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Nov-21-2011 21:18printcommentsVideo

Salem Occupies Oregon State Parks

Any rewards for an Occupy movement that fully complied with officials?

Occupy Salem Parks
Photo and video by Jerry Freeman

(SALEM, Ore.) - Occupy Salem has been given a limited number of days to occupy Willson Park which is adjacent to the Oregon State capitol building. Michele Darr who is no stranger to political activism in this city, says they are determined to maintain their demonstration and that is why protesting at the State Parks Dept. is essential.

"We're here to encourage Parks and recreation to make the right decision and give us an ongoing use permit for Willson Park in Salem, Oregon."

Darr says things have gone well, or so they believed.

"We've been in the park for two months now -we've had two use permits that have been kept in really good standing, we've made a lot of improvements to the park. We've developed good relationships with both police departments and we've had very positive feedback from both, including visits to our General Assembly meeting; just to tell us just how nice and well kept the park has been since we've been there, better than it ever was before, that is the message we got."

The kudos haven't been restricted to the Salem and Oregon State Police according to Darr, they've also received positive comments from the very agency now setting out to impede their efforts, and Oregon's top official.

Raw video of the protest at Oregon Parks Dept.

"We also had Oregon Parks Dept. praise us highly for our work and we also had the first and only visit from a governor in the United States; from John Kitzhaber. He came down to encourage us and offer support, in the Occupy Movement he is the first and only governor to come down."

Darr says what they are faced with is not a removal of an exiting permit, but a chance to continue.

"It isn't a revocation, it is a refusal to renew it though. The reason they are doing it, they say, is that it is not an appropriate use of a public space, and we have to pose that it is certainly is; it is the highest use of a public space, which is why we're doing a demonstration there, and that is to support each other and to have a demonstration which is in accordance with our constitutional rights and our freedom of assembly."

Many criticize the Occupy movement for not stating clear goals, and while that is not really true; the statements are published online and the message to most occupiers is clear, Darr says they are taking steps to specifically addressing those questions.

"We've been doing it in a way that encourages people to look for some of the answers to the problems that we're bringing forth; issues that the 99 percent are really grappling with right now, and to offer up solutions to some of those problems; hunger, food and security; health care and security; a home and security; and that is why we offer those services, and we offer services to an extent that agencies around town are actually sending people our direction when they can't help them. There are so many cracks and fissures in the system that the people who are falling through those are finding as a last resort that we are there, and we think our presence is very important and that is the highest use of a public space". interview with Michele Darr

So what sets this apart from other Occupy protests? It likely is the fact that the Salemites have put forth a distinct effort to not anger the public, and relations with authorities have been good. The occupiers have not disrupted traffic patterns, they haven't been confrontational; and as expected in Oregon's capitol city, they have been very politically organized and backed by the community, Darr says.

"We've been officially permitted for starters and that is very helpful, although our permit has a couple of caveats; we've agreed to go along with in terms of moving our tents at night, The First Presbyterian Church has been kindly opening their parking lot to our tents, we've been able to maintain the permit and the good relationships that we've had, and also maintain the grounds, because when everything moves at night, the tent structures; we really clean up and keep the park and keep it looking nice- to keep that from coming up as an issue as to why we shouldn't be there."

News media and right wing pundits love to talk about hygiene problems at the various Occupy sites and while some of it is true, perhaps even unavoidable; it has also become a focal point of the movement's critics. Darr says rather than create sanitation problems, they have reduced them at the Salem site.

"None at all. We've had port-a-potties from day one; we also laid down $200 worth of bark dust. That was approved by parks; we've improved the overall appearance and it has really cut down on mud. We've done everything in our power to follow every suggestion parks came up with in terms of what would help us keep good relationships going."

As for the permit process that had been working, Darr said:

"This came out of the clear blue sky, we were totally blindsided by the decision not to renew, and we see it as an effort to fall in line with the rest of the country in terms of rousting the Occupies and getting us out of the public eye.'

Darr says that at this point, they have been given until December 1st at noon.

- edited by Tim King


Jerry Freeman is part of a new generation of dedicated news photographers who entered the Internet news industry as a second career. He shares in common with many people who fulfilled their life dream of becoming a visual journalist. Joining the Navy at an early age, and the Oregon Army Guard a few years later, Jerry has a wide range of life experiences. He describes himself as “a truck driver with a new found passion to bear witness to the world’s events.”

Teaming up with he embarked on a new career as a video news photographer and reporter. Jerry's quick exhibition of natural talent and ability to shoot breaking news led to his becoming a published member of the team.

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Joy M. Graves November 23, 2011 6:02 pm (Pacific time)

Our right to protest in a Peaceful Assembly should superceed Any requiring of permits when it's the public ON Public lands protesting government system break-downs. Regardless, Occupy was never intended to comfort the desires of government dictation, it was challenging it. We have rights but more importantly, we have Obligations to stand our ground, the ground of the American People, period. Salem, Oregon... we will See... I loved there long time, and always seen the citizens get going when things got tough rather than standing ground and defending true and proper justice... but who knows, many ne residents since then, Maybe enough "American's" at Heart To bring Honor to we American's defense standing as e continue onward in this Civil WAR. Great angle Jerry!!! Nice to see a little Pride coming outta Capitol city... it's not every Day you hear of Positive Efforts - things that make ya Proud ya lived there, once upon a Time. I do hope they hold their ground as they Say the intend to do, and I hope As they do, they receive Community Support As they do!!

gp November 22, 2011 6:35 pm (Pacific time)

December first at noon, the whole world will be watching...ok Guv, do the right thing.

An American November 22, 2011 2:46 pm (Pacific time)

I believe they have the spirit of our forefathers and if the government can't reward their good behavior, they have no excuses when everything spins out of control. Take your own advice Salem...

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