Catholic Sentinel photo by Keith Kullberg
Mounted Portland Police surround protesters at the Occupy Portland encampment in Southwest Portland.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Keith Kullberg
Mounted Portland Police surround protesters at the Occupy Portland encampment in Southwest Portland.
What started out as a protest over corporate greed on Wall Street, Occupy Portland became a place where Hispanic immigrants went to voice their concerns. Local Hispanic leaders say they got involved in the five-week demonstration to let people know they were also part of the "99 percent,” the political slogan used by the Occupy Wall Street and Portland movements.

Minutes before midnight on Sunday, Nov. 12, Everardo Durán, from Latinos Unidos, stayed in his tent expecting to be forced out of the encampment by Portland Police. Other friends showed up to show their support — Nefi Martínez and Pedro Sosa from Americans Friends Committee and Romeo Sosa from Proyecto Voz, a group that works with day laborers. Proyecto Voz has its headquarters at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Southeast Portland.

They huddled together in the cold and rain. A few steps away, while a ring of mounted police watched, the crowd sang, “This is our park,” and “We are not leaving, we are the 99 percent.”

"For me, this experience proves to many around the country that the world is changing and we are part of this change,” said Sosa. “To me this was a unique experience and gives me hope. Since I came from Guatemala, this is the biggest I’ve seen and I wanted to be part of it. We are opening our eyes to the inequality and we are against the rich in the world, not just here."

Sosa said, as an immigrant, he felt Hispanics were part of the national news for the first time.

On Saturday, supporters from Salem to Seattle showed up at midnight. The size of the crowd delayed the evacuation to the next day. Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said he wanted to keep most of the people safe and that’s why officers were observing.

Yesterday, close to 100 people rallied downtown and visited the Pioneer Place Mall. Police followed them to keep the peace.

Tomorrow, Occupy Portland organizers plan to return to the streets to protest Portland metro-area banks.

The day of protest follows the eviction of the Occupy Portland encampment, during which more than 50 protesters were arrested.  The protest, being called N17, will be one of many actions over the next week that Occupy Portland organizers are using to engage thousands of supporters who have joined the movement.

Participants intend to prohibit business-as-usual at banking institutions, which they say have hijacked the government, contributed to the vast inequality of wealth that exists today, and profited enormously off the suffering of communities around the world.

Catholic social teaching and the Occupy Wall Street movement agree that the economy should be at the service of the human person and that strong action must be taken to reduce the growing gap between rich and poor, Vatican officials have said.

The basic sentiment behind the protests is in line with Catholic social teaching and the new document on global finance issued in October by Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said Cardinal Peter Turkson, council president.

The U.S. protesters have focused on Wall Street because "Wall Street is considered to be a big engine house — a big financial structure whose power extends all over the world," the cardinal said.

People who suffer from the way the financial markets currently operate have a right to say, "Do business differently. Look at the way you're doing business because this is not leading to our welfare and our good," he said.

"If people can hold their government to account, why can we not hold other institutions in society to accountability if they are not achieving or not helping us live peacefully or well," Cardinal Turkson said.
"The Vatican is not behind any of these movements, but the basic inspirations can be the same," he said.

Two demands uniting the N17 organizing groups are that the banks stop foreclosing on people's homes and that the city of Portland and Multnomah County immediately cease enforcing foreclosures. These demands embody the larger goal of reclaiming democracy by putting people and the environment before profit and greed.

“Refusing to enforce home foreclosures is one concrete way that we can reclaim power from the big banks and meet the needs of the people,” says N17 organizer David Osborn, “Our movement will continue to grow and evolve as we reclaim our economy and recreate our democracy.”