The Risks of Coming Out

Source: Revel & Riot (2011)

Written by Remi

My sexuality hasn’t been a secret since 2005.  I’m queer and non-gender identified.  My parents acknowledge those things about me and love me as the person that I am.  To my parents, I will always be their child.

Coming out is a rite of passage for many in the LGBTQ-spectrum.  Beyond everything else, it signifies a step into complete personhood and a drive to create space to accommodate their existence.  Some of us were robbed of that choice by being outed.  For my own story, a sergeant from my unit called my parents to tell them that they raised “a queer” in the hopes that when I was discharged, he would still somehow have the ability to impact my life after I was gone.  Thankfully, it didn’t happen that way.

For some, coming out is an anxiety-provoking experience, but one that goes well.  There’s hugging.  There’s “we always knew and we love you just the same.”  There’s acceptance.  But for too many others, this is not the case.  They are met with contempt, hatred, bigotry, and sometimes violence.  It is, what I can only describe as, a massive and disgusting betrayal of the relationship between a parent and a child.

As a parent, there are things that you’re required to provide for your children to the best of your ability.  Their physical, mental, and emotional growth is your responsibility when you bring someone into this world.  To deny them the love and support they deserve is monstrous.

I spoke briefly with the publisher of this video and they gave permission for it to be shared.  I want to caution my readers that this is graphic and it depicts the harsh reality for many people who have to make a choice between loving themselves and loving their family.

This was an “intervention” that had been set up by the family.  It was an ambush that trapped this individual in a room, surrounded by hostile people, and an ultimatum was given.  When things didn’t go as planned for the family, they resorted to violence as well as going as far to tell him that he was no longer part of the family or welcome in their house.

According to this individual’s boyfriend, he is currently safe and has a place to stay which is away from his family.

Things have changed since I was a kid in high school.  I didn’t talk about my sexuality with others because it just added another target on my back.  I didn’t tell the person I loved how I felt because his parents were very much like the ones seen in this video (except for one and a grandmother, bless their souls).  In the end, he committed suicide in October of 2003.

Since then, “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell – Don’t Harass” was repealed and many states have supported gay marriage.  But underneath that surface support, many instances like what’s seen in that video still exist.  Hate crimes are still committed against LGBTQ communities and discrimination is still real.

According to a National Coalition of Anti-Violence Program report for 2012, there were over 2000 reported cases of hate crimes reported to be committed against LGBTQ individuals, including 25 homicides which is the 4th highest year recorded in the history of the US.  73.1% of those homicides were people of color.

Getting back on track

Written by: Remi

I initially made this page a couple years ago with the intent on writing fairly frequently.  Most regrettably, life has a way of changing your plans.

With that said, I’m looking to revamp this and start up again.  So for those who started following me, for about 30 seconds, I’ll be publishing some more stories as I go.  Please just keep in mind that I have a rather busy schedule…so I may end up getting stuck on other projects before getting a chance to come back.

PDX Police Chief Mike Reese misleads public

Chief Reese speaks with KGW

Written by: Remi

On November 17, during the N17 action, KGW interviewed Portland Police Chief and Mayoral Candidate Mike Reese.

The initial question was pertaining to how Reese felt the day was going.  He took that opportunity to mention the actions at the Steel Bridge, the actions at the banks, and then commented about having to make staffing adjustments to cover daily patrols.

A question is then asked about the impact the Occupation protests were having on the police force and how they were distracting officers from being able to respond to other crimes in the area.

“We are reducing our patrol response.  Many days, like today, we are taking emergency calls only for service.  For example, we had a rape victim stand by for three hours until we could get an officer to take a report and that makes all of us very sad,” Reese replied.

When asked by the interviewer if this was directly related to Occupy Portland, he responded “correct.”

He also mentioned that there were issues with a large group of protesters being in the streets during the N17 action that presented safety risks to themselves, drivers, and other officers.  However, protesters stated that the majority of traffic issues on November 17th were due to police actions in the street as they remained on the sidewalks.

The backlash across the internet was almost instantaneous with members of the Portland community calling for the Occupy Movement to disband because they were draining police resources and wasting tax-payer money.

But other media sources were quick to pick up where KGW left off.  Specifically, an article by Maxine Bernstein at the Oregonian explained that the call occurred on November 6th and was reported as occurring two days prior.  That call was dispatched as a non-emergency.

According to Bernstein’s article, “Laura Wolfe, a spokeswoman for Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications, said the delay was not due to any problem with dispatch.”  On the day in question, the call came in during a time when there were four officers and one Sergeant from the Central Precinct committed to the Occupy Portland encampment.

Besides the encampment, police were tapped by other incidents that had occurred which included a shooting and a severe traffic accident on I-84.

Since the release of this information, the Portland Police Bureau has been running damage control while other news agencies have begun to run similar stories.

Occupy Portland responded to the Chief’s accusation, “To use an individual who may have been the victim of a horribly violent crime in order to blame protesters for the overreaction of the Portland police is a complete dereliction of office on the part of Mike Reese.”

N17 – A national call to action

Jesse Sponberg, Beth Rakoncay, and Tadd Hess at the front / Oregonlive.com

Written by: Remi

On November 17, protestors from Occupy Portland joined cities across the nation in successfully shutting down financial institutions as they mobilized throughout Portland for almost 9 hours continuously.  The national day of action was planned to commemorate the 2-month anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City and celebrate International Student Day.

Police, who apparently wanted to lend a hand, succeeded in shutting down the Steel Bridge in the early morning and multiple streets while protestors remained on the sidewalks for the majority of the movement.

An official statement was released regarding the bridge closure, before the protestors arrived, explaining it was due to “concerns about protesters attempting to interfere with bridge operations.“  They did not elaborate on those concerns, but several commuters quickly blamed the occupy movement and some of the main news outlets in the Portland area were eager to fan those flames.

At the rally, later on, an “Occupier” pointed out the irony in interfering with bridge operations in order to prevent the interference with bridge operations.

According to eye-witnesses, approximately 15 to 20 protesters approached the awaiting police officers in riot gear, and sat down.  They were peacefully arrested shortly afterwards.  Almost 200 people had come to support them, and were told that the bridge was closed and they would have to take the MAX across if they wished to reach the other side.

Initially, participants stated that they were planning on organizing at the bridge around 8 A.M. and marching to a rally located at Waterfront Park near Burnside Bridge shortly afterwards.  But due to the sudden closure of the bridge, protesters decided to make use of what they felt was an opportunity granted by police actions.

Eventually, the protesters were allowed to cross at around 9 A.M. and the bridge was re-opened.

At around 10:30 A.M., there were approximately 200 people gathered by Waterfront Park.  In the congregation included union workers, the unemployed, students, professors, parents, grandparents, and even a small troupe of clowns to offer some comedic relief.

Partakers gathered around a speaker system and shared stories about why they were there and what they wanted to accomplish.  Speakers from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and age groups spoke up in hopes to inspire their friends to remain non-violent and support those who were willing to be arrested.

Waterfront Rally / Photo Courtesy of Beth Rakoncay

As the N17 protest started moving, the crowds were kept to the sidewalks as police on bicycles, motorcycles, horses, and riot vehicles followed them and blocked off roadways throughout the downtown area.

Occupy Portland’s first stop was the Wells Fargo at the Standard Insurance Center by SW 6th and SW Taylor.  As protestors filled in the plaza in front of the building, cardboard prisons were erected to represent how the American people were prisoners of corporate profits.  A sign was hoisted between two trees facing the roadway which read, “Stop criminalizing immigrants!”

There was a sudden cheer as employees building security looked on from the lobby’s glass windows.  Protestors had brought down the American flag and raised it back up again inverted, representative of a unit or garrison in distress.  The next flag to come down belonged to Standard Insurance which was replaced by a Veteran’s for Peace banner with an Occupy Portland streamer hanging below that.

As the protest at that location began to mobilize to another bank, a few excited participants came running from around the other side of Standard Insurance building.  Apparently, a small group of well-dressed protesters infiltrated the bank earlier and managed to hang a banner on an outward facing window within the establishment.  They were arrested earlier and were being brought out.

Protest at the Standard Insurance Center / Beth Rakoncay

About 10 protesters rounded the corner and stood atop a ledge overlooking the road below.  At street level, police were moving the arrested individuals into a van which was protected by approximately 30 to 40 officers from various agencies.

At this point an police officer, identified as Lewton, raised his weapon at the protesters.  An individual, Mike, shouted down for him to “lower his weapon” over a bullhorn.

Upon further investigation, an officer with the same last name was reprimanded in the past for unjustified use of force which led to the shooting death of Aaron Campbell in 2010.  It is unknown if this is the same officer involved in the 2010 shooting.

As other protesters appeared at the sides of the road, police in riot gear stepped up and shoved them back with batons and their body armor.  Although they had been ordered onto the sidewalks, protesters were being pushed into the streets by officers.

Across the way, onlookers had been forced into walls and herded into a parking garage.  The group known as “Bike Swarm” was among those herded into the parking complex.

While coming around to the other side of the building, there was an elderly woman with a walker ringing a bell and holding a sign.  She stated that she was a “grateful grandmother seeking economic and social change.”  In front of her stood a female uniformed security guard and two taller men in suits.  One of the men leaned forward and shouted, “Do you know how annoying you are?”

She shrugged in response and continued to ring her bell.

Seconds later, the unidentified man and his partner began taking pictures of her and another protester.  The protester attempted to block his face as the security guard made physical contact with him.  The elderly woman decided to start walking away and was escorted by the other protester to the safety of the sidewalk.

Unidentified Standard Insurance Center Employee after confrontation with elderly lady / Remi

Neither one of the male employees at Standard Insurance would comment other than to say that they were calling the police because they were just assaulted.  The assault in question was apparently the elderly woman ringing her bell and the male protester attempting to cover his face from what appeared to be an over-aggressive security employee.

After the signs were collected, the last remaining group hurried to catch up with the main effort at the Bank of America and TD Ameritrade located at SW 2nd and SW Morrison Street by the Waterfront.  The doors had already been locked with a comical series of signs that said, “use next door.”

Once again, a large crowd formed outside the front entrance of the multistory business complex.  About 40 protesters sat down and began chanting and singing.  A gas generated jukebox was pulled up to the protest complete with a fully-functioning sound system.  Almost 200 protesters in the surrounding area held up their signs voicing their displeasure with corrupt banking practices while dancing with one another.

Riot police and support vehicles once again lined the streets and blocked traffic while those participating in the N17 activities were remaining focused on the establishments that they were opposing.  A police vehicle that looked almost like a modified ice-cream truck blared instructions for protesters to clear that streets or face arrest.  Onlookers, businessmen, and shop owners were perplexed as the only people in the streets were the police themselves.

As officers dismounted their vehicles, a group of girls began chanting, “Hey officer, you’re cute.  Take off that riot suit.”  Nearby, John Williams’ “Imperial March” was being played to make light of the inordinate show of force by the police.

Bike Swarm happily supported the protesters as a little more than 25 bicyclists circled the blocks repeatedly.  All of them took extra care to obey traffic laws.  The joyous ride was almost derailed when a member of the Portland Bicycle Police Squad forced a “Swarmer” across two lanes of travel and then threw the bike at him, knocking the rider over.

The rider was identified as “Bosh Paro,” a member of Occupy Portland.

Other protesters lobbied complaints to a nearby Sergeant and the representatives from the National Lawyers Guild recorded the offending officer’s information who was smiling during the exchange.  Bike Swarm was allowed freedom of movement shortly after the incident.

A similar incident occurred later with another female protester.

A police Sergeant passed by and stated that they were going to have a race.  He then led his squad around the corner after the pack of pedaling protesters.

While that was playing out, a few protesters took the opportunity to playfully reply to the police vehicle with bullhorns while standing next to it on the sidewalk.  One protester began demanding ice-cream and whistling various themes identified with the mobile frozen treat dispensers highly sought by small children during the summer.

Another individual took the bullhorn and began demanding that the police stop blocking the roadway and allow the rest of the city access to the roads.  He also pointed out that the truck was facing the “wrong way and parked in a TriMet bus zone.”

After about 20 minutes, police began opening up the roads to traffic again.  The police vehicle with the loud-speakers attempted to make an illegal U-turn and blocked traffic again as civilian vehicles approached it.  Officers finally pulled over into the bus lane, blocking the TriMet bus stop again.

Back at the front doors, the crowd had grown in size.  50 people now sat and stood in a small circle while more people sang and danced with pamphlets and flyers.  Behind them, a gentleman inside held up a bumper sticker against the glass, “Weird Isn’t Working.”

Bank of America Exec 1%er mocking protesters / Unknown Photographer

When asked later for a comment he replied, “go fuck yourself.”

Approximately an hour passed before the group decided to start moving on to the next targeted bank.  As the large group moved down the sidewalks, police blocked off several roads with a massive amount of riot police and six mounted officers.  An estimated 200 officers were now escorting anywhere from 700 to 1000 protesters.

Among participating police units were Portland, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department, Clackamas, Vancouver, and a number of federal officers.

The assembly rallied at Pioneer Square momentarily as they debated where they wanted to go next as a smaller detachment headed over to the Chase Bank nearby at SW 6th and SW Yamhill.  There, the main lobby was already closed and locked.  But the front door was open which allowed a number of activists into the glass enclave.

About 15 demonstrators continuously went through the revolving door as 3 others grabbed signs and climbed on top of the housing for the rotating doors.  Outside, a crowd of approximately 50 people stood in front of the entrance cheering them on.

Mixed into the crowd were members of various local news groups including KGW, Fox 12, and Oregonian photojournalists who were struggling to establish clear lines of sight.

Once again, the protestors were on the sidewalks while riot and bicycle police were positioned in the streets.  Only this time, the officers had amassed in multiple streets instead of just one section.  Like the other times, the large vehicle carrying a PA-system called for protesters to clear the streets or face arrest.  The vast majority of people were lining the sidewalks on both sides of SW Yamhill.

At one point, a single individual sat down on the MAX tracks just before the SW 6th intersection.  Other protesters stood by and asked him to get up, but he wanted to remain seated.  A handful of officers approached him along with a TriMet supervisor to ask him to please vacate the tracks.

One of the MAX trains approached and some of the bystanders suddenly feared that the man would be struck; a few were poised to grab him in case the train showed no signs of coming to a halt.  But the train halted with the red light, and the individual stood up and hugged a hesitant officer and returned to the sidewalk without delaying public transportation.

SW Yamhill and 6th Protester Sitting on a MAX line / Beth Rakoncay

At the Chase entrance, the crowd had increased as police began lining the sides of the building.  There was suddenly shouting as the six mounted police and a group of riot officers began forcing their way through the crowd.  The police lining the building now converged on the entrance and began pushing demonstrators towards the street while simultaneously instructing people to stay out of the road and remain on the sidewalk.

As the mounted police pushed through, people were struggling to get out of the way of the horses and armored officers who were striking at them with batons.  Cameron Whitten, 20, was struck by an officer and went to the ground.  Protesters were able to grab him and pull him to safety as police were attempting to drag him behind their formation.

Cameron emerged disoriented, missing a shoe and complaining of pain from being “speared in the ribs and hit in the head with a baton.”  He was also notably distraught by what were the remains of a severely mashed burrito in his hands.  He added that a police officer hit his laptop causing damage to the screen.

A moment later, Cameron’s shoe was spotted but officers threatened to physically engage anybody who attempted to retrieve it.  An officer kicked it behind the formation line.

Attention was turned to the corner at SW Yamhill and SW 6th Avenue again as activists were being pushed into the streets by riot police.  There, Elizabeth Nichols, 20, was forced against a TriMet ticket booth and was unable to move along with other protestors.

At one point, an unidentified female officer used her baton on Elizabeth’s throat and shoves her back against a wall of protesters.  As she attempted to complain about the use of force, without warning, she received a blast of pepper-spray from the police line that went directly in her mouth.

Elizabeth and the shot seen 'round the world / Randy L. Rasmussen

The protester collapsed and was immediately dragged by her hair into the police formation and taken into the bank where she was arrested.  She was interviewed the next day after she was released and gave her account of what happened.

Other protesters nearby caught part of the blast and tried to vacate the area as a police officer released several more sprays at the group near the intersection.  The Occupy Portland medical teams were quick to react and immediately started pulling people affected by pepper-spray out of the area and treated them.

A small triage area was set-up at the corner entrance of Pioneer Square where people were brought and their eyes were flushed out with what protesters around the nation have come to call L.A.W., an acronym for “liquid antacid and water.”  Other injuries were noted and given over to legal observers as the majority of them refused medical assistance.

An 81-year old male who had been photographing the event was knocked to the ground by police as they rushed the crowd.  Other protesters helped carry him to a nearby Occupy Medic.  Medical teams quickly made him as comfortable as possible and prepared him to be retrieved by an ambulance crew.

In the final moments of the N17 action, the medical team debriefed and reported that approximately 10-12 people were treated for pepper-spray exposure; a number of people were struck by police batons but didn’t require medical intervention; two people received injuries related to the use of horses.

The police presence was nearly undetectable shortly after those inside the Chase lobby were arrested and the officers outside engaged people on the sidewalks.  Many protesters were wondering how and why the police presence of that size disappeared so fast after spending so long following them everywhere they went.  They were even more confused because there were still hundreds of people remaining across the street in Pioneer Square.

A couple groups left to go elsewhere in the city; another group stayed and hung piñatas, shaped like corporate offices, from a tree.  They were stuffed with fake money.

Participants on various Facebook groups and twitter declared the national N17 action a victory as they managed to close down multiple financial institutions in downtown Portland.  The following day, videos and photographs flooded the internet as protesters, bystanders, government officials, and media tried to sum up everything that happened.

The Portland Police Bureau released varied statements ranging from 15-50 arrests made related to Occupy Portland during the November 17 action.

Over 30 cities participated in the “National Day of Action.”  Possibly over 100,000 people participated nationally, if not globally.

PHOTOS FROM N17 by Beth Rakoncay:

Bank of America at SW 2nd and SW Alder

Grateful grandmothers

Modified Ice-Cream truck PA-system

SW Morrison and SW 6th held by police as protesters look on

Police blocking off SW Morrison and SW 6th

More police in the streets

Police blocking SW 5th and SW Alder

Police holding an intersection

Riot Officers B&W at SW Alder / Photo by Adrian Adel

Clown Troupe

V for Vendetta – J for Journalism and Justice

Written by “Remi”

I have been a journalist for close to 10 years now.  Yes, I’ve been writing and publishing news articles and interviews since I was about 16 years old.  It has been a hobby of mine as I truly want to become a doctor, that and I don’t want to starve to death.  There are really no jobs left in journalism.

However, yesterday really made me challenge that decision.  I am a member of Occupy Portland.  I have been volunteering down at the encampment by giving medical aid to those in need as well as helping out with peacekeeping and safety.  Because of which, I like keeping tabs on how other movements are doing across the country.

Yesterday, Occupy Oakland was raided by the city’s police force by order of the Mayor.  During the conflict police fired teargas, flash-bang grenades, bean-bag and rubber bullets at protestors, journalists, and bystanders.  Two stories emerged which caught my attention.

In an article written by Salon blogger, Kevin Army, he describes how he was assaulted by an officer.  Shortly after that incident, which was caught on video, Kevin was told that he could join other independent journalists.  In his words, “[n]ext thing I knew, we were tear-gassed. That explains why the TV trucks left, and explains why they grouped us together.”

You don’t attack journalists.  There is a level of professional courtesy granted to members of the press, even in war zones.  Yet, officers made physical contact with Kevin Army in an attempt to intimidate him.  When he, and others, didn’t vacate the area…they were tear-gassed.

Protestors took to the streets after what many called an overaggressive act by law enforcement.  One of those protestors was Scott Olsen, a 24 year old OIF veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  At some point, he was struck in the head with a canister fired by police officers and rendered unconscious only a few feet from a large line of police in riot gear.  The events that unfolded afterwards are bone-chilling as the event was recorded on YouTube.  As bystanders begin trying to help him and plead for medical attention, a member of the police force ducks out of sight and lobs a tear-gas grenade and flash-bang into the group.  It detonates right next to the veteran’s limp body and those attempting to help the fallen soldier run for cover.

Scott Olsen is currently listed in critical condition at Highland Hospital, suffering from blunt force trauma to the head resulting in a skull fracture and brain swelling.

Here we have people peacefully assembling and enacting their first amendment rights to protest against what they feel is a long list of injustices against the American people.  Here we have journalists that are recording events as they happen.  Here we have veterans supporting those they took an oath to defend.  And in one moment, their rights are trespassed upon and they are physically attacked.

As I stated earlier, journalism was a hobby of mine up until this point.  After this, it has evolved into something more.  Those with the ability to act have the responsibility to do so, especially when it’s speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves.  Right now I speak for an unconscious veteran, the protestors in Occupy Oakland, and journalists everywhere who have had their rights encroached upon and their value as human being diminished by those who find themselves in positions of power.

In the meantime, police in the United States and even the United Kingdom have sent requests to Google to remove videos from YouTube displaying aggressive police actions against protestors.  Police have also asked internet video services to submit unused videos of the protests for their usage.