Sitting- In With Conviction
Jason Houk, 22.12.2011 20:17
Coordinated peaceful occupation of Rep. Greg Walden offices end with 14 arrests.
Occupier & Arrestee Ivend Holen
In the largest, most unified public demonstration to address a specific member of Congress in recent history, six constituents in Medford and eight constituents in Bend were arrested last week for refusing to leave Oregon Representative Greg Walden’s offices until he agreed to hold public town halls.
Protesters arrived at Walden’s downtown office at about 11 a.m. and took over the office’s conference room while demanding Walden hold a round of public town hall meetings to hear from constituents about how economic policies and his votes have hurt constituents in his 2nd Congressional District.
In Bend, La Grande, Medford and Hood River, church groups, educators, and labor unions joined in simultaneous mid-day rallies and marches calling for a more representative democracy.
According to critics, Walden has been very successful in avoiding direct communication with his constitutants. Generally Walden’s schedule is not announced and he rarely makes time for public appearances.
“He might as well be a thousand miles away,” said Allen Hallmark of Grants Pass. “We can’t see him. He comes to Jackson County to hold fundraisers with rich donors at the country club, then flees. Getting a meeting with our Representative shouldn’t be this hard.”
According to a press release, the demand of Occupy Congressional District 2 (CD2) is for Walden to announce to the media a town hall to be held during the Congressional recess this December, and Walden’s commitment to appear at five public town halls across the 2nd Congressional District by April. Organizers stipulated that he should give the public at least three weeks’ notice of the date, time and location for the town halls, citing the Congressman’s track-record of holding “electronic town halls” under short notice that do not allow for the public to ask questions and only appearing at closed meetings or events.”
Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District is comprised of 20 counties covering more than two-thirds of the state in area, mostly east of the Cascades. Both of Oregon’s Senators hold town halls in each county in the state every year.
Organizers of Occupy CD2 cite multiple examples of trying to meet with Rep. Walden and being repeatedly denied. “During the federal debt ceiling negotiations this summer, we invited Rep. Walden to a Town Hall to talk about jobs and the economy and he never showed up. We had to hold the Town Hall without him. When we mailed his office our questions, we never got a response,” shares Kathy Paterno of Powell Butte.
This is not the first time District 2 constituents have been vocal with Walden. Last May, rural Oregonians “Foreclosed on Walden” at his Bend office, supplying a symbolic Notice of Default and Foreclosure on the grounds that Walden failed to “execute his duty to look after the financial and social health of his constituents in, and the residents of the State of Oregon.” The Notice delivery and subsequent rally highlighted Walden’s voting record that preserved military and oil industry tax breaks while cutting funding for emergency home heating assistance for low-income households and for the Women, Infants, and Children food program.
The occupation of Walden’s Medford office landed six arrests for trespass. With supporters on the sidewalk out front, the occupiers sat-in from 11am until after 6pm, refusing to leave unless Congressman Walden agreed to start having regular public town hall meetings around the district, something that he continues to refuse to do. The sit-in act of civil disobedience ended with the six arrests by the Medford City police.
The “Medford Six” were all cheered by supporters as they were escorted out of the building’s back alley exit. Waiting was a police van and uniformed officers from both Medford and the Jackson County Sheriff’s office. The actual arrest and transport to city hall were done by the city. In Bend the policing was notably gentler as constituents were cited and released outside of Walden’s office.
The Medford Six were brought to the courthouse, cited, and released. “They were very civil, very polite,” Medford police Lt. Greg Lemhouse told reporters.
In Medford the occupiers were charged with Trespass Premises Code # 5.250 which carries a “base fine” of $1,000 for the five who reside in Jackson Co. while the Josephine county resident has a “base fine” of $2,000. In Bend the occupiers were cited with Criminal Trespass 2 and banned from going to Rep. Walden’s offices for one year unless invited.
The. “Occupy Walden” was a coordinated action of marches and rallies all over rural Oregon in towns including Hood River, La Grande, Bend, Klamath Falls and Medford. The actions were planned by a coalition of activists coordinated by the Rural Organizing Project, “We caught them by surprise...” said Medford Six member Ivend Holden.