From Amy Ruiz of the Portland Mercury, May 10, 2008

This morning, Mayor Potter dropped a new statement on the ongoing homeless protest outside of city hall.

He re-iterates what the city has been doing in response: “102 shelter beds have been opened (as of 8:30 p.m. on May 9); representatives of the protest group were invited to the Mayor’s Office to state their concerns and to participate on the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness Advisory Board; service providers offered outreach services to those with special needs and discussions on how police enforce the camping ordinance are occurring.”

Then he gets into the nitty gritty—the fact that the protest has morphed from a dozen people at the beginning into a large camp stretching halfway around the block city hall sits on isn’t lost on anyone, including Potter. And it sounds like Potter’s ready to crack down a little harder, saying “the City has the right to make reasonable time, place and manner rules for the conduct of protests in public spaces, and can also act to protect the public from unnecessary obstructions as well as health, sanitation and safety problems.”

“The amount of clutter has greatly affected the ability of the public to use the sidewalk. I also have an increasing concern about the safety of both the protestors and the general public. There have been incidents of illegal activity, numerous calls for police and medical assistance, and sanitation concerns inside and outside the building.”

So what happens next? Read on.

Due to these increasing congestion, obstruction and public safety concerns – and with the opening of an additional 102 shelter beds through May and June by the Salvation Army – starting today, the protestors will be asked to respect the City law that forbids the erection of structures on sidewalks. This is a law that is regularly enforced in all other protest situations.In addition, the City will post a warning that enforcement of the City law against camping in public spaces could occur after the end of day on Tuesday, May 13. In conjunction with the warning, the City will connect protestors and homeless individuals with service providers who can help them find shelter or other places to go.

That last part sounds to me like a warning that the city is going to impose much stricter limits on the protest, starting Tuesday night. Maybe people can protest, but not camp—so perhaps that means they can’t lie down and sleep? I asked the Mayor’s public safety policy adviser Marie Rubio for clarification, and whether this is hinting at an impending “sweep.”

She responds:

This is an effort to reduce the amount of items that are accumulating as people camp outside city hall and the attending health and public safety issues that have been developing as the crowd grows. We trust that protestors will comply with the city’s request to keep things orderly and safe for everyone.We hope that people will take advantage of the 102 available shelter beds.

We’ll keep you posted.

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