Despite the “Snowpocalypse” in Portland many community members braved the weather to attend the first Portland Assembly on 12/17. Over 250 people were in attendance and – with over 20 participating organizations, collectives and groups showing up – spirits were high! Participating organizations included:
Portland Tenants United, 350 PDX, Safer Streets PDX, Trans Assistance Project, KBOO, Direct Action Alliance, Right 2 Survive and Oregon Homeless Bill of Rights Campaign, Portland Solidarity Network, Portland IWW, Pacific Northwest Anti-Fascist Workers Collective, Never Again PDX, Portland Right to the City Coalition, Black Rose/Rosa Negra, Solidarity Alliance of Social Services, AFSCME, Anarres Infoshop, Portland Anarchist Black Cross, Portland Prisoner Support, Oregon Jericho & more!
The event began with organizations tabling and sharing their work. Members of the Portland Assembly then set the stage for the day’s activities and discussed the goals of the PA. After this we broke out into “Incubation Stations,” based on topics such as Community Defense, Immigration, LGBTQIA+, Anti-Racism, Neighborhood Organizing and more. These Incubation Stations functioned as preliminary working groups, in which community members could meet others with similar interests in contributing to the work moving forward. They also were meant to demonstrate what the first part of future Portland Assembly spokescouncil meetings will look and feel like, as people are invited to recreate similar Incubation Stations before the spokescouncil meets.Many important discussions around strategic organizing were had, and preliminary ties were made between community members as they discussed their shared assets, efforts that are already working throughout the city, and planted the seeds for future organizing efforts.
The event made great strides towards the goal of developing a directly democratic confederation of community organizations and neighborhood groups to #KeepPortlandPowerful in the face of Trump. In this effort, Portland has joined the growing nationwide Municipalist movement with groups such as Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition, Workers Assemble in North Carolina and People’s Power Assembly in Baltimore, all of which are working towards the development of localized counter-power and direct democracy to keep our communities safe as the far right rises to power in the federal government as well as locally.
In the spirit of our kick-off assembly and the other movements cropping up nationally, The Portland Assembly aims to assist in the incubation of neighborhood organizing efforts here in Rip City. We prioritize developing dual power programs to meet those community needs that will arise as the Trump Administration begins to cut federal assistance for community resources. Further, we fight for direct neighborhood control of community resources at the city level – resources that are too-often squandered on urban development projects that carelessly contribute to gentrification, displacement and pricing working people out of their own city. We are organizing to determine our own collective future – one that is not-for-profit; not for sale.
We live in an age of democratic crisis. We have witnessed the lowest voter turnouts in history in the most recent election cycles, which is understandable if we consider the mechanisms for massive voter disenfranchisement that have developed since the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. With the implementation of Voter ID laws throughout the south, the gerrymandering of voting districts that enshrine the two party system and the increasing corporate influence over the democratic process at the city, state and federal levels, the effects the Citizens United Supreme Court Ruling are tangible, real and devastating at every turn. Without a truly democratic process, there can be no power for the individual citizen, or the collective common community. Why participate in such a process if you have no real power in it? In our kick-off event we began to answer that question together, and to imagine ways to take our power back by encouraging an active citizenry and developing direct democracy.
We believe that through collective action and the development of directly democratic neighborhood structures we can re-capture our power in society and break the cycles of alienation, depression, uncertainty and anxiety that come from living lives dispossessed from the power and voice that resides in all of us. That is why we are organizing a container to cultivate true change – an ongoing space in which organizations, neighborhoods and individuals can come together, bridge their work, and seize their truly democratic power. We aim to take back Rip City, and to run this place for the people.
This powerful new coalition will be making waves in the Portland area in the weeks, months and years to come. Stay tuned as new campaigns and initiatives are in the works. The next Portland Assembly shall occur tentatively on January 28th where we will consolidate this developing powerful alliance and push this important work forward!