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Occupy movement message? Its vague

Downtown rally long on criticism but intentionally short on solutions
by: Christopher Onstott Michael Moore speaks to the Occupy Portland protestors Monday afternoon after federal officials told protesters they could not camp in Terry Schrunk Plaza.

The Occupy movement has been criticized for not making specific demands. This is also true of the Occupy Portland protesters, who have not said what must change before they will leave Chapman and Lownsdale squares.

As it turns out, the lack of specific demands is not an oversight or communication problem. It is a deliberate strategy, according to one of the speakers at the rally held to support Occupy Portland last Friday in Pioneer Courthouse Square. All said they were part of the "99 percent" embraced by the movement.


MICHAEL MOORE IN TOWN

Filmmaker, author and activist Michael Moore visited the Occupy Portland camps in downtown Portland Monday afternoon.

Moore, in town to promote his new book 'Here Comes Trouble' with a 6 p.m. appearance at Powell's City of Books, talked with the Occupy Portland protesters at about 3:30 p.m. He also appeared at a Halloween night event for Revolution Truth, 8 to 11 p.m. at the Goldsmith Building, 32 N.W. Fifth Ave.

Moore has rallied for Occupy protests across the nation, appearing recently in San Francisco to support the group there.

Moore is known for his films 'Bowling for Columbine,' 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' 'Sicko' and 'Capitalism: A Love Story.'


First Unitarian Church Rev. Bill Sinkford was among those who addressed the noontime crowd, estimated at around 2,000 people. Like the other speakers, Sinkford said he agrees with the movement that a small fraction of Wall Street insiders have corrupted the political system.

Then Sinkford said, 'People are demanding we make specific demands. Do you know why? So they can figure out how to compromise them. So don't do it.'

The crowd, which included a number of people from the downtown Occupy Portland camp, applauded the remarks. But the strategy raises questions of how the movement intends to accomplish its far-reaching goals. According to Sinkford and the other speakers, they include 'saving the planet,' 'changing the world,' and 'creating a new system.'

'The future of the human race requires us to all pitch in. We need you to help us making a lasting change,' said camp resident Carrie Medina, who did not offer a plan for accomplishing those goals beyond visiting the camp, now in its fourth week.

Most of the speakers seemed to dismiss elective politics as solution to the problems facing the country and the world, explaining corporations were buying politicians with unrestricted campaign contributions. One exception was Eugene-area U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, a Democrat representing Oregon's 4th Congressional District in Southern Oregon, who said it was important that Democrats back consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren against Massachusetts Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in next year's election. DeFazio did not mention the Oregon 1st District congressional race, where Democrats and Republicans will choose their candidates to replace former Democratic Congressman David Wu on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Another exception was community activist Paul Cienfuegos, although he did mention any partisan races. Instead, Cienfuegos suggested initiative campaigns could be used to restrict corporations and 'abolish the [Oregon] government.'

The rally was largely organized by well-known Portland musician Thomas Lauderdale. His group, Pink Martini, performed at the event along with some members of the Oregon Symphony. Lauderdale was one of Mayor Sam Adams' most vocal supporters during the sex scandal that broken during his first weeks in office. Lauderdale later expressed disappointment with Adams for his willingness to replace the Memorial Coliseum with a minor league baseball stadium. He then praised Adams for deciding to keep the coliseum after local preservationists opposes its demolition.

Lauderdale said the event was funded in part of the McKenzie River Gathering, a foundation which pools money from progressive contributors for grassroots organizations.

Other speakers included Rabbi Emanuel Rose, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Temple Beth Israel; the Very Rev. Bill Lupfer, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral; Rev. Lynne Lopez, Ainsworth United Church of Christ; Imam Mikal Shabazz, director, Oregon Islamic Chaplains Organization; U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat representing Oregon's 3rd Congressional District; Tom Chamberlain, president, Oregon AFL-CIO; and community activist and author Kathleen Saadat.