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November 16th, 2011 12:01 am AARON MESH, HANNAH HOFFMAN | News Stories

The Fall of the 420 Hotel

In the final hours of Occupy Portland, there was mud, a riot squad and a speckled rooster.

IMAGE: vivianjohnson.com

During the celebration, the residents of the 420 Hotel had stolen a mobile generator and floodlights placed by the city on the sidewalk along Chapman Square. Other Occupiers were enraged because they thought this would provoke the police. “This is exactly what they want us to do!” someone yelled. 

“Would you please worry about your own fucking encampment?” said someone inside the 420 Hotel. “I saw the resource and I took it.”

The people fortifying the 420 Hotel eventually wheeled the floodlights back to the sidewalk. All around them, people were going home. The thousands who had come in support of Occupy Portland thought the battle was over. Many of the Occupation’s leaders hadn’t been sleeping in the camp for the past few weeks anyway. 

By 8 am, the parks were nearly empty when police officers wearing surgical masks and blue gloves walked in, tore down tents and sliced ropes that had been strung from the parks’ trees. Trucks dropped off green metal dumpsters, and a backhoe scraped sleeping bags and cardboard out of the park.

The ground was black mud that smelled like rotting food where the kitchen had been and sewage in many other places. Police tossed out tarps, pallets, sandals, a Fisher-Price slide and a pink vibrator. They knocked at the fabric walls of each tent to wake residents. “Time to move on,” a cop said as he roused a sleeping camper.

This is what the eviction looked like.

IMAGE: Steel Brooks

The Occupiers had no response to this, no plan. They’d worn themselves out, and their numbers were down to fewer than 100. Most of them sat down and watched as the cops cleaned out the camp. Officers arrested a girl where the kitchen once stood in Chapman Square. 

“You can’t just do that,” said Raya Cooper, a member of the information committee. But she didn’t stand up from her folding chair. Eventually, Cooper went off to play a game of Twister. 

To the north, Lownsdale Square was cleared in two hours. But in the northwest corner of Chapman Square, the 420 Hotel residents refused to acknowledge the teardown of the camp. Instead, they cooked bacon and fried eggs only feet from where police had started to surround their fort. They lined a long folding table with bread, lunchmeat, greens for salad, peanut butter, saltines and animal crackers.

Around 10 am, a man tried to bring in a jar of mayonnaise, but a cop stopped him because the jar could be used as a projectile against police. The man nodded, and then dodged the officer. The cop started to go after him but another officer touched his shoulder. 

“Let it go,” he said.


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