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

In the last hour, chaos erupted at the homeless protest. Just as I was about to leave—the rumored cops hadn’t shown up—Central Precinct Commander Mike Reese and three other officers (and a woman several people referred to as a city attorney, but I don’t know if that’s true or not) strode up from the police station. They walked the length of the sidewalk in front of city hall, where people were standing with their arms locked in solidarity. The cops ignored them.

Around the corner, on Jefferson, the police stopped to talk to several people who were along the curb near a Trimet bus stop. The officers told those protesters that they needed to move—according to Reese, Trimet bus drivers had called the police to report that protesters were sticking their legs out into the street, and drivers were worried they’d injure someone when they were pulling the bus up to the stop (later, I overheard one protester having a battle of logic with one cop, pointing out that he’d rather be on the city hall side of the sidewalk, and away from traffic, but that the police had pushed people to the curb side, which they were now declaring was unsafe).

As the cops returned their attention to clearing out the protesters’ belongings—and telling people they could protest on the other three sides of the building—protest organizer Arthur Rios Sr, his ID in hand, planted himself down on the window sill. Three other protesters joined him, including two young men—one 18, the other 20, who said they’d been on the street since they’d been 10 and 13, respectively. The four awaited arrest, as their friends (and Rios’ daughter) kept approaching to shake their hands, give them kisses, and take their belongings for safekeeping.

The cops gave people five minutes to clear their belongings from near the bus stop. Protesters did what they do best: Protested. Some quoted the constitution, others argued that the city needed to provide housing. One man sat against the wall of city hall, and the cops told him to move or face arrest. He volunteered for arrest. The cops arrested him (nicely, I might add—it was a civil disobedience arrest if I ever saw one).

All four were arrested, on charges of interfering with a police (not for illegal camping or violating the sit-lie ordinance, mind you…), the same as the first two. Meanwhile, protest organizer Larry Reynolds apparently tried to walk through the crowd (including a few officers) and was arrested. I missed the interaction that kicked it off—I was later told that he was asked to move, and didn’t—but it was the singular struggle between officers and a protester. He was arrested for resisting arrest. Frankly, he looked bewildered. The crowd was angry, shouting “Larry’s being arrested!” in disbelief.

Once all seven were arrested (backup officers in police cars had arrived by now), Reese gave his officers the order to clear out. They circled the rest of the block, then headed back to the central precinct. Meanwhile, the remaining protesters kept their arms locked, and kept shouting “homes not jails!”

Not long after he was arrested, a second protester sat in city hall’s window sill. He, too, was voluntarily arrested.