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"This is what happened."

I saw the Occupy Portland protest march through downtown.

Except for three hours on the road in the middle of the day, I was at my office in the Fox Tower, kitty-corner from Pioneer Courthouse Square, the protest's second major gathering place. At times I left my desk and watched from a few different windows. At one point I took care of bathroom needs, and could hear the chants and drums even when I was in a room situated in the center of the 21st floor, several walls away from and some 250 feet above where the chanting and drumming were coming from.

Maybe I'll have things to say about this. Later. For now, I'm doing what I realized I wanted to do: see, and not rush to get my opinions sorted out about what's going on.

More often than not, I'm a quiet observer. Been true since childhood. Lots of people I know aren't. And of course what's happening is news, and is newsworthy: people will talk about it. I heard many of my co-workers doing that, as they took breaks to watch the crowd. I'm trying not to add to that, beyond reporting what I've heard. Like this: a supervisor of mine saw that the crowd in the Square had thinned out and wondered where the marchers had gone (he imagined them saying "We occupied downtown for 10 minutes!") and I told him that the march had continued to another part of downtown, back towards the waterfront. I'd seen the announced march route; they were following it. That supervisor of mine thanked me for the update.

My goal in this: give myself time to think. Because there's the chance -- maybe slight, maybe strong -- that what you say now will effect what you think, in the believe sense of the word, later. What you say now may be the nugget of the idea around which your opinion of what happened starts to accrete. And on this particular day, when a lot of us Portlanders were watching this event through the filter of Will this effect how I get home from work tonight?, maybe your statements and opinions will build around that. Not necessarily around why the protests are happening in the first place, and your -- mine -- our -- thoughts on that, and on the merits/demerits of the protests as a reaction to this.

Am I committing a cop-out? Am I forming an opinion by not forming an opinion? There's a factoid (I wonder how accurate) that popped into my head today about the American Revolution: how during the war, maybe a third of the colonists were either strongly or vaguely backing the nascent United State government. Another third (again, round numbers) remained loyal to the British Empire. The other third: mainly getting on with life, not aligned with or particularly sympathetic to either side, not involved unless battles happened near them. I wonder if that's an accurate breakdown of the United States, circa 1778. And I wonder what, during the American Civil War, the breakdown was of "aligned with or sympathetic to the North/ aligned with or sympathetic to the South/ getting on with life without getting involved." Probably fewer bystanders, so to speak, but then I'm coming from the bias of someone who lived near where major battles of that war were fought. Virginia: contested ground, even if some of that formerly-contested ground is where a shopping mall now is. Events keep on happening whether I form opinions of them or not, and obviously that's true for events huge and small.

Maybe I'm a bystander. Maybe I'm Forrest Gump, just being around while stuff happens and not fully "getting" its impact.

So far, people here have been safe -- no arrests, and the marchers will be allowed to stay overnight in a park near City Hall and the Multnomah County Courthouse. I want this event to be safe; that's the one big concern that I've let myself articulate.

What else will I articulate? I'll quote a key moment from The Stand: "I don't know."


Whale fluke
Chris Walsh

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