'Occupy Portland' protest peaceful; hundreds camping in city

'Occupy Portland' protest peaceful; hundreds camping in city »Play Video
Demonstrators supporting the Occupy Wall Street movement against corporate power protest Thursday, Oct. 6 2011, at Pioneer Square, in Portland, Ore. Demonstrators marched downtown Thursday afternoon, disrupting traffic and businesses. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. - Many of the Occupy Portland protesters are spending the night at Lownsdale and Chapman squares with the blessing of Portland police, but many said late Thursday night they may defy a morning deadline to leave.

Downtown Portland was filled with thousands of people during the day who peacefully took to the streets in the afternoon to register their displeasure at the economy and the direction of the country.

The protest may not have a definite end. Many have said they'll camp out in the city indefinitely.

In the early evening, Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said police will allow protesters to camp at the squares. But, he said, they will need to leave Friday by 9 a.m. because the organizers of the Portland Marathon already have a permit for those locations.

There were still several hundred protesters in the parks as of 11 p.m. They appeared to be settling in for the night and many had set up tents.

But at about 10:15 p.m. a group of about 200 gathered for a meeting and decided they may defy the deadline. They said they are aware that this might cause a clash with police.
In the morning, the protesters said they plan to move into one block of the park instead of the two they’re in now. They insist they don’t want any trouble but want to continue their protest.

Police said they’ll make the decision whether they will arrest anyone in the morning if protesters stay past the deadline. Protesters said members of their group can make their own decision whether they will defy the deadline.

All the normal park rules will be in effect during the night, including no weapons or alcohol.

Simpson said police will be monitoring the situation all night.

It's not clear where the protesters will go after they leave Lownsdale and Chapman Square, he said.

"I think their group wants to figure that out and we're working with them to try and identify places that might be easier to work around but nothing that we’ve been told at this time."

He said the organizers worked well with police.

The Occupy Portland protesters gathered in Waterfront Park at about noon and then moved into the downtown area at 2:30 p.m.

Many in attendance said they were there to highlight the growing disparity between the richest Americans and workers as well as to register their frustration with the state of affairs in the country.

"I'm a teacher. I've been unemployed for two years," said Nancy Baker-Krofft who teaches in Salem. "I've had to go back to school to have a roof over my head. I'm sick and tired of this crap we’re getting in this country.  I am a very solid citizen, very patriotic person."

"People are kind of fed up with what's going on in America," said Carl Beaulieu, who was also protesting. "I would guess that this (the protest) has many reasons for people being here. My own personal reason is I don’t like war. I want to end war."

The protest mirrors a long-running "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City and similar events in other US cities including Seattle and San Francisco.

By noon, it appeared that about 1,000 people had gathered with more arriving as the afternoon wore on. The Portland Police Bureau said the organizers estimated a turnout of between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters. The bureau does not normally estimate crowd numbers, Simpson said.

By 2 p.m., it appeared the crowd had grown well beyond 1,000 people in the minutes before marchers planned to move through the downtown area.

The organizers of the protest did not obtain a permit for the march and said they would stay on the sidewalks. That did not happen, but police blocked off westbound traffic on West Burnside, giving the marchers half of the road to make it down to Southwest Broadway. Many of the marchers chanted "our street!" as they walked.

It was a decision by police to give some flexibility to protesters. That flexibility likely helped keep the protest peaceful, and traffic disruptions were the only problems that stemmed from it.

Police said there were no arrests, and they said that so far they're happy at the way things have turned out.

"People were not unclear. They were able to express their view and it was a powerful organizing effort," said Portland police spokesman Lt. Robert King. "So far we think things have gone really, really well."

Portland Mayor Sam Adams greeted many of the marchers outside City Hall between two sets of meetings and thanked them for demonstrating peacefully. He then joined them for about a block before returning to City Hall, according to his office.

About an hour after the protest began, the marchers occupied Pioneer Courthouse Square for a while before resuming onto Broadway. Then they gathered at Lownsdale Park and Chapman Square.

A route map was posted online just hours before the rally began.

At one point, many of those in attendance took a vow to remain non-violent. KATU News journalist Anna Canzano captured it in this video.

KATU News reporters Patrick Preston and Erica Nochlin and KATU Web Producer Bill Roberson contributed to this report.