If you’ve spent much time in downtown Portland you know the park blocks that run from Columbia Street northward to Salmon Street between 3rd and 4th. You can picture the larger-than-life-sized Roosevelt Elk statue in the middle of Portland’s Main Street in the center of the four-block park.
But you likely can’t picture what was happening there this past weekend as the Occupy Portland demonstration, which had been settled there for several weeks, was ordered by Portland Mayor Sam Adams to vacate the park at midnight on Saturday November 12.
Thousands of onlookers watched as hundreds of demonstrators defied the evacuation edict and stood their ground. Perhaps a couple of hundred police officers from jurisdictions in Oregon and Washington strove to keep the peace. A helicopter hovered overhead and bright generator-powered lights illuminated the squares.
I spent a few hours observing, seeing if I could get a glimpse of what might happen in Eugene on December 16 when the Eugene camping exemption expires. Between midnight Saturday and 2 am Sunday I was positioned near 3rd and Main, close to where the largest crowd was gathered.
In his Occupy Portland Eviction Notice, Mayor Adams made key points including:
“In the past few days, the balance has tipped: We have experienced two very serious drug overdoses, where individuals required immediate resuscitation in the camp….Crime, especially reported assaults, has increase in the area around the camps. This is in addition to the health and sanitation issues that the camp’s close quarters have brought about.”
For the full text follow this link:
This picture was taken in the park block between SW Main and SW Madison. You may recognize the pioneer statue in the top left. I’ll post more pictures later today.
I wanted to see how the interface between the officers and the demonstrators played out. I had a chance to talk with a local homeowner who was volunteering in cleanup and identified himself as “mythhealer.” He sided with the demonstrators but was increasingly alarmed as other groups joined the camp (he identified four other groups) who were less peaceful and seemed to have different goals and motives than the original demonstrators.
He told me he had attended a group meeting in the camp where the chief discussion item was, in his words, where to “move the party to next.” I was told that Eugene was mentioned as a possibility by some.
While city streets were blocked and much chanting and public property damage occurred I witnessed no signs of physical conflict. As I was observing the event a man bumped into me rather roughly, quickly steadied my shoulder and said, “Excuse me, man…” Most people were equally courteous.
I toured the area, three blocks from the hotel where I was staying, on Sunday morning and found that somewhat less than half of the original occupants had left. The parks were in full disarray and a massive cleanup effort, including closing off a dozen or so downtown blocks of Portland, was underway.
Mid-morning police began arriving wearing protective gear and around noon hundreds of cops were in place to vacate the park of demonstrators as stipulated in the Eviciton Notice.
Clearly the demonstration was breaking up, but was leaving a very expensive clean up behind.
City of Portland staff was working overtime to return the blocks to a state of fitness for public use. The police teams behaved in exemplary fashion and the demonstration organizers seemed to work hard to avoid physical confrontation. But the cost in both dollars and disruption to the People of Portland is yet to be calculated.