It’s inspiring to me that Occupy Portland has continued a visible public 24-hour presence in support of basic civil rights for homeless people even as the national movement has gone “into the suites”. Occupy Santa Cruz activists continue to gather informally in front of the main Post Office downtown after the 4 PM Food Not Bombs meal there.
In Santa Cruz, there have been no citations or arrests that have reached my ear under the most recent two anti-homeless laws banning signs on medians and “interfering” profane language and behavior in city parks. But homeless clients of the Monday Red Church meal (still in need of volunteers for its once-a-week meal) still report harassment by Take Back Santa Cruz motivated surveillance, police harassment, and bizarre discrimination at library, bus stop, and St. Francis Soup Kitchen (a man reported being told at all three places he could not have a sign with a–rather incoherent–political message with him.
The local ACLU now officially holds meetings closed to both the public and its own members, except for the brief Public Comment period and declines to consider the Sleeping Ban, the Sitting Ban, the SCPD Vasquez assault, and long-standing ant-homeless abuses. Any lawyers out there interested in a new civil rights organization?
Portland mayor moves to evict City Hall protesters
Protesters camp outside Portland City Hall on Monday, July 22, 2013, to draw attention to the plight of the city’s homeless population. Mayor Charlie Hales said at a Monday news conference that the campers have to go because the public and city employees no longer feel welcome entering the building. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Benjamin Brink)
By Nigel Duara
The Associated Press
Published: 12:00 a.m., July 23
PORTLAND — Mayor Charlie Hales announced a plan on Monday to evict protesters from an encampment in front of City Hall that began in 2011 during the Occupy Portland movement.
Hales said crime and litter at the encampment forced his hand.
“People who work in this building have been harassed in and out of the building,” Hales said during a news conference on Monday.
Protesters reacted with dismay to the news. About 30 protesters, ranging in age from teenagers to people in their 60s, were still gathered in front of City Hall on Monday afternoon.
Seth Ozturgut said he has been staying at the encampment for more than four months. He said he hopes the protest brings the homeless plight to the city’s attention.
“Sleep is a human right,” Ozturgut said Monday near the sleeping bag in which he’s made his home. “That’s just the respect you deserve.”
Ozturgut echoed complaints from several people at the encampment who say that food is readily accessible in Portland, but shelter is not.
The city posted eviction notices on Friday and changed the zoning around City Hall to “high-use pedestrian,” which makes it illegal for people to stay at the site for long periods of time.
Area homeless were not unanimous in their opposition to Hales. Joseph Gordon, 32, a former protester at Occupy Portland who remains homeless said the encampment wouldn’t have drawn the city’s ire if protesters had kept the area clean. On Monday, a dish of dog food was turned on its side and yellow and red pebbles of food piled on the sidewalk.
Empty water bottles sat next to overflowing garbage cans. Some protesters say the city’s closure of bathrooms overnight has forced them to create latrines in public areas.
The protest began in the waning days of the Occupy Portland movement, under the previous mayor, Sam Adams, and has suffered some of the same problems.
Adams instructed Portland police to post eviction notices on the 300-person encampment in downtown and a smattering of protesters reacted by establishing camp at City Hall. The protest has continued since then. Sometimes it shrank to fewer than
Both the Occupy Portland encampment and the one in front of City Hall drew members of Portland’s homeless population, some of whom suffer from mental illness or have drug and alcohol addictions. That, in turn, has caused sometimes-violent incidents, including a fistfight involving more than four people in early July that drew several police cars and closed a lane of traffic.
Most protesters who agreed to speak with The Associated Press said they’ll cooperate peacefully with a forced eviction, which could take place as soon as Tuesday. They said they hope their message to bring attention to homelessness in Portland carries beyond the brief period in which their encampment was in the spotlight.
“We’re forcing people to answer the question,” said Trevor Matney, 33, who handcuffed himself to a tree. “Are you going to let this happen in America?”
Portland police order dispersal of City Hall homeless camp and Occupy protest
The encampment made up of a largely homeless population began after police ordered the removal of tents and other structures from the 300-person Occupy Portland encampment in late 2011.
The City Hall protest sought to focus attention on Portland’s homeless population. Homeless protesters say the city feeds them but doesn’t provide enough places to stay.
But Mayor Charlie Hales said the encampment deterred people from entering City Hall and intimidated those working inside.
The roughly 30 protesters left, some crossing the street to yell as workers hosed down the sidewalk.
Relatively lenient city policies and mild weather have long attracted the homeless to Portland.
Portland City Hall Occupy camp dispersed
The mostly homeless protesters set up camp after police ordered the removal of tents and other structures from the 300-person Occupy Portland encampment in late 2011.
On Tuesday, the encampment of about 30 people in front of City Hall was also forced out by police in a much less dramatic fashion, five days after city workers hung eviction notices from nearby trees.
As the protesters left, some crossed the street to yell as workers hosed down the sidewalk. Shouts of “This is a police state!” echoed near a police press conference. Some protesters said the police turnout was an overreaction.
Ultimately, the City Hall encampment was plagued by the same ills as its predecessor: An unclear message, complaints from the community and the significant presence of a homeless population that eventually dominated the protest.
The protesters, many of whom identified with the Occupy movement on Tuesday, sought to focus attention on Portland’s homeless population, who say the city feeds them but doesn’t provide enough places to stay.
By early this summer, occasional catcalls and violence drew complaints from residents and business owners who visited City Hall. Mayor Charlie Hales said the encampment deterred people from entering City Hall and intimidated those working inside.
Portland police spokesman Pete Simpson said the protesters dispersed without violence or resistance, although some said they plan to return.
“Our officers know that everything they do is being recorded by the media and by the crowd,” Simpson said. Police brought their own recording equipment to document the dispersal.
“This morning, an overwhelming amount of government funds went into picking up trash on the sidewalk,” said Sawyer Sherman, 19, a protester at the site for the last four months.
Sherman said the protest will continue in some form, and despite the police presence on Tuesday, it’s unclear what effect the dispersal will have.
Many protesters remained in the area and some held signs pledging to return.
Inmate crews supervised by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office packed the remains of the encampment across the street from the former protest. Toothbrushes, torn pieces of fabric and clothing were stuffed into plastic bags and removed.
Relatively lenient city policies and mild weather have long attracted the homeless to Portland, particularly in the summer.
Hales said he has had more than 100 police calls to the block around City Hall in the last six months. He said he’s heard reports of open drug use and public sex.
Trevor Matney, 33, handcuffed himself to a tree next to the protest for five days, but dispersed with the rest of the crowd on Tuesday morning. Matney acknowledges that some protesters may have brought unwanted attention to the encampment by heckling passersby, but says that’s part of their First Amendment rights.
He said he expects the protest and encampment to resume on Tuesday night.
“We’re still planning on being here,” Matney said. “The goal here is awareness.”
Reach reporter Nigel Duara on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/