Mayor, chief praise officers for work clearing Occupy camps

Mayor, chief praise officers for work clearing Occupy camps
Mayor Sam Adams, right, and Police Chief Mike Reese discuss Sunday's police raid on the Occupy Portland encampment in two downtown parks during a news conference Monday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mayor Sam Adams thanked the Portland Police Bureau for its hard work, patience and restraint during the past several days as officers cleared the remaining protesters out of Lownsdale and Chapman Squares downtown.

“Our work over the last few days has gone as peacefully as it possible could,” Adams said. “Our work has gone exceptionally well.”

Adams, Police Chief Mike Reese and Assistant Chief Larry O’Dea spoke about the weekend events at a news conference Monday afternoon. They said even when officers had to use batons, things remained as calm as could be expected.

Adams praised police for their restraint during what he called “an incredibly difficult situation,” and for not using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets to break up protests as police in other major cities have.

“It was our plan to have a crowd management plan in place,” said Police Chief Reese. “We really started getting people in a mindset that it was time to go.”

Several YouTube videos surfaced of officers confronting protesters in Chapman Square. In one video, you can see officers using batons on people who won't let go jackets, sweatshirts and other objects. (Watch at the 5:45 mark.) A second shows the same incident from a different angle.

Police arrested 51 protesters on Sunday. Bureau spokesman Lt. Robert King said the arrests involved pushing and shoving by protesters and police officers responded by using batons to push people back. King said police did not club or beat anyone with the batons.

"The baton is what you use as you march along to help move people along," said Assistant Chief Larry O'Dea.

“We will have a rigorous review of the actions taken by officers,” said Reese.

Sgt. Pete Simpson also responded to circulating stories about a protester named Justin Bridges. Bridges suffered injuries during his arrest and fell down between protesters and police, Simpson said.

Officers picked him up and carried him to safety. As he got back on his feet, Bridges said he had previously broken his back, Simpson said. He was taken to the hospital, where he was listed in "fair condition" on Monday.

KATU put in a request on Monday morning to speak to Bridges at his hospital room but did not hear a response.

He did, however, appear in an interview posted on YouTube and the Occupy Portland website.

"I said, 'I have a broken back, I need medical attention.' The cops grabbed my by my legs and dragged me through the mud," he said in the video.

Both Reese and Adams said they know the city is not done dealing with the Occupy Portland protesters.

“We certainly expect folks from the Occupy movement to continue,” said Reese. “We want to be part of the conversation.”

He said if protesters want to march or have other demonstrations, they should keep police in the loop.

About a dozen protesters showed up for a rally outside Portland City Hall Monday, but they told KATU News they are not worried that the small turnout could be a sign of things to come for the movement.

Protesters have planned another meeting Monday night at Pioneer Courthouse Square to discuss their next move.

“You can clear the camp, but you can’t clear the issues, and people will still be rallying for those issues,” said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky.

Early Sunday morning, police said Officer Curtis Brown was hit by a projectile at SW 3rd and Main St. He was taken to an area hospital where he was treated and released, police said.

The man arrested for throwing that object, Cameron Matta, was in court on Monday. He had his disorderly conduct, harassment and interfering with a police officer charges reduced to violations, meaning he won't face any jail time. Matta pleaded not guilty.

At the same time, another officer felt something hit him in the helmet. The officer looked down to see an open pocket knife with a 3-inch blade. The officer was not hurt, and no one was arrested in connection with the knife being thrown, according to police.

Reese said the bureau spent $450,000 in overtime last weekend alone.

“In terms of keeping the people safe it was appropriate,” Reese said.

Reese and Adams both said the camp was not sustainable any longer, and action had to be taken.

“I hope this Occupy Wall Street movement will focus, pivot and realize its potential,” Adams said. “I think there is an expiration date on people’s enthusiasm for the Occupy movement if it doesn’t refocus."

Watch the full news conference below: