From Matt Davis at the Portland Mercury, May 12, 2008

Welcome to liberal, progressive Portland, people. Hobophobic Portland, more like.

The group of homeless protesters outside city hall held a special meeting last night creating a list of 24 people who are prepared to engage in civil disobedience and be arrested when the police move through tonight to enforce the city’s anti-camping ordinance.

MEETING: 100 strong…

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE LIST: 46 people signed up to protest tonight, 24 agreed to engage in civil disobedience…

The protesters, who say the city’s camping ordinance and sit/lie ordinance infringe on the civil rights of homeless people, are preparing themselves for a police sweep tonight at 12:01am, when most TV news crews are in bed, and the cops’ anti-camping notices, which were posted Saturday, come into effect in the early morning of Tuesday May 13th.

At least ten people have joined the protest in solidarity with the homeless, even though they have housing themselves. The protesters say the more the merrier, and are encouraging people to join the protest tonight in a non-violent manner.

The issues that we’re protesting about affect all of us,” said Max, who joined the protest last Thursday but kept his last name off the record. “These vague vagrancy laws affect our rights to sit or be in the city where and when we choose, they infringe on all of our civil rights.”

Yesterday the group asked for a second public meeting with mayor Tom Potter to discuss their concerns. Potter says he’s opened more shelters for people and that they should be happy with that, but the protesters have been arguing all along for the right to sleep outside. Anna Griffin’s piece in this morning’s Oregonian is surprisingly balanced and informative for that newspaper, although the last line, “the mayor may have no choice but to order police to sweep the area,” is absolutely untrue, and because it jars with the rest of the piece, I doubt whether Griffin ever actually wrote it, personally. It smacks of a copy editor toeing the editorial board’s line.

Mayor Tom Potter, for all his community-mindedness, has a choice about what to do about this protest. If he were a strong and creative leader he would listen to the concerns of those camping on his front step, and give serious thought to suspending the city’s vagrancy laws. Potter, personally, will be responsible for whatever transpires on the steps of city hall this evening, and his fellow city commissioners, too.

Sam Adams, who has kept himself distant from the protest, apparently happy to leave it to the mayor, supports the camping and sit/lie ordinances. Randy Leonard says homeless people should be content with sleeping in shelters, no matter what conditions are like. Dan Saltzman refuses to open his parks as safe havens for people to sleep in overnight.

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