Over in Oregon, Bob Avakian is a civil rights attorney who is running as a Democrat in the special election to replace David Wu in the U.S. House of Representatives. In about two weeks, the Democratic primary for this election will take place, and Avakian is competing against seven other Democrats for his party’s nomination.
In this contest, one of the factors that sets Avakian apart is that he has demonstrated clear support for the occupy movement that started with Occupy Wall Street and has spread all the way across the country to Oregon, including the Occupy Portland protest. Asked by a local news team about his reaction to Occupy Portland, Avakian commented, “I was down there on the first day of Occupy Portland, and I’ll tell you what I saw. I saw a lot of folks that are angry that Congress is sitting on its hands while we’re struggling here and have folks who are out of work, and they’re expressing that publicly, and I think that’s a great thing for citizens to do. It was a terrific nonviolent protest, and I say good for them… I couldn’t make the march, but I was down there for the organizing beforehand, and I was able to see and talk to folks and participate… I did take away something from them, because I talked to them, and looked them in the eyes, but it’s something that I’m feeling, too. They’re down there protesting because you’ve got these huge Wall Street corporations that are hiding their money in offshore accounts and aren’t paying their fair share in taxes. They’re getting tax write offs for things like corporate jets while you’ve got some poor family here that maybe earns 50,000, 40,000 bucks a year. They can’t make ends meet, and it’s getting worse in this country. What I take away from what they’re saying is we want fairness, and we want everyone to pay their fair share, and I agree with them.”
Democrats Brad Witt and Dan Strite have also prominently expressed support for the occupy movement. Strite comments, “People are unhappy around the country. Our Congress is broken.” Witt has stated, “We have the most unequal income distribution since the eve of the Great Depression. This has people upset… and they’re not taking it lying down any more… The message is loud and clear, and whether it’s Occupy Portland or Occupy Wall Street, or just going door to door and talking with my constituents, or potential future constituents, I hear it loud and clear… The way that it influences me as a candidate is that it says that it is absolutely vital that we find a pathway back to prosperity for all Americans… I went down there last Friday night, and was present when the General Assembly made their decision not to leave the park. I was impressed by the level of direct democracy that they’re participating in, and I am also very impressed that they have taken it upon themselves to make a point to the rest of the nation how critically important it is that everyone be able participate in a national economy… I believe with the message that I believe that they’re sending to us.”
Democratic candidate Susan Bonamici, when asked about the Occupy Portland protest, said she was aware of the protest and its frustrations, but took care to avoid saying that she supports the protest. She said, “I went down to see the people who were there because I wanted to see who they were and what their messages were, on the first day that it happened in Portland, and I saw young people and old people, and one of the things I want to say about it first is that I’m really glad that I live in a country where people have free speech rights, and I’ve heard from constituents throughout my career and through my career as a consumer advocate that they’re frustrated with the way things are, and I think that what people are saying now is that they want to get back to work. They’re worried about their retirement. There were all ages down there. Young people, old people. They’re worried about their future for their children. They want a system where people who work hard and play by the rules can thrive, and those who don’t play by the rules can be held accountable, no matter how powerful they are… I’m very much aware of their concerns, and as I explained, I’ve heard from constituents, and people across the district throughout my legislative career about consumer rights and consumer protection. I’m paying attention to the messages because I’m hearing from people, not just from Occupy Wall Street, but other people as well throughout the district that they’re frustrated with Congress. They’re frustrated that Congress isn’t getting things done, that there seem to be people in Congress who are holding things hostage for political gain. That’s not what we need. We need people to get into Congress and get the work done… They aren’t influencing my policy decisions, because I’ve had a history throughout my career of standing up for working families, for consumers, for those who are struggling. I was the leader in the Oregon legislation, and have been the leader, in consumer protection, where people are protected from scams, like insurance scams and financial scams that take advantage of them, and I see similar concerns in Occupy Portland… There are lots of messages, when I was down there, and saw their signs. There are many messages, and they’re worried about their future, and they want to get back to work, people who are seniors and worried about their retirement, families who are worried about their children’s future, and so there are many messages, and I’ve heard many messages… I definitely appreciate that they’re there, that they’re speaking out and that they want fairness, and that’s something that I’ve been working on throughout my career… I’m not down there marching, but I do understand the concerns that they have.”
Saba Ahmed, Dominic Hammon, Robert Lettin, and Todd Ritter have not spoken out on the protests.