Monday, November 28th, 2011, Seattle, WA
I lived in Bellingham, Washington back in the late ’80s. It was and is a gorgeous place, every piece of soil tree-covered, sitting on Bellingham Bay with the North Cascades visible in the distance. I first went there with my then-girlfriend, Val, who has lived there ever since. We had some crazy times in that town back then and my memories are almost all good ones. I’ve only been back a few times since I moved to California in 1995, but I always love it. The weather, though, with its seemingly endless drizzle, gets me down. I’ve been lucky to get some good weather most of the occasions I’ve had to visit.
I’ve got other friends here from my forest activism days in the Pacific Northwest and spent last night with a number of them, eating Thanksgiving leftovers and nibbling on ice cream with chocolate and brandied peaches (compliments of my friend Jennie from Finney Farm) to sweeten the conversation that lingered into the early morning hours. I had originally planned to get up early, do a quick report on OccupyBellingham and then dash to OccupyOlympia for a rally at the state capitol building today. After such a late night, I wasn’t in the mood for bolting out of bed that early. Val and I still had lots of catching up to do this morning and that was a much higher priority than going to see Occupy.
When I finally did get to the camp in Maritime Park, below the classy old redbrick courthouse, it was mid-day and the rarely-seen November sun brightened up the collection of tents and tarps typical of Occupations. Camp was fairly deserted, with most people having left for the OccupyOlympia rally. One man was being interviewed by the local TV station, while a handful of people were figuring out how to put up and secure a steel-framed rain canopy. Maritime Park is a stone’s throw from the ocean, directly in the line of fire for the storm winds that blow off the Bay. Against the shelter-flattening gusts, all tents are well secured with stakes and cement blocks, anchored to the soggy, grass as tenaciously as campers hold their turf against the buffeting wind of the status quo. These camps are carving out tiny pieces of physical geography to represent a larger, emerging social space called, for now, Occupy.
This camp is the neatest I’ve seen yet, with wood chip-covered pathways and no trash laying around. The kitchen is small and tidy with porta-potties standing unobtrusively at the edge of camp. If you were to believe some of the right-wing press and commentators, who insist on describing Occupy camps as filthy, covered in excrement, full of violent, crazy people and so on, you would have to conclude upon arrival at OccupyBellingham that you must be in the wrong place. The “Occupy Everything” sign on one tent gives it away, as does the carved wooden “HOPE” sign at the beginning of the path from the sidewalk.
I filmed the person doing the TV interview and shot interviews with two others, the last one a woman who stays there with her cat. She does have a regular home, but stays here because she believes and supports the message of Occupy. Her son was pepper sprayed in Portland, when that occupation was raided by the police. Instead of saying too much about them, I’ll let them speak for themselves in the short interviews posted below.
Everyone’s ears pick up whenever I say I’m from OccupyOakland, since we’ve been trendsetting in many ways, some of them controversial. The Oakland credentials help to get people talking, but it’s not really necessary. Occupiers everywhere seem to have an intuitive understanding of the need to share their views and engage the world in the conversation. And that’s what Occupy is really all about.
(Part II is in the post below.)