Say What You Want

Occupy Seaside
Angela "Fearless" Fairless leads Occupy Seaside

We try not to think about it, but there is such a thing as general misfortune, otherwise known as: bad luck.

There are children who get placed in foster care and end up with abusive foster parents, though no fault of their own, and they choose to flee the system that is not serving them and become homeless rather than to stay in an abusive environment like  “Justin,” who slept on the bricks of Seaside City Hall with Angela Fairless and other Occupiers representing the 99% last month.

Fairless was the first person to Occupy anything on our little North Oregon coast. Her main platform was challenging the City of Seaside’s illegal lodging ordinance which prevents people from sleeping outside within city limits, or on the beach.

Say what you want about her: that she’s been involved in too many projects or causes (she helped build the Seaside Skate Park and is a vocal supporter of medical marijuana) but I saw her being kind to several people in need and it warmed my ice cold heart. Perhaps she isn’t media savvy by academic standards: (she uses the bullhorn and then hops around like a silly, nervous, teenager) but her movement provided a spark for Occupy Astoria which perhaps has more staying power than it’s predecessor, but received less than half of it’s media coverage in the coastal daily rag.

While we’re on the topic, who needs media savvy when you don’t have media needs? Because of mobile, internet and livestream technology you can watch the Portland Occupation as it happens in real time. Occupy Astoria has livestream capabilities too, but is in need of the necessary rain gear if they have a repeat performance of the absolute drenching cloudburst they endured the last weekend of October.

Even here, far from Intel or Lockheed Martin, or Goldman Sachs – far from the tear gas canisters and flash bangs that critically wounded Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen in Oakland, rather, downwind from Wauna Mill – there are a bunch of people with booths, generators, signs and the mask of Guy Fawkes who planned and organized for weeks, ordered porta-potties and garbage cans, raised money, applied for permits, and followed the suggestions of local police and city officials  – to do what?

“To start a dialogue,” said Drew Herzig. “This is a local issue as much as a global one. We are all being oppressed by a system that enriches the 1% at the expense of the 99%. – So we must bring this home, in a very literal sense. There are people in Astoria with no health care, no job, no reliable food or shelter. How can we NOT get involved with this movement?”

Occupy Astoria demonstrators are trying to figure things out in solidarity with  Occupy Wall Street – and what that’s going to look like for a small town like Astoria. Some of the big city solutions being modeled don’t make sense or wouldn’t be sustainable when applied to smaller groups. Some people are too sick to attend events, others are too busy working to camp for months.

“We did this by the books (with the permits) because we see the city and the police officers as part of what we’re fighting for, said organizer Oscar Nelson, owner of Astoria Indoor Garden Supply.

The idea remains with Portland protestors that a tent city with better ideals than the “corrupt” city that surrounds it should survive. Astoria officials forbade erecting tents but didn’t shoo away the campers and RV’s present during the 24 hour vigil. Likewise, Fairless who slept in a sleeping bag at Occupy Seaside was not arrested nor were the other people who joined her to sleep on the streets in violation of the illegal lodging ordinance there and that seems pretty subjective to me.

As for the naysayer’s in Astoria, Nelson admits, “yeah, we saw a couple middle fingers,”  “which we called the 1% sign.”

Even here, in our little towns, there are agent provocateurs. I’ve met a few myself. A couple with steadicams in Seaside attempted to create tension by filming protesters and asking them pointed questions, when protesters questioned the camera couple’s motives they were called “paranoid” and told “the magic is in the editing,” presumably of the footage being shot. Online Occupy forums are rife with “trolls” or “plants” which are other names for the provocateurs who lob any possible accusation in an attempt to incite disruption or discord and tie up discussion threads into knots.

In spite of that, this movement isn’t even close to being over.

We had a lot of really good response from a lot of people,” says Nelson, “Response in supporter was overwhelming.”

Will there ever be leaders elected, even temporarily? There’s been a large amount of chatter about registering voters from the movement which Nelson says isn’t completely out of the question “it could be something we do in the future.”