Protesters defy deadline, claim victory after all night standoff with police

Protesters defy deadline, claim victory after all night standoff with police
Police and protesters stand off early Sunday morning after a deadline to clear the Occupy Portland camps expired. (Bill Roberson/KATU.com)

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PORTLAND, Ore. - After the 12:01 a.m. Sunday deadline to clear Lownsdale and Chapman parks, thousands of Occupy Portland protesters, their supporters and the curious, poured into the streets nearby and faced off with police for hours. Then many of them returned to the parks.

Many protesters claimed victory as they stood their ground during a mostly non-confrontational night with police.

Police took no action against the protesters to remove them from the parks after the deadline expired and mostly spent the night controlling the crowd.

It appeared police were willing to wait the protesters out and said they hoped most would go home. There did appear to be fewer protesters in the parks as dawn broke over the city. A police spokesman said it was the intention of the Portland Police Bureau to resolve the situation peacefully.

Mayor Sam Adams remained out of public view after the deadline and all through the night. His spokeswoman said the mayor monitored the situation to ensure it remained peaceful.

At 7 a.m. Adams appeared at the parks and said the deadline had passed and it was now up to his office and the police “to determine when to move forward with the closure to the public of the parks.”

To his critics who said he should have acted swiftly against the protesters, Adams responded that he’s trying to balance free speech and safety.

He said his decision to set a deadline was based on “a change in circumstances. I don’t fault anyone in particular; it’s a change of circumstances that was really out of the control of any one person or group of people. ... I was very clear (from the beginning of the protest) that behavior mattered and success mattered,” he said.

He reiterated that the city needs to be patient so the situation can be resolved peacefully.
 
“The surprise enforcements that we’ve seen around the country have been not consistent with the values of the people of Portland,” he said.

He said after the parks have been cleared of protesters the parks will be closed to the public and a fence will be erected around the parks so they can be rehabilitated.

While the night was mostly peaceful, a confrontation erupted between protesters and the Portland Police Bureau's mounted patrol unit at about 1:45 a.m.

Police said an officer was injured after an object was thrown at him. They said they needed to clear the streets for a medical emergency.

Tensions were high as police moved their horses into the crowd for several minutes. KATU News video showed what appeared to be a lit firework being thrown at police as the mounted patrol units moved into the crowd.

The officer, who was not a mounted officer, was taken to the hospital with an injury to the leg. Police said his injuries were not life-threatening.

Police arrested 23-year-old Cameron Scott Matta for allegedly throwing an object at the officer. He is accused of disorderly conduct, harassment and interfering with a police officer.

Police said that it was protesters who identified Matta as the one who threw the object at police and pushed him forward to police.

After the incident, tensions cooled down but police told protesters that if they didn’t get out of the streets, they would be arrested. But protesters mostly ignored the order.

Police retreated to 3rd and Madison by 2:30 a.m. where they appeared to draw a line that protesters couldn't cross.

After 3 a.m., the mood turned celebratory among the protesters. Many danced in the streets and banged drums as police looked on.

Several protesters started erecting large road barricades between them and police at 3rd and Madison just after 4 a.m. Police, however, moved in and protesters retreated with most of the barricades. But officers were observed carrying some of the barricades away, apparently retrieving them from the protesters.

Later, protesters built another barricade at 3rd and Main with wood, desks, couches, bookcases and other items. Many protesters argued among themselves whether the barricade should stand. At about 6:30 a.m., protesters dismantled it.

At about 6 a.m. police ordered protesters over loudspeakers to clear the streets or they would be removed by force. Protesters complied and returned mostly to the parks they have occupied for five weeks.

The Associated Press estimated the crowd at about 3,000 at its highest point. But the number dropped significantly as the night dragged on.

Many protesters who were interviewed on television or spoken to by reporters said, like police, they want to maintain the peace, and they discouraged violence from other protesters.

Shortly before the deadline, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese said his strategy would be “patience” with the protesters after the deadline expired.

He said police will move in when it is safe; however, he declined to name specific police tactics.

Police spokesman Lt. Robert King echoed Reese’s statements and said police will act to ensure the safety of everyone.

There appears to be no urgency in the police response to those who have defied the deadline, and King said the eviction of the protesters will take as long as it takes.

“We’ve been here for 36 days, I suppose  we could be here for another 36 if that’s what’s necessary,” he said.

In a later interview, however, he appeared to slightly back off on his statement that the encampment would remain for days and weeks.

“I don’t know (about) days or weeks,” he said. “Earlier today there were a lot of people who picked up their stuff and moved out.”

Mayor Sam Adams announced Thursday the city would close Lownsdale and Chapman squares because of health and safety concerns in the camps.

The protesters have been camping in the parks without a permit since Oct. 6.

Mayor Sam Adams holds an impromptu 7 a.m. news conference. Watch below:



 


Previous story by The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Tension increased at the Occupy Portland encampment Saturday night where protesters faced a midnight deadline to disperse or face possible police arrest.

Up to 200 demonstrators remained at 9 p.m. Saturday, police said, while another 400 people gathered nearby to show their support.

Earlier in the day, the demonstrators dismantled large sections of their encampment amid a heavy police presence before the deadline to clear out of two downtown parks following the month-long protest.

Demonstrators marched through downtown before an evening potluck, and demonstrators said they hope radical elements don't use violence to overshadow the movement's attempt to peacefully demonstrate its right to assemble.

But police with nightsticks and helmets were prepared for a possible clash, warning that dozens of anarchists may be planning a confrontation with authorities. Officers seized pieces of cement blocks Friday, saying they were told some demonstrators had plans to use them as weapons against police. They said they believe some demonstrators are building shields and trying to collect gas masks.

On Saturday, police released photos of wooden pallets with nails sticking outward and other "improvised weapons" they say they've seized. Social service workers have gone through the camp offering housing and other assistance to people without a place to stay when the park closes. Demonstrators have struggled to deal with a rising population of homeless people and others, some suffering from mental illness, drawn to the camp for free food, shelter, safety and camaraderie.

Protest organizers have pleaded for peace and said anyone who acts violently does not represent the movement. Organizers also plan to pass out information about safe places to stay for the night and get basic first aid if they're injured in a potential clash, and some distributed phone numbers for the National Lawyers Guild in case demonstrators are arrested.

"It looks like they're (protesters) doing the right thing. I hope it all works out," Said Gordon Bogusch, 88, of Portland, who was showing support for the protesters Saturday night, accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Ralph Prows.

"The movement is not over," Ralph said. "People are hurting and out of work."

Dozens of occupy protesters from cities such as Seattle and Salem, Ore., said they've come to Portland to show solidarity.

Gabriel Rola, a 41-year-old unemployed chef and musician who has been staying at the camp for two weeks, said he hopes police don't use force.

"If somebody gets hurt, it's going to be the shot heard round the world," he said.

Demonstrators plan to regroup Sunday in Pioneer Courthouse Square — another downtown plaza where crews recently erected the city's large Christmas tree.

Both during the afternoon and again at night, lawyers explained to some protesters what their rights are under the law and how to react should they choose to force arrest. Police have said they'll work to accommodate anyone who wishes to be peacefully be arrested by defying the park's curfew.

Later, demonstrators danced in the rain to rock and techno music blaring from speakers in Terry Schrunk Plaza, a federally owned park across the street from the two city parks that have served as home to about 300 people.

Mayor Sam Adams has ordered the camp shut down, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment's attraction of drug users and thieves. Paramedics treated two people suffering from apparent drug overdoses, one on Friday and one on Saturday, bringing to four the number of nonfatal overdoses inside the camp, police said.

The harder line from the city comes as leaders across the country feel increasing pressure to shut down Occupy encampments. One man died in a shooting in Oakland, Calif., and a 35-year-old military veteran apparently shot himself to death in a tent in Burlington, Vt. Another man was found dead from a suspected combination of drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a propane heater inside a tent in Salt Lake City.

"I cannot wait for someone to die," Adams said Thursday. "I cannot wait for someone to use the camp as camouflage to inflict bodily harm on others."

The Portland encampment went up Oct. 6 after a march in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting income inequality and what demonstrators see as corporate greed. They set up an intricate village with free food, medical care, political discussions and a library.

But it also became a magnet for people not originally part of the movement. Sanitary conditions worsened and businesses complained of theft.

City officials' patience began growing thin when activists sought to occupy another park on Oct. 30. Police dragged away 27 of the protesters when they refused to leave.

Protesters marched over two bridges on Nov. 2, but declined to inform police about the march route. That forced officers on bicycles, motorcycles and in squad cars to follow and block traffic for more than an hour. An officer was pushed into a moving bus sometime near the end of the march, police said. He received minor injuries.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.