity models. The Oregon Constitution, Article 1, Section 3 states: "No law shall in any case whatever control the free exercise, and enjoyment of religeous [sic] opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience." I argue that the City of Portland has violated our constitutional rights when it began pressuring the Occupation to get rid of the "homeless" and "street kids." This conscience has been repeatedly expressed in our General Assembly meetings and camp safety meetings.
We will continue our struggles in this revolution. The Occupy movement will continue, with or without these parks. It is time for courage, unity, and vision. We, the interfaith and very diverse group of protest chaplains with deep roots in this Occupation, also will continue our journey together to explore what it means to be spiritual in this dawn of the Occupy era.
The #OccupyPortland Interfaith Guild of Chaplains
- Sarah will be officially decamping the Occupation at 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12.
- All Sunday events are hereby relocated to the previously announced contingency locations.
- Friday and Saturday events will be held on the Occupation as scheduled.
- Monday, 6 p.m. femme/queer spirituality group will tentatively meet on Monday, Nov. 14 as scheduled at the southeast corner of the Director Park. The group may then decide where to go thereafter.
The services and events this week
Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 10-12: Come spend more time with us at the Occupation!
Friday, Nov. 11, 3 p.m.: Interfaith Day of Solidarity. At the Camp Beta obelisk, rain or shine. Please share your songs, chants, etc. as we focus our thoughts, prayers and intentions on the well-being and future of the Occupation community, the movement, and Portland.
Saturday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m.: Havdalah. It is both sad and sweet moment when observing the ceremony of havdalah. The word havdalah in Hebrew means separation, as it marks the end of shabbat and the start of a new week. This evening, we also would like to celebrate the community that is the Occupation, its accomplishments and successes, and also to celebrate the courage and solidarity of the #OccupyPortland movement as it embarks on a new journey in the uncharted territory beyond the Occupation. Everyone is welcome.
Sunday, Nov. 13, 3 p.m.: Interfaith Peace Gathering. This event will be held at the Shemansky Fountain on South Park Blocks, at the corner of Main and Park Avenue, which is five blocks west of the Camp Beta.
Sunday, Nov. 13, 4 p.m.: Roman Catholic Mass. The Rev. Steve Newton from Downtown Chapel returns once more to share the Eucharistic liturgy with the Occupy community. Also at the Shemansky Fountain.
Monday, Nov. 14, 6 p.m.: Femme/Queer Spirituality Discussion Group. Meet at the southeast corner of Director Park at 6 p.m. -- and we decide.
Wish list, volunteers, etc.
As we continue our missions and visions, we will remain connected to the #OccupyPortland movement and will try to be active in its actions and meetings.
In the mean time, we might need a few necessities to keep this group moving and growing:
- Mailing/contact address to receive letters, packages, etc.
- Indoor meeting spaces (we have zero budget, but we can collect donations so long as that would not create barriers to anyone), both small and mid-sized.
- Various basic office necessities
- A closet to keep some of our activity materials, etc.
And we are still recruiting volunteers.
Phone: 503-427-8269 (urgent matters: 503-890-7724) -- both numbers can receive text messages also.
Email (use this form)
Twitter DM @OccupyPDXigc
Facebook page: http://tinyurl.com/opdxigc