PORTLAND, Ore. - As reports swirled Wednesday that the mayor and police chief will order Occupy Portland campers out of two city parks, some protesters say they'll stay even if they’re given an eviction notice.
The pressure appears to be building on the mayor to take action as more and more city commissioners now have expressed concerns about activities going on at the camps in Lownsdale and Chapman squares.
Mayor Sam Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese have scheduled a 10 a.m. Thursday news conference. The city isn't giving details about what they'll say, but it came after The Oregonian reported police are drafting an "action plan" to clear out campers if ordered to do so.
A source inside City Hall said the mayor feels things are out of balance and needs to be rectified, and many business owners downtown said their businesses are being negatively affected by the campers.
Jordan Ladoux, with Occupy Portland, said he resents the idea the movement needs to deal with the problems like drug use and crime.
"It isn't really our job to address those things," he said Wednesday night. "We're protesting. We're not setting up a new civil infrastructure."
He said the city hasn't done its part.
"They've basically told us point blank, we're not policing, we're not doing anything. We're not going to arrest anybody. We're not going to actually uphold the law within this area," Ladoux said.
He said if an eviction notice comes their way, "It's not going to change anyone's mind down here," he said. "People are willing to stay."
If the mayor and police chief tell the protesters to clear out of the park, Occupy Portland protesters plan to have their own emergency meeting to decide what to do. If they are evicted, some have suggested moving to a foreclosed home or staying put and dealing with a possible confrontation.
Building code violations within the encampment have now gotten bad enough that the city's Bureau of Development Services sent a notice to the parks' bureau. It cites human waste and waste material and six other health and safety violations that if not fixed, would force the camp's closure.
"I would think it's safe to say there are, at least among a certain (number) of us, growing concerns," said City Commissioner Dan Saltzman who oversees Development Services.
Just hours before a Molotov cocktail was tossed onto an escalator at Portland’s downtown World Trade Center Tuesday night, the mayor voiced concern about growing crime problems around the camp.
Police arrested 29-year-old David Joseph Hodson, accusing him of igniting the Molotov cocktail, and they said he is part of the Occupy Portland protest. Hodson faces arson and several related charges stemming from the incident. He was also arrested two days prior for setting different fires near the Occupy protest.
On Wednesday, Adams said, "The Molotov cocktail, it remains out of bounds and we need to bring it back into bounds."
Police spokesman Lt. Robert King said the Molotov cocktail caused minor damage to an external stairwell at the World Trade Center building. The office building is located one block east of the two parks where Occupy protesters have been for more than a month.
The World Trade Center houses the headquarters for Oregon's largest electric utility, state offices, a number of law firms and the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Meanwhile, Zach Pierce has started circulating a petition online, calling for the mayor to shut the Occupy encampment down completely. He doesn't live in Portland but he goes downtown, shops there and has friends who work there.
"I've talked with a few people that are actually glad this is happening right now because the camps down there are not conveying a message, they're just – it looks bad," he said. "No one's going to take them seriously when you see people just camping down there."
The 300-person encampment in downtown Portland began after an Oct. 6 march. Since then, it has drawn not just activists but also homeless people, radicals, drug abusers, and street kids.
On Tuesday, police said they noticed increasing verbal arguments in the two downtown parks where the protesters set up camp.
In addition to the arson arrest, police said they dealt with the following issues on Tuesday and Wednesday morning:
- 21-year-old Justin Desantis was cited and excluded from Lownsdale Square Park for having alcohol in the park.
- 31-year-old Shawn Kimmel was arrested for disorderly conduct, attempted possession of methamphetamine and carrying a concealed weapon after officers stopped him because of his aggressive behavior in Lownsdale Square. Officers found two methamphetamine pipes and a knife on Kimmel and also discovered he had a warrant from Clackamas County. He was arrested and excluded from Lownsdale Square.
- 20-year-old Christopher Hamblin-Rock was arrested on a probation violation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report