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Occupy Portland cleaned up but tensions continue

UPDATE • Police arrest 51 people clearing parks
by: Christopher Onstott Protesters and police stood face to face for more than three hours Sunday afternoon on Southwest Main Street and Fourth Avenue. About 1,000 people jammed into the street and refused to move. At about 5 p.m., the protesters walked from Main Street to Pioneer Courthouse Square without incident.

The confrontations between police and Occupy Portland protesters subsided Sunday evening as a couple hundred members of the group spent a few hours in Pioneer Courthouse Square deciding their next move.

Protesters debated moving the Occupy camp to Portland State University and setting up a location for future general assembly meetings for the group.

In the cool, cloudy Sunday afternoon, however, things were tense for a few hours as police and protesters took to the street while city crews cleaned Chapman and Lownsdale squares.

Police arrested 51 people while clearing the parks. They were charged with crimes ranging from disorderly conduct to criminal trespass to interfering with a police officer. One man appeared to have been injured near the Portland Building. He was taken by an ambulance for treatment.

Early Sunday afternoon, city workers moved sections of chain link fencing around the parks as protesters crowded the streets nearby. Police formed lines to push them back and threatened to use chemical weapons if they did not move onto the sidewalks.

About 1,000 people jammed into a one-block section of Southwest Main Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues next to the Portland Building. Police have announced several times that the crowd would have to move out of the street, but the protesters did not budge.

Police in riot gear were also stationed in front of the crowd on Fourth Avenue. Two lines of riot-geared police officers were preparing for action at about 3 p.m.

MAX traffic was disrupted on Southwest Fifth and Sixth avenues around 1:30 p.m. because of the people in the streets.

By 5 p.m., however, the hundreds of people packed onto Southwest Main Street moved out of the area, walking on streets and sidewalks to Pioneer Courthouse Square.

A handful of protesters remained behind trying to block traffic. Police convinced them to move to the sidewalk without incident.

At one point, protesters produced a distinctive pink box of Voodoo Donuts and passed them around in the crowd. Several people offered doughnuts to the police officers in riot gear, who politely declined.

About an hour later, some protesters offered pizza to people in the crowd.

Nearly 300 police officers in crowd-control gear took part in the day's actions. Some of the officers came from Salem, Beaverton, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and the Vancouver, Wash., police department.

'Keep the city moving'

Tensions increased early in the morning after police in riot gear began moving protesters out of a park while they were discussing their next moves. The crowd around the parks increased after that and police tried to move them out of the streets.

As Sunday dawned, a smaller but still significant number of protesters and tents remained in the parks. By mid-morning, police and city workers had removed most of the structures, raising questions about whether the five-week encampment could still be considered a camp.

The clean-up followed a 7 a.m. appearance by Mayor Sam Adams, who told reporters that police would use discretion about when to close the parks - even though he has originally declared they would be closed just after midnight.

'I've always said this would be a balance between free speech and keeping the city moving," Adams said after an overnight tug-of-war between protesters and the police.

Adams insisted the parks were in fact closed to the public, even though hundreds of protesters remained in the parks, and some people were entering and leaving them.

Pressed by reporters, Adams declined to say when the remaining protesters would be removed.

Shortly after Adams spoke to reporters, about two dozen police officers began walking through the two parks collecting debris and clearing tarps and trash from some areas without campers.

Taking down a barricade

The highly anticipated confrontation between police and protesters did not occur just after midnight. But activities continued into the early morning hours.

Among other newsworthy developments, a police officer was injured around 1:45 a.m. Sunday by what appeared to be a large firecracker thrown from the crowd. One man was arrested in the incident. Police said other protesters with the Occupy movement pointed the man out to officers after the firecracker was thrown.

Southwest Third Avenue and Main Street became flash point after protesters temporarily erected a barricade there a few hours later.

At one point, police told a crowd at Third Avenue and Madison Street to move out of the street and back into the park. By 6 a.m., hundreds of protesters seemed prepared to remain in Chapman and Lowndsale squares. Most of the thousands of spectators who had gathered earlier left in the rain, however.

Protesters with Occupy Portland gathered Saturday night and held their ground early Sunday morning as police tried to enforce a midnight deadline for between 200 and 400 people to leave two downtown parks. • CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/PORTLAND TRIBUNE

About two hours after the midnight deadline for the protesters to leave two downtown parks, police in riot gear began lining up to clear the areas.

Aside from pushing against the line of police, the crowd stayed mostly peaceful, standing in Southwest Main Street at Third Avenue.

Cleaning up the parks

More than 1,000 people were packed into Lownsdale and Chapman squares late Saturday as the deadline passed to evict Occupy Portland protesters from the two downtown parks.

Hundreds of people were chanting and shouting in the center of the park as others walked around the parks on sidewalks and city streets. Several hundred more were gathered across the street from the parks watching as the 12:01 a.m. deadline passed.

Police estimated there were about 5,000 people in or near the two parks. Police said officers would be patient and wait for many of the people to leave later in the night before moving into the parks.

Outside the parks, a line of bicyclists rode around Chapman and Lownsdale squares preparing for police to move in and make arrests as the parks are cleared.

Earlier in the day, Occupy Portland campers spent most of Saturday cleaning up parts of two downtown public parks where they have spent the past five weeks, awaiting Sunday morning's eviction deadline.

Many people in Chapman and Lownsdale squares packed up their belongings, took down their tents and left the parks as police and city park crews moved in Saturday to clear out debris.

By Saturday night, a crowd of several hundred campers, protesters and their supporters had gathered in the center of one of the parks for speeches from members of the group who encouraged the protest to continue and exhorted them to avoid violence when police came to clear the parks.

Also Saturday night, about a dozen clergy members went to the parks to support the protest and to ask Occupy campers to avoid violence. The clergy, led by the Rev. Chuck Currie of Portland, planned to hold a candlelight vigil on the steps of City Hall as the eviction deadline approached.

The Rev. Kate Lore, Social Justice Minister for First Unitarian Church, and Currie, of United Church of Christ, said the clergy were coming 'to bear witness for peace during the eviction.'

'Many of us are veterans of the Civil Rights era, so we understand the significance of this day, and we are familiar with nonviolent civil disobedience,' Lore said. 'We're coming to bear witness; we know that we don't have control over what happens.'

Mixed messages

On Friday, people claiming to speak for Occupy Portland sent mixed signals about whether protesters would comply with Mayor Sam Adams' directive that the protesters leave Chapman and Lownsdale squares after midnight Saturday.

Adams told reporters Thursday morning that a number of incidents at or near the camps tipped the balance against allowing the protest to stay in the squares.

He said police would clear the two parks on Southwest Fourth Avenue after 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Anyone left in the camps would be arrested.

Protesters discussed the ultimatum Thursday and into the night. On Friday morning, an e-mail from the Occupy Portland press team said that 'seven different action groups' were enacting responses. One of the groups would attempt to bring more people to the camp before the eviction deadline.

'The group decided overwhelmingly, with almost 100 percent consensus, to stay in the parks,' according to the e-mail.

The Occupy announcement also said that another group would clean 'of as many structures and messes as possible,' however, suggesting that at least some protesters would cooperate with the eviction.

Occupy Portland spokesman Jordan LeDoux said Friday that some people planned to remain in the two parks beyond the city's deadline.

'The plan is currently to clean the parks prior to the deadline, and then to remain in them and allow arrests to occur,' LeDoux said.

The Occupy Portland Press Team also sent another e-mail detailing plans to attract more people to the square prior to the eviction. Plans include an evening potluck with music and dancing, marches from neighborhoods to the squares, and even trips from groups in other cities.

'Most of the ideas put forward include the importance of gathering the largest crowd Occupy Portland has yet seen, united in peace, united in support for the 99 percent whose interests have not been served by corporatism, by war, and by the concentration of wealth in the hands of the very few,' according to the press release.

The e-mail also raised the possibility that protesters planned to re-occupy the parks after they have been cleaned up by the city.

It said group decisions were not binding.

'Whatever the whole group decides, everyone can go with whatever feels right to them, so long as it's peaceful and nonviolent,' according to the e-mail.

Police worry about 'reinforcements'

Police Chief Mike Reese says plans are being prepared to evict the protesters from the squares in the most peaceful way possible, but he has not released details.

Reese said Thursday that officers would be 'methodical' in their actions to clear the two parks.

Shortly after the two e-mails were sent out, Portland police issued a release expressing concern about the possibility of more people coming to the camp ahead of the eviction. The release said up to 300 reinforcements could arrive, including a rumored "150 anarchists."

"This event has been largely peaceful since Thursday, Oct. 6, when the initial march occurred. We are committed to it remaining peaceful but very concerned about information that people are massing for and preparing for a confrontation with police," according to the police press release.

Reporters Jim Redden, Kevin Harden and Fox 12 contributed to this news story.