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Don't let city strong-arm homeless camp

Readers' Letters
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Occupy Portland demonstrators marched up Southwest Fourth Street last week to show solidarity with fellow campers at Right 2 Dream Too, a homeless camping site next to the Chinatown Gate. Nevertheless, city officials say the same rules do not apply to the two encampments, one on public property and one on private property.

Recently we have been hearing about the legal ins and outs of camping outside in downtown Portland (Welcome to the club, Oct. 20).

Three groups have become willing or unwitting players in a high-stakes political and legal game of chicken. The rules have not been written and it's unlikely any true winners will emerge from this muddled and confused mess of interests and issues.

The players: Occupy Portland, Right 2 Dream Too and the city of Portland. The Occupy Portland movement decided their form of political/economic protests would take form by camping/occupying all of Lownsdale and Chapman squares indefinitely. Simultaneously the Right 2 Dream Too (homeless) charity signed a lease to open up a private tent village on the corner of Northwest Fourth Avenue and Burnside. Meanwhile, the city of Portland was put in the untenable position of arguing in federal court the right to prohibit camping in the city while at the same time condoning the Occupy Portland protest. Irony strikes again.

Some are trying to link the two separate groups because they have camping and poverty in common. That is a mistake in my opinion. Right 2 Dream Too has little in common legally with Occupy Portland for one simple reason: They are leasing private property.

The city can legally shut down the Occupy Portland movement at any time. An injustice would be for the city to shut down Right 2 Dream Too in the same swoop of the long arm of the law. The closer the two camps are linked, the more likely the city will use a shutdown of Occupy as leverage to end the Right 2 Dream Too.

Geoff Rode

Southeast Portland

Scapegoats let campers break law

Apparently the rational by the city to allow Occupy Portland to break the law and camp illegally is because the protest is political.

The homeless protest, Right 2 Dream Too (R2D2), is also political. What are the politics involved?

The Occupy protest is aimed at companies, not just any companies; they are aimed at the banks that run/own the global economy, recognizing that the center of power in the U.S. doesn't reside in Washington, D.C., anymore. It's on Wall Street. National politics are a farce.

The R2D2 protest is aimed at the laws that prohibit homeless people from enjoying the basic right to exist. They are constantly subjected to harassment, arrest and theft of possessions by the police, security guards and gangs preying on them.

As anyone who has walked the streets of Portland knows, there are some seriously drug-addicted, mentally ill, disabled people left to fend for themselves in a place that just wants them to disappear.

How did our city become like this - corporate influence perhaps?

A zillion instances could be raised where corporations have passed oppressive legislation in this city: the sit-lie (ordinance), to mention the most hideous.

The economic crisis in not going away any time soon. Our tax money given to the banks, no Roosevelt-type jobs program in sight?

Kim Alphandary

Newberg

Homeless need a place to rest, too

Come on, Portlanders! These are humans who need a place to relax. It's a form of discrimination to allow people with homes to protest and sleep downtown, and not allow homeLESS to sleep downtown (Old Town homeless camp refuses to budge, Oct. 13).

Portland's officials need to wake up and smell the coffee. Pushing homelessness away from that area doesn't solve anything.

Jennifer Dean

Gresham

Precedent set by not enforcing laws

After reading the front-page article 'Welcome to the club' by Peter Korn (Oct. 20), my question is, since when does the mayor of Portland have the authority or legal right to determine which laws are to be enforced and which are not?

By letting protesters continue to camp in the downtown parks with impunity when they wouldn't let homeless people sleep there - and since he told the police to keep hands off the protest movement, even though they are violating ordinances - I feel (Mayor Adams) discriminates against all of us who obey the laws and sets a dangerous precedent.

Since when is any cause above the law? I think it's time for the mayor to go. He sets a terrible example for all of us.

Louis H. Bowerman

Southeast Portland

City reaps what it has sown

Ahh . . . the beauty of reaping what you have sown. Or in this case, maybe the embarrassment of what the city has sown (Old Town homeless camp refuses to budge, Oct. 13).

There is NO difference between this encampment and the ones of Occupy Portland in our parks except these people probably held jobs at one time in their lives.

You can't pick and choose your winners, Sam (Adams).

Matt Clemens

Northwest Portland

Minor violations a cry for justice, change

There comes a point when the violation of minor laws is considered the only suitable means for the redress of the grievances of the people (Occupy Portland complaints pit city agencies against each other, Oct. 13).

If protests always operated within the confines of the law, the Civil Rights Movement wouldn't have happened. Rosa Parks broke the law. Martin Luther King Jr. broke the law. Freedom Riders broke the law. They did so because they were seeking justice and the government's adherence to a deeper law.

Chris Riser

Southwest Portland

Wright exploiting the homeless

My concern with this is that Michael Wright has now involved and implicated the homeless in his continued effort to challenge the city of Portland (Old Town homeless camp refuses to budge, Oct. 13).

While it makes for interesting theater, couldn't one say that Mr. Wright is using the homeless population as a means to his own end? After all, it's the homeless who camp here - not Wright - who will feel the brunt of police force, face continued displacement and suffer further marginalization.

Paul Montone

Southeast Portland

Anti-Semitic accusations went too far

I started reading the op-ed 'Tea Party is nothing like leftist 'occupiers'' (Oct. 20) knowing I would not agree, but willing to listen to the other side of the argument.

I stopped reading when (John) Kuzmanich accused Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism. With that single comment, it becomes clear that this is not an opinion piece but fodder for a whisper campaign. The far right is looking for anything to tear down this true populist movement - not a 'populist' movement like the Tea Party, which has been hijacked by corporate interest such as the Koch brothers.

So here is a new lie to add to the whisper campaign that already has tried these ones: 'Get a job' (the vast majority of the protesters are employed); 'They don't have a message' (they have too many); 'They don't know what they want' (oh yes we do); they want a government handout (no, they want a level playing field); and so forth.

Now Kuzmanich has added 'Nazi' to the mix. It's just another lie but one that we can look for to gain traction in the coming days. No doubt it was a talking point from the corporate communications Kuzmanich received from the Koch brother-run Tea Party organization, a group that was in its genesis a true and honest populist movement.

I'm so happy the First Amendment allows people to publish Kuzmanich's kind of drivel, as it allows the people to see where the Tea Party really stand today after having become the tool of corporate America. If only the staunch member of the Tea Party people could see what corporate interests have done to their organization.

Ben Sturgill

Southwest Portland

Occupiers should join Tea Party

Excellent work, John (Kuzmanich). Your analysis is spot on (Tea Party is nothing like leftist 'occupiers', Oct. 20).

It's too bad that the occupiers are so uneducated on how our very governmental structure has led to us being the most free and thus most successful nation the world has ever known - otherwise, they might actually become Tea Partiers.

Jeff Reynolds

Chairman, Multnomah County Republican Party

Northeast Portland

Kuzmanich did Tea Party a disservice

I recently read the opinion pieces on the Occupy movement in the Tribune.

I first read the Occupy statement 'Occupy Portland takes democracy to the streets' (Oct. 20). As it was on the left, I naturally got to it first.

It was very well written. It started with a statement that not everyone understands what they're about. It stated that despite differences, they all believe that the political system is broken. They stated that they want to be a non-violent movement. They addressed concerns about themselves very well and stated that they are working with the mayor's office, police department, fire department, etc.

I was impressed.

Then I read the opinion as written by John Kuzmanich, the head of the Oregon Tea Party, 'Tea Party is nothing like leftist 'occupiers'' (Oct. 20). He started with a blanket statement about socialism failing. He blamed all the ills of America on the failures of socialism. He blamed the Democrats. He then went on to label the Occupy movement as racist whiners. Then he went on about organized leftist extremism.

Now, just for the record, I am a registered Independent. I have a nuanced viewpoint on a great deal of things, but consider myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

I really have to say that he came across as … well … a crank. I think he did the Tea Party a huge disservice. His article was high on ranting about the ills of socialism, Marxism, etc., and pretty low on a basic realization that the Occupy movement seems to be nuanced and just as fed up with the political system as the Tea Party claims to be.

I find it telling that the Occupy movement is not pushing a party or a candidate. You can speak with them - I have, I was curious - and find many to be incredibly fed up with how the Obama administration has not held Wall Street accountable.

Kuzmanich just blamed the Democrats.

I almost voted for McCain. I am a fiscal conservative. I weep to think of what the Republican Party has done to this country in just a few short years. George W. Bush was a horrible president and deregulation of the financial industries is what has led this country to the brink of destruction.

Kuzmanich's failure to fairly place blame shows him for the shill that he is. The Occupy's lack of party pushing shows them to be the honest actors that they are.

Shame on John Kuzmanich of the Tea Party.

Tony Diethelm

North Portland

Occupation seeks a level playing field

Occupy Wall Street (and, by extension, Portland) is also, to borrow a few words from John Kuzmanich, 'upset with corrupted political institutions' (Tea Party is nothing like leftist 'occupiers', Oct. 20).

As for the 'free-market economic liberty' that is allegedly one of the tenets of the Tea Party, however, that won't exist as long as corporations do favors for government so that government will do favors for corporations (and I certainly hope the Tea Party members of Congress are going against the grain by rejecting corporate contributions).

Besides, if lack of individual responsibility is a problem, the lack of corporate responsibility is an even bigger problem. Unregulated capitalism favors the unscrupulous and greedy, and Wall Street being metaphorically occupied is a 'shining' example thereof.

No, I don't believe our country should be a nanny state. If we are serious about this, though, we shouldn't coddle corporations either; we especially should not give them even more rights than individuals.

If oil and mining companies want the level playing field that is supposedly the hallmark of a true free-market economy, let them forgo government subsidies and pay proper royalties on the raw materials they derive through the exploitation of public lands. If banks go bad, we shouldn't give them more money so they can play with that and make even more money.

And, above all, U.S. companies should have their offices here in the continental United States and employ people in the continental United States and pay United States taxes; if they can't stay in business otherwise, they should get off the playing field.

Obviously, a major point of contention here is what government is for. I submit, however, that if we adopt Grover Norquist's dictum of shrinking government until it's of a size that can be drowned in the bathtub, what good will be our much-ballyhooed Constitution? If we're lucky, I suppose we might wind up with a confederation. If we're not, we'll get stuck with the Feudal States of America.

Kerry Canfield

Southeast Portland