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Mayor candidates split on Occupy Portland

Correction: Smith says camp might not need to end
by: Christopher Onstott Former City Commissioner Charlie Hales, a candidate for Portland mayor, says the city should give the Occupy Portland protesters a few days to end their camps in two downtown parks.

The three major candidates for Portland mayor are split on whether the city needs to close the Occupy Portland protest camp near City Hall.

Former City Commissioner Charlie Hales says Mayor Sam Adams should give protesters two or three days to leave the parks they have occupied for almost three weeks. Hales said the Portland Police Bureau, which Adams oversees, should then enforce the deadline.

'The protesters have made their point, and I'm concerned about health and safety issues,' says Hales. 'There have been arrests and sanitation issues. I don't think it should go on any longer.'

New Seasons co-founder Eileen Brady and state Rep. Jefferson Smith both say the city should talk to protesters about closing the camps in the near future. They are not willing to set any specific deadline, but say the city should be negotiating an end game at this time.

'Civil disobedience means you break the law to make a point. The protesters have broken the city's anti-camping ordinance to make their point. People have heard them. Now's the time to move on,' says Brady.

But State Rep. Jefferson Smith is willing to see the camp remain, provided occupants comply with "benchmarks" set by the city, such as committing no crimes that are not related to the protest, such as acts of civil disobedience.

As long as the occupants meet the benchmarks, Smith would allow them to stay. He would only move to the close the camp if the ratio of noncompliance to compliance with the benchmarks becomes too great.

At that point, Smith says the city should look a win-win situation.

'The city should work with the protesters to help them find another vehicle for their message,' says Smith.

Protesters set up camp in two parks - Chapman and Lownsdale squares - after an Oct. 6 rally and march to protest Wall Street greed. Adams allowed them to remain in the squares, despite city rules against camping in city parks. Adams says he will not set a deadline as long as the protesters remain peaceful. He left for a 10-day trade mission to China last Thursday and put Commissioner Amanda Fritz in charge of the situation.

Fritz told protesters last week that she believes U.S. Constitutional assembly and free speech guarantees trump the city's anti-camping policies. On Thursday, Fritz backed off that statement, telling reporters that "trumped" was a poor choice of words.

The Portland Business Alliance has called for an end to the camp, citing health and safety issues. The organization represents business owners in downtown and surrounding areas.

Hales, Brady and Smith all say they understand and support the protesters' goals. The three candidates say they agree the growing income inequities and poor economy's impact on most Americans should not be tolerated.

All three also say the protesters have made their point, however, and need to figure out other ways to convey their message.

'The parks belong to everyone and it is time to return them to everyone else,' says Hales.

'I support civil disobedience, I've done civil disobedience in the past.The city should have been negotiating with them about an end game from the start,' says Brady.

If the city decides to close the camp, it needs to come up with a create alternative, says Smith.

'The city needs to come up with a game-changer, like McCall did with Vortex,' says Smith, referring to how former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall defused anti-war protest tensions during an American Legion convention in Portland in the 1960s by having the state sponsor an out-of-town rock concert at the same time.

An earlier version of this story said Smith believes Occupy Portland needs to end.