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October 7, 2011

I meet the protesters on the waterfront beside the Burnside Bridge where they’re talking strategy and sharing stories. They’re scheduled to march at 2:30pm. It’s the 6th of October, 2011.

At first it’s tough to find the woman speaking through the megaphone. She’s about a hundred-and-twenty pounds, five-and-a-half feet tall with a bulky red crocheted hat over dark hair. She’s working a call-and-response cadence that ripples messages through the crowd.

“I have an announcement,” she says. The crowd repeats her and then they repeat her again so the people at the back can get the message.

Walking into a crowd that’s shouting a message and repeating it twice feels a bit like walking into a cult induction, but it’s actually a pretty cooperative low-tech way to spread the word. Still, it’s not very exciting to listen to a bureaucratic message spoken slowly and repeated twice.

After the double-repeat, she continues, “From the peacekeepers,” (from the peacekeepers, from the peacekeepers,) “Some really good news,” (some really good news, some kind of news,) “We talked with the police,” (mumble repeat, something about the cops,) “Because that’s why we’re here,” (somebody’s here, …) “And guess what?” (uh, I guess, what?) “We’re going into the street!” (we’re going to the street, we get to march in the street!)

Between reports like this and reminders to write your lawyer’s number on your arm with an indelible sharpie, regular folk speak. Doreen, a sixty year old unemployed nurse, is glad to finally see something happening. Chris, a father, rapper, and future teacher hopes to teach the next generation to think critically. The wind carries some voices away and I can’t hear everything, but on the whole it’s a pretty uninspiring set of proclamations.

At a glance the crowd seems to be mostly gawkers, like me. There are signs and Guy Fawkes masks and a lot of cameras. No doubt there is a unifying sense of disappointment for the state of affairs in America but it’s not the same complaint for everyone and it doesn’t need to be. We all have a bone to pick, and today it’s enough that we get together and say that much.

Check out my #occupyPortland photos taken 6-October-2011.

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