Alas, this weekend I was finally able to sit down and dedicate the necessary time to these questions with my good friend and colleague Rich H. from the University of Oregon. At Occupy Eugene the prospects for the future of the occupation itself and those running it looks nothing but positive and progressive. It should be noted that OE has had to change locations several times due to city regulations and discontent from the administration of the University of Oregon. Despite these difficulties, OE has continued to grow and become more and more established and furnished as a permanent installment of protest in the heart of Eugene.
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I walk to Washington Jefferson Park on a rainy evening expecting to see people huddled for warmth around fires similar to those at Millrace Park (the previous location of Occupy Eugene). I arrive only to see that the newest location for the Eugene collective is not only much larger than expected, but sheltered, in a very convenient way, by two overpasses that lead outside of Downtown Eugene to Interstate-5. Under these highly trafficked zones, in full view of daily passersby, are hundreds of Eugene and surrounding area citizens occupying; they are there to stay. I hadn’t been to the camp since it moved a couple of weeks ago. To come back to this was quite a surprise.
As I later found out at the General Assembly meeting that night, the base camp for Occupy Eugene is to be considered for possible relocation again on Dec. 15. The past few weeks at Washington Jefferson Park have been nothing but fruitful for the morale of occupiers and sympathizers alike. OE is set on making sure more permanent and progressive ideals/innovations begin to root themselves in Eugene, Oregon- as a direct critique of the socioeconomic system that precipitated the debacle on Wall Street and beyond.
Is Eugene building a new economy?
The short answer is yes. Though not based in a new currency specifically, certain ideals and frameworks of “dealing with things” are being established. What the Eugene occupation provides for all camped-out for embodied protest is food, water, and shelter- this is to say ALL persons whom are there (homeless included) receive at the very least basic standards of subsistence. This coincides with one of the overarching ideals behind OE- Mutual Aid. With this notion operative at camp, all of the most basic needs of occupiers are met based on the contributions of those involved as well as others from throughout the community. For example- OE has two Doctors at its disposal whom provide health care to OE at NO COST. Fully equipped with supplies for a variety of situations, these doctors take care of the health of those whom have chosen to bear the elements of Oregon’s on-setting winter. The rain, wind and cold have been tough on the occupiers and illness has been an issue. Sustainable practices constantly searching for materials to use against the weather, Eugene occupiers have made good use of their surroundings and tent shelters to provide wind cover and communal, dry spaces where meetings can happen comfortably. Utilizing any materials from the nearby community for the winter, a large tee pee, a large tarp covered dome and various semi-permanent tent structures have been erected.
Are there heroes at OE?
The 17 whom got arrested on Nov. 17th would have to be them. As occupiers and fellow classmates of mine in a couple cases, 17 protesters were arrested in direct critique of banking forces, visibly demonstrating on the steps of B of A and Chase in downtown Eugene. Heroes would also have to include the 30 people or so whom compose the Core Organizers of Occupy Eugene- their selfless commitment to making OE happen is foundational to the success of the movement in the city. Despite all difficulties with in climate weather Oregon is prone to, occupiers remain steadfast. In this regard, the heroes are also the occupiers themselves. They choose to live in the conditions that they do now for ideals greater than themselves. Through sickness and in health occupiers have trudged through many a cold/wet/rainy day and established an ever growing presence in the middle of the city.
How much of OE is driven by Permaculture values?
Completely. The practical goal of the OE Engineering Committee (based on the ruminations of the Vision Committee at camp) is essentially to establish a large permaculture site in the heart of Eugene. In talking with Derek S., a member of the Engineering Committee, the vision for what is to come for OE structurally is nothing but exciting. The night Derek and I talked he was just finishing up making an announcement to the General Assembly that semi-permanent construction of meeting spaces in the camp was to commence. Not only meeting spaces, but shelters also, are to be erected for the comfort of the occupiers and as a symbol of the entrenchment of this occupation within Eugene. In the spring, and in cohort with the City of Eugene, permanent structures for public use- built by Occupiers- hope to usher in the installation of more permanent housing/facilities for the Occupation vision.
With these designated, stable areas erected for the use of Occupiers the possibility for gardens and functioning intentional groups comes to the fore. In the name sustainable values in all regards, the building of infrastructure at OE is coupled with various committees dedicated to providing ALL human needs on site (or at least close) including food, water, shelter and energy. The creation of and maintaining of a community garden, the erection of permanent adobe buildings for Occupy use only highlight the most established aspects of the future vision for the Occupy Eugene encampment.
The use of donated and borrow technologies at OE is crucial
…toward the health and comfort of the occupiers. With the use of batteries, solar panels, generators and even bike power, OE is able to cook and support anyone and everyone whom comes to camp, even the homeless. This openness to anyone who would like to become involved in OE, and the ability to accommodate them, is fundamental to the unified feeling that OE breeds. In the midst of winter, occupiers will gather in a big dome every day at 7 AM and 7PM as usual for their General Assembly, at which committees present the progress of their group. As dedicated individuals continue to fight the good fight of our time it is important for people to be updated on their actions, not just for organization of the whole, but for moral support. As darkness ensues earlier and earlier each day in Oregon, the need for emotional solidarity becomes more and more crucial as the ‘going gets rough.’ Recently spending time in the encampment I can say that the morale of Eugene Occupiers is intact, and kicking.
How are we working to bridge the many social injustices present in our world?
Through constant actions around Eugene, teach-ins, and demonstrations, the various ideals and intentions behind the Occupation in Eugene have been spread- elucidating the message of systemic inequality underlying the debacle with Wall Street. The information relevant here is broad in scope. From arguing on the basis of global/transnational manipulation of all peoples, to the exorbitant costs of a college education, the message against the hegemony of the 1% is spread in public places- most notably Valley River Center in North Eugene. At the VRC, a “flash mob” of protesters is created to go Thursday evenings and be an Occupation presence in the heart of this commercial area. By engaging interested citizens in conversation, and generally shaking up the run of the mill trek through the mall for most, Occupiers even Occupy the mall here in Eugene. What better place to confront and subvert the support of large, unwieldy corporations.
This kind of action does depend though on effective communication techniques.
In terms of the “work” of the communication committee at OE, their task is to be involved in the creation and implementation of events that bring Occupy philosophies to the general public- whether by actual engagement/conversation with people at locations of protest or by a general public speaking out against particular forms of injustice, such as homelessness. OE persons have been involved in promoting Permanent Homeless Bans that seek to provide institutional structures so all people may have at least the basics of life in the most affluent nation in the world.
The idea of Constant Action, and such events that serve to keep the momentum of this movement going, is the basis of the ”flash mob”, walks on banks, Permanent Homeless Bans and the like. Providing something for people to rally around every few days keeps the morale of protest up, while simultaneously spreading/continuing the broader socio-economic-political discussion that is at the root of the Occupation out in the public.
It goes without saying that the full extent of the activities that are happening at Occupy Eugene cannot be summed up by me alone. The energy, intentions and actions of the occupiers ripple far beyond themselves and are accomplishments that in and of themselves breed the spirits of activism, fundamental critique and solidarity. As a student facing my own mountain of debt associated with exorbitant medical and schooling expenses, son of a hard working middle class man currently struggling with unemployment and similar issues with medical, mortgage and small business expenses- the work of the occupiers of the world now is more important than ever before. The work being done at OE is an inspiration for the possibility of reform in the United States, and beyond, in ways innovated and monitored by people themselves.
I leave the OE home base thrilled and excited to write this response. The solidarity, provisions and shelter provided for everyone involved is amazing. In so far as Occupy Eugene is a subversion of traditional modes of being within a fledgling and unfulfilled “American Dream” society is it worthy of recognition as an attempt to reformulate what it means to be an American. The notion of “value,” being what it is, changes depending on who you’re talking to. By providing an example of what it means to live according to sustainable, egalitarian ideals- that serve to at least provide for the basic needs of all peoples- Occupy Eugene is a step in the direction of actually living in a progressive future.
Occupy Eugene Communication Committee
valle.erick at gmail.com