Right 2 Dream Too protest staged at Rose Festival event

Members of Right 2 Dream Too plan to take advantage of the city’s overnight camping rules before Saturday’s Grand Floral Parade and pitch tents on downtown sidewalks, calling attention to the plight of homeless people.

“The city allows people to pitch up tents for pleasure, but they won’t allow people to pitch a tent to survive. This is wrong,” says Leo Rhodes, a spokesman for the Old Town nonprofit group that has camped in a private lot on Northwest Fourth Avenue since October 2011. “Homeless people are just doing human things like sleeping, getting out of the rain and resting.”

The Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 7, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It winds through downtown streets and ends at Lincoln High School.

Beginning Friday evening, the city will allow people to camp overnight on sidewalks along the 4.2-mile route to hold spaces to watch the parade. In mid-March 2008, the City Council adopted new rules that prevent people who want to save spots to watch the parade from using duct tape, chalk or paint to mark their areas in the rights of way, sometimes days in advance.

Instead, the city will allow overnight camping on sidewalks and in rights of way to hold parade-viewing spaces. The decision relaxes city regulations against overnight camping in rights of way, something that irks advocates for homeless people.

People participating in the “Pitch A Tent for the Right 2 Survive” event will set up tents in downtown Portland along the parade route. Organizers expect people from Seattle and San Francisco to join the event this year. Groups like Jobs with Justice, Sisters in Strength, Sisters of the Road, Seattle Share/Wheel, Western Regional Action Project and the Radical Cheerleaders plan to participate in the overnight protest that includes entertainment by local hip hop artist Mic Crenshaw and Shoehorn, the tap-dancing saxophonist. Organizers also plan a talent show, potluck meal, a movie, T-shirt sales and political advocacy.

The Pitch a Tent event begins at 10 a.m. Friday at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Washington Street.

Right 2 Dream Too has been locked in a fight with the city since its tents first were pitched on the site of a demolished adult bookstore near the Chinatown Gate. Old Town business groups want the homeless camp/rest area to move to another location, possibly outside the neighborhood or in a rented building.

When Right 2 Dream Too set up the camp in 2011, Portland city code did not include rules governing an urban homeless campsite. Bureau of Development Services officials soon afterward adopted state recreational campground rules to govern the Old Town camp.

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