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Camped Out: An afternoon at the Occupy Bend village 

Travis Cowan spends an afternoon with Bend's most popular protesters.

click to enlarge news_occupybend.jpg

As a steady current of wind kicked up dust through the vacant lot opposite from Pioneer Park that has been the location of the Occupy Bend village for the past two weeks, protesters hurried to cover tables strewn with the remnants of the previous night's meal and pamphlets explaining citizens' rights.

But as the wind began to blow harder, in what seemed like a turn of positive karma or deus ex machina, local contractor James Rice of Mr. Rooter Plumbing drove in to spray several hundred gallons of water meant to quell the dust storm. And while the ground was dry by sunrise, the dust gently refracting in the morning light, Rice's donation of water is an appropriate representation of the communal spirit that seems to be the aim of the temporary village.

The protesters are encamped legally on the plot, which is owned by the city and was once the location of The Bend Bulletin. At a city council meeting last week, members of the Bend Police Department and city officials agreed to allow Occupy Bend Village to continue their stay in the lot until October 29. When asked what the Bend Police Department's course of action would be if the occupants do not leave by October 29, Police Liaison Steve Esselstyn said that they would be cited for trespassing.


Wray Harris, head of security, or "peacekeeping," as the village inhabitants prefer to call it, said that the village has only had one incident, which was resolved non-violently. Also, the campers have promised to clean the location upon leaving.

Harris had originally requested Rice's help, who then enlisted the aid of his friend Troy Fox, owner of Big Troy's BBQ. Fox has left his mobile grill and barbecue smoker at the camp and volunteers his time every other night, while Rice cooks on Fox's off-nights.

"[Rice] came to me and asked me 'Do you believe in what I speak?' and I said 'yes'... But I also came here because it's my belief that people in Central Oregon can't barbecue," Fox said with a laugh.

During the day the Occupy Bend Village is primarily inhabited by students and retirees, with many working-age participants arriving for evening meetings after working day jobs or taking care of their children.

Karee Smith, a student at Central Oregon Community College said that she has been trying to raise awareness while on campus to bring more students to the village.

"We're trying to bring attention to how democracy is supposed to be conducted," the dreadlocked Smith said. "I think some people have given up on trying to understand the process."

Marv Blackman, a retired house painter and Vietnam veteran, said that he became interested in direct democracy after seeing the Occupy Wall Street movement take root in New York, then spread to cities around the country.

"What happened in 2008 affected the whole world and this is the aftershock," Blackman said. "I have a small Social Security check and I don't think it's going to be around for these young folks."

Occupy Bend Village, like many of the Occupy movements across the globe, does not have an official leader, but Vic Hesher has been instrumental in its organization since the movement started in Drake Park on October 15. While the greatest criticism levied against the Occupy movements has been their apparent lack of focus, Hesher spoke of several key points that the village has agreed on.

"This is not an anarchist model. This is a democratic model. We're interested in restoring democracy and that is the fundamental element of this worldwide movement," Hesher said before detailing the five primary points Occupy Bend Village has adopted.

Support for small business.

Separation of consumer banks from speculative banks.

Support for the creation of jobs on a local and national scale.

Increases in both federal and state-level spending for education.

Reduction of military spending.

Hesher explained support for small businesses as being more than just shopping at a locally owned store instead of a corporate chain. Hesher said the village, and other local Occupy movements, will have, "a large small-business outreach program," that would encourage local businesses to work together by supplying one another with manufactured products in lieu of purchasing foreign-made resources.

Hesher has been the primary representative for the village when speaking with local police and city officials and has said that the occupants will leave the lot by the city-designated move out date of Saturday, October 29. Hesher said that after a scheduled march that day, they would return to the park to clean up and pick weeds.

"We're going to leave this place better than it is," Hesher said.

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