The Eviction of Occupy Portland, Ore.: A Supremely Political Affair

New Docs Show More Detail into Boston Law Enforcement Focus on Peaceful Protests

  • May 21, 2013
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The latest trove of documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service adds new detail to the spying work of federal law enforcement agencies coordinating with local law enforcement and city governments to act against Occupy encampments.

“These documents make clear that the shutdown of Occupy was not based on the supposed ‘health and safety’ concerns that law enforcement used as a public rationale, but rather that the decisions were profoundly political including a prioritization of business interests’ demands over First Amendment rights,” stated attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the PCJF.

The documents show the intense political discussion and collaboration between the Justice Department, the DHS, local law enforcement and business interests who wanted Occupy Portland, Ore., to be shut down.

The documents also show the resources devoted by Boston “anti-terrorism” authorities focusing on Occupy Boston events during the fall of 2011.

These new documents have been posted for public review on the website of the PCJF. They show:

  • The DHS Federal Protective Service (FPS) “Threat Management Division” deployed significant resources to collect and disseminate “Daily Intelligence Briefings” with details on lawful First Amendment Activities, including a Rape Crisis Response Training with the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and an event titled Occupemos el Barrio at a local Boston Baptist Church.
  • More evidence of the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC) spying on peaceful free speech activities of Occupy, including monitoring a planned protest by Occupy Harvard against Tea Party favorite Newt Gingrich.
  • In Portland, Ore., law enforcement and the Mayor’s office met to discuss how to close down the Occupy encampment. DHS reported: “Business community and PD want this to end.” The eviction came days after that meeting.
  • Communication dated November 14, 2011, between DHS FPS Regional Directors discussing that across the nation “law enforcement organizations have undertaken steps to discontinue Occupy encampments within their jurisdictions.”
  • GSA officials appear to be in disagreement with the DHS, local Portland Police Department, the U.S. Marshals’ office and the U.S. Attorneys’ Office regarding efforts to shut down Occupy Portland and evict from Terry Schrunk Plaza (GSA property). The GSA officials appear initially to be requiring “soundly based” public safety or health concerns before agreeing to take action. According to documents, the Department of Justice appears frustrated with GSA officials’ initial hesitancy to evict. One DHS document states that the U.S. Attorneys’ Office “wanted to know who DOJ could call to change the current stance of allowing protesters to set up camp in Terry Shrunk.”
  • The documents prove the political character of the “law enforcement” actions regarding Occupy. At one point a DHS official reporting about Occupy Portland states that there is communication from a “political appointee” and that the DHS official has “told our folks to hold off on any more evictions until the politicos have that chance to weigh-in on this issue.”
  • Portland local officials made a decision in advance of effecting the evictions that it would fence off city parks and wanted the GSA to do the same to keep Occupy demonstrators from regrouping. When GSA declined to do so, the City erected a fence around the federal property without permission.
  • The documents show that after significant lobbying and pressure the GSA finally relented and issued a statement supporting the Mayor, the DHS’s Federal Protective Service and the Portland Police, and asserted that conditions in Terry Schrunk Plaza now require eviction.
  • The documents show intense reporting within the DHS on Portland activities, with a senior official insisting on updates every 12 hours as “there are a lot of eyes on this.” In the days leading up to the eviction, the “Boss,” as the official is routinely referred to, requested frequent briefings, including at 6:00 a.m., according to one email. It is unclear whether this is because the “Boss” is based in Washington, D.C., which would be three hours ahead.
  • The documents include photos that DHS took, including one that appears to be of a general assembly meeting and its participants.
  • The DHS categorized a demonstration for inclusion in its Denver MegaCenter intelligence hub under the label “Crime/Incident: Demonstration-Violent/Unplanned” where the text of the reporting describes that “officers on scene advised the demonstration is peaceful.”

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