Cops get deadly serious with protesters
Arrested demonstrators will be held overnight or have to pay bail
Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto said Thursday that anyone arrested during a demonstration Ñ even for offenses such as disorderly conduct or disobeying a police officer Ñ will be held overnight or pay bail to be released.
'We believe it's time now to tighten down,' he said during a news conference with Portland Police Chief Mark Kroeker and Mayor Vera Katz. 'The only way out now is bail. We are deadly serious.'
The move comes as Kroeker and Katz say they support people's rights to free speech and assembly, but they will condemn illegal activities committed by fringe groups of antiwar protesters, such as jumping on cars, clashing with police officers, vandalizing property, intimidating people or blocking traffic.
One local protester called the message propaganda on the city's part.
'They are playing games,' said Alex Harvill, a longtime participant with the Critical Mass bicycle group. 'The whole thing for the last week has been them trying to intimidate people so they won't come out. And this is more of the same.'
Since the United States began its military campaign against Iraq on March 20, several large marches, with and without city permits, have taken place. During marches, a window at a McDonald's restaurant on Northeast Broadway was vandalized, an officer was assaulted while a crowd tried to push onto the Burnside Bridge, and someone poured acid on a window at the World Trade Center downtown.
Police have spent hundreds of hours in overtime. The response to demonstrations has cost the city about $150,000 to $200,000 per day, Katz said.
The numbers could reduce the city's year-end balance from $7.3 million to $3.3 million.
More rallies Ñ both antiwar and pro-troops Ñ are planned, organizers say. Today, an antiwar rally and march sponsored by the Portland Peaceful Response Coalition is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square, and Critical Mass bicycle riders plan to join the demonstration. On Sunday, a pro-troops rally is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square.
Impact is widespread
How much have the continued antiwar protests really affected the city, in terms of cost, public perception, police resources and public safety?
On Thursday, spokesmen for the Portland Business Alliance and the Downtown Retail Council made the distinction between lawful protests Ñ which they say have caused minimal disruptions Ñ and those by so-called fringe groups, whose members have committed crimes or clashed with police.
The spokesmen said they want the public to know that downtown is open for business and that restaurants and retailers are overall satisfied with the police response and security.
Still, some say lost business is a reality.
'Last week we were trying to throw a party with everything half-price on the menu,' said Paul Clyde, kitchen manager of Bar 71, 71 S.W. Second Ave. 'That's when the sit-down happened, and they all sat down on Second and Ash. The police lined up and nobody could get in or out all night. It has killed our food sales.'
During the sit-in, he said, his restaurant had 25 customers at most. Afternoon marches also have cut lunch sales in half.
Suzi Helmlinger, chief executive officer of Your Hire Authority, a management consultant company on Southwest Washington Street, said she plans to move in October when her lease is up.
'I don't think that people in crowds who get their testosterone worked up know what they're going to do,' she said. 'If they damage buildings, what comes next? Some people are marching for peace, but it's the other element I'm worried about.'
Bystanders also have been jarred by protesters' actions.
Bertrand DeBruge, a Portland State University student trying to catch a bus home, said he and a friend ran into a group of protesters being corralled by police March 20 on Southwest Second Avenue. The experience was scary.
'We heard this ruckus,' he said. 'There was screaming, and a woman's voice yelling 'Go, go, go, go.' There were 20 to 30 people rushing at us.'
Since the federal government raised the terror alert level to orange on March 18 Ñ the day President Bush gave Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq in order to avert a war Ñ Portland police officers have been mandated to work 12-hour days unless told otherwise. Officers have been pulled from other beats and duties to take care of additional security and downtown protests.
'It's killing us,' said Sgt. Dale Larson of East Precinct, across the Willamette River from downtown.
The protesters' 'actions disrupt our lives and everything I do,' said another afternoon sergeant. Officers from Beaverton, Gresham, Tualatin, Clackamas County, Multnomah County and the Oregon State Police have assisted in recent weeks. A group of 111 officers from around the state are part of a new reserve unit that Kroeker said he will call on in case added resources are needed.
Meanwhile, TriMet has spent about $8,000 on staff overtime since the antiwar protests began last week to increase security on local buses and trains.
The agency also has reassigned staff members' schedules so field teams can monitor each protest to redirect routes and inform riders of delays and changes, said TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch. Delays to buses and trains have been mostly for about 15 or 20 minutes; the longest delay was when the entire MAX system was shut down for 45 minutes the night of March 20.
They won't quit
Protesters say they won't call it quits, no matter what the city's response is to their actions.
Some protesters have played dead in the middle of Pioneer Courthouse Square to represent the slain war victims; others have camped in soggy sleeping bags at Terry Schrunk Plaza, waving their signs to commuters in traffic. Several have been hit with police pepper spray, and more than 160 had been arrested during demonstrations through Wednesday.
'We're going to occupy the streets as long as they're occupying Iraq,' said 20-year-old Jack Straw, whose face was flushed red after he was hit with a wave of pepper spray during a face-off with police Tuesday at Southwest Second Avenue and Washington Street.
Kathleen Manseau, 29, a self-described 'radical cheerleader' also hit with pepper spray Tuesday, said she might take a day off from protesting but will definitely be back.
'It's so important that even if we can't have an impact on foreign policy, we have to keep coming out,' she said. 'I think we're doing a good job of staying nonviolent.'