Occupy Portland Protesters, Police Engage in Standoff as Mayor Orders Eviction
Hundreds of Occupy Portland protesters engaged in a standoff with police Saturday night into Sunday morning, defying an eviction order and refusing to leave the Oregon park area where they had gathered.
City officials had set a midnight Saturday deadline to disperse, but the face off continued into the early Sunday morning hours.
By mid-morning, the streets had cleared and protesters returned to their camp, with dozens arrested. Portland Mayor Sam Adams vowed the protesters would be forced out, but said the process it would take several days to complete.
The number of Occupy Portland protesters and their supporters swelled to thousands at one point, but thinned to several hundred by the end, according to the Oregonian.
The Portland Tribune reported one police officer was injured around 1:45 a.m. Sunday when what looked like a large firecracker was thrown from the crowd toward police. Officers said other Occupy protesters pointed out the man who threw it so he could be taken into custody.
At 5 a.m., Police Lt. Robert King described the situation as a “static position,” but said he was concerned about escalation as daylight approached and demonstrators showed no signs of leaving.
“We are concerned this is moving toward a confrontation with police,” King said.
Organizers said their goal was for enough people will join them to make it difficult if not impossible for police to carry through on any eviction.
“Occupy the street,” one organizer said through a bull horn. “Remain peaceful and aware. We have strength in holding the streets.”
Adams had ordered the camp shut down, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment’s attraction of drug users and thieves.
Police numbers shifted throughout the night, and around 4 a.m. a line of about 200 police stretched across a street and in front of a federal courthouse.
Protesters facing them appeared to be in a festive spirits with some banging on plastic pails, another clanging a cowbell while others danced in the streets as a man juggled nearby.
Police prepared for a possible clash, warning earlier 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.
“We’ll take action that’s appropriate, when it’s appropriate,” King told The Associated Press.
It appeared earlier that about 200 campers planned to get arrested. But police action seemed less likely after the crowds swelled the parks in the early morning hours.
In the hours leading up to midnight, protesters held general assembly meetings where they talked about what to do when the deadline came. The also repeated the main message of Occupy Wall Street movement of peaceful resistance to income inequality and what they see as corporate greed.
As those speeches were going on, some snacked on coffee and burritos as others sang protest song. About 60 bicycle riders circled the camp repeatedly to show support.
“We are a peaceful resistance,” said rider Chico Tallman, a 63-year-old accountant. “But we’re fed up with the direction the country is going. It’s all about profit.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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