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Occupy struggle

Occupy Ashland protesters say they are concerned that media coverage of violence and chaos at larger protests nationwide may reflect poorly on their small-scale efforts in Southern Oregon.

While Ashland police have reported no violence or damages at the Ashland Plaza, some larger cities are experiencing problems. In Portland, Mayor Sam Adams ordered protesters to clean up camp by midnight tonight, citing violence and thousands of dollars worth of damage to city parks.

"The negative stuff always stands out and overshadows the positive," said Emery Way, an organizer of Occupy Ashland.

Way returned home Thursday night after spending a week in New York City at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration.

Way said it's inevitable that demonstrations are a mix of dedicated protesters and people looking for resources or a place to loiter.

"There's a struggle," said Way, "because the occupiers do not want to exclude anyone from their numbers."

Way said the positive ideas behind larger demonstrations greatly outweigh the negatives that people hear about.

"The problems are less severe than they are made out to be," said Way.

Across California, police have intervened at several Occupy camps after reported violence.

In San Diego, occupy protesters vandalized a hot-dog cart after the vendor stopped giving food away and started charging for it.

A shooting near the Occupy Oakland camp left one man dead and prompted police to issue a letter to protesters, asking them to leave.

The larger movements have essentially become makeshift cities, with thousands of people camping in public parks.

Occupy Ashland downsized from around-the-clock demonstrations to weekend, daytime events at the end of October. Events this weekend included Veterans Day speakers on Friday who shared their interest and involvement in the movement.

Keith Haxton, a veteran and an Occupy Ashland organizer, spoke about his support of the movement.

"I heard a negative opinion from someone yesterday about Occupy Ashland, and they'd never even been down here," said Haxton, adding it was own time in the military that prompted him to get involved with the protests.

"When you've been in the military, you can see how messed up the system really is," he said.

Haxton said he has been in contact with other occupation protestors throughout Oregon, and he believes most protests aren't violent or dangerous.

"The vast majority of people are there for peaceful demonstration," said Haxton.

Whether the demonstrations are peaceful is of little importance to Marco Alvarez, an Ashland resident who said he has had enough with the protests.

"It's the bums occupying the Plaza as usual," Alvarez said. "I think it's just a waste of time. There are many other things people can do rather than hold a sign."

A three-day Occupy Ashland event continues today, beginning with a volunteer wood-cut in the plaza, organized by the Jackson County Fuel Commission, which got involved with the demonstration to show its support of the movement, according to Aeron Lewis, JCFC volunteer coordinator.

Lewis said he hopes the movement will generate real change in the United States, and that violence at other demonstration sites won't interfere.

"When there isn't a person to facilitate, people may lash out," said Lewis. "But you can't put a dark shadow over the whole group."

From noon to 2 p.m. today, Occupy Ashland will present scheduled speakers, an open circle, and an open mic in the plaza. At 2 p.m. a general assembly meeting will be held.

At noon Sunday a coffee and potluck lunch will be held with Cascade-Siskiyou Free Skool workshops and skill share. Attendees are asked to bring musical instruments, poetry, skills and signs.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Teresa Ristow at tristow@mailtribune.com.

T-Poe Varnado recites a poem to a Veterans Day crowd Friday in the Plaza in Ashland. - Julia Moore