One year after Occupy Wall Street spread to public squares across the nation, a spontaneous network formed to provide civilian disaster response during and after Hurricane Sandy. They called themselves “Occupy Sandy.” Now, in response to a different climate catastrophe, Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters in Portland, Oregon, are making a similar transition.
Shortly after rallies and direct action protests to celebrate100 nights of Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, the region was hit with historic wildfires, sending thousands to seek shelter, and blanketing the metropolitan area with the worst air quality on the planet. Almost immediately, networks of organizers who cut their teeth protesting the Portland Police Bureau quickly transformed to begin providing direct services for the houseless and fire refugees flocking to the city.
One group, called Portland Equitable Workers Offering Kommunity Support (EWOKS), has spearheaded mutual aid efforts in a cinema parking lot, a few blocks from the Red Cross’s outpost at the Oregon Convention Center in northeast Portland. According to EWOKS volunteer medic Davis Beeman, the group, which was profiled by the Los Angeles Times in July, helped coordinate burn bandaging and gloves to frontline firefighters and are helping fill some of the gaps in the Red Cross’s services. (The Red Cross shelter location in Portland is not accepting donations of goods).