PORTLAND, Ore. - Police stepped up foot patrols around the Occupy Portland camps late Friday night in the hopes to keep the peace.
They didn’t allow anyone to bring in sleeping gear or materials into the camp that could be used against them.
The police presence around the Occupy Portland camps has picked up in the last couple days after the mayor’s ultimatum to campers to be out of the parks by 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Many of the officers are already ready with riot gear.
Police say they are concerned that some activities in the Occupy Portland camps indicate a violent showdown may take place when officers try to close the parks but protesters say that isn't the case.
A group of protesters pulled up to the camps in a pickup truck Friday and unloaded large sheets of plywood, several large rocks and some bricks.
A little later police said other protesters told them about the stash of materials.
Concerned the items were going to be used to fortify the camps ahead of expected police action to remove campers, police removed the concrete and plywood from the camps Friday afternoon.
Occupy Portland protesters have been camped out in Lownsdale and Chapman Square parks since Oct. 6 and Mayor Sam Adams Thursday set the deadline to vacate the parks.
Since then, Portland-based blogs and social media outlets have been buzzing over what may happen when midnight arrives. Police and Occupy protesters have clashed recently in other cities including Oakland, Berkley and at international locations.
On Friday, the Portland Police Bureau issued a press release stating some serious concerns they have about what may transpire over the weekend.
The Occupy Portland group later issued a press release in response, stating that police are misinformed about the protesters' intentions.
Portland Police Chief Mike Reese spent the day walking around the camp talking to protesters. He said the mood has changed for the better but his officers are prepared for anything.
"If they want to engage in civil disobedience and they want to be arrested, we're telling them as officers come through the camp, just have a seat, tell the officer you want to be arrested, we'll facilitate that in the nicest possible manner," he said.
Reese and other officers let people at the camps know where they can go to find shelter once the city shuts the camp down.
Adams said Friday he believes it's a small group of people who want confrontation with police, but he said he is worried people will get hurt. He hopes to keep it peaceful but said officers are prepared for all possibilities. He declined to be specific about those preparations.
About his decision to give the occupiers so much notice, Adams said, "This is Portland. Portlanders believe in free speech. Portlanders also want to be safe and fundamentally, I believe that a key value of Portlanders is respect. If somebody is going to abuse the three-day notice, then the professionals at the Portland Police Bureau, we will be ready."
Adams said he does plan to be downtown when the deadline hits.
Police said they've been hearing protesters may be trying to bring in reinforcements from the Occupy movements from Seattle, Oakland and San Francisco, numbering from 100 to 300 people, plus, another 150 anarchists on top of that.
They say they've been hearing that some protesters may take to the trees with gas mask and use things like pieces of wood with nails in them as weapons.
"We hope that's not the case at all," said police spokesman Lt. Robert King. "We hope the matter resolves itself peacefully with no injury to anyone. But this information that we've received really concerns us."
Some protesters said they want supporters but not those who would promote or engage in violence.
One person who has taken a leadership role in Occupy Portland sent out a press release saying the claims by police are false, that Occupy Portland is peaceful and that there is no attempt to bring in mass numbers of supporters for violence. It says police are trying to defame Occupy and confuse their message.
Katrina Johnston, a volunteer at Occupy Portland, said peacekeepers are working hard to clean the camp. And she said she’s hoping only the people who stay really believe in a peaceful movement.
Police said one of the problems they have encountered is that Occupy Portland has different factions within the group.
Fliers were posted around the camp Friday warning protesters about the possible use of tear gas. The flier suggests protesters wear heavy clothes, cover their faces with bandanas and wear goggles to limit the effects of the gas.
After the mayor's deadline was announced, a few protesters said they were leaving the camp and did so. But as of Friday night, a substantial number of them remained.
In the spirit of a peaceful movement, Occupy Portland says it has several events leading up to the deadline, including a rally at Pioneer Courthouse Square, a potluck dinner and then a concert at eight at Terry Schrunk Plaza.
Also, Friday someone overdosed on heroin in the camps, was revived and taken to the hospital, according to the mayor.
KATU News reporters Joe Raineri, Erica Nochlin, Kerry Tomlinson and Meghan Kalkstein contributed to this report.
What Police Are Saying
Portland police claim they have information indicating calls have gone out to other cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland for like-minded protesters to join the ranks in Portland before the deadline arrives.
Additionally, police said that "there may even be as many as 150 anarchists who will arrive soon."
Police said they find it "concerning" regarding other recent developments that include the possible construction of shields and weapons from wood scavenged from pallets they claim have been brought into the camps at night.
Police also said they think some protesters are digging and re-enforcing a hole or pit in one of the parks and that some protesters are trying to obtain a large number of gas masks, ostensibly to thwart the effects of tear gas. And they added that they have information that protesters may take to the trees in the heavily wooded parks.
Police closed their press release by saying "this event has been largely peaceful since Thursday, October 6, 2011 when the initial march occurred. We are committed to it remaining peaceful but very concerned about information that people are massing for and preparing for a confrontation with police."
On Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. Mayor Sam Adams indicated that the "balance has tipped" at Occupy Portland and that the parks will be temporarily closed for maintenance beginning Sunday November 13, 2011 at 12:01 a.m.
Since that announcement Portland Police have become aware of information that is concerning. We understand a call has gone out to Oakland, Seattle and San Francisco and perhaps other cities encouraging people to come to Portland and engage in resistance. People in the camp are expecting 100-300 re-enforcements from various locations. There may even be as many as 150 anarchists who will arrive soon. There is information that people may be in the in trees during a police action and that there are people who are attempting to obtain a large number of gas masks.
There is a hole being dug in one of the parks and wood is being used to reinforce the area around it. There are reports that nails have been hammered into wood for weapons and that generally there are people in the camps preparing for a confrontation with police.
Last night Portland Police officers provided security while Portland Parks and Recreation security manager posted "No Camping" signs in the park. 36 signs were posted in all, although some were taken down by the occupiers almost immediately.
People were seen carrying pallets into the camp shortly after 1:00 a.m. this morning. The destination of the pallets is a structure with graffiti in the northwest part of Chapman Park, also known as "The 420 Hotel". The people there are very suspicious of any passers by, we are not sure at this point what exactly they are doing. We have been told it looks like they were making shields.
Officers are distributing a one page "Shelters and Resources" information flyer letting people know where resources are. We are making every effort to assist people transitioning to shelters or other appropriate locations. Many people have left the camps and the "kitchen" has been taken down.
This event has been largely peaceful since Thursday, October 6, 2011 when the initial march occurred. We are committed to it remaining peaceful but very concerned about information that people are massing for and preparing for a confrontation with police.
What Occupy Portland is Saying
Occupy Portland's press team issued a statement in response to the concerns from police. Their stance is that police are singling out the actions of some as a representation of the group as a whole.
The Portland Police recently released a statement concerning efforts to prepare for a confrontation Saturday night. The following is a response to that statement.
Occupy Portland is a non-violent movement. It has always been a non-violent movement. It will continue to be a non-violent movement. Claims that we are organizing massive numbers of people from other cities, including anarchists, to confront police action violently are false. The Portland Police have been engaging for the last several weeks in a campaign to defame and confuse the message of our movement by attributing the actions and statements of individuals to the movement as a whole, and they continue to do so.
We are aware that about 10 people from Seattle have volunteered to come down to Portland Saturday and stand in peaceful solidarity with our movement in a time of need. There have been no calls from the Occupy Portland movement to mobilize any kind of forceful resistance to the police, and last night's General Assembly reaffirmed all of these things. We cannot control what individuals do.
The claims made are extremely heavy ones, and describe a type of organized effort to create violent confrontation that is patently absent. The efforts by the Portland Police to date have successfully created a perception that the violent actions of some reflect the majority of people present, and that is in contradiction with the facts that any citizen can easily observe by simply a cursory examination of our protest with their own eyes.
Any one that is engaging in violent resistance is doing so in direct contradiction to the values outline by the Portland General Assembly, and in doing so is by definition not representing Occupy Portland. The City understands this position, and we encourage our government and the police to use a modicum of tact and reason when engaging the public with information. This release cannot be seen in any other light than an attempt to undermine our efforts for a peaceful interaction with supporters around the city, and to discourage involvement by the common people within our city Saturday night at our Potluck and rally.
We are many, and we are peaceful.