From the Willamette Week, May 11, 2008

After seven homeless protesters outside of City Hall were arrested yesterday, the 70 to 100 people continuing to protest outside of City Hall are resolved to keep it up until Tuesday, when the police are scheduled to conduct a sweep of the area around City Hall.

“We’re going to keep protesting until Tuesday,” says Art Rios Sr., one of the leaders of the protest.

On Saturday, Mayor Tom Potter issued a press release saying that the protesters’ camping and protesting outside of City Hall “are two very different activities, and the City has a separate response to each.”

With regards to the camping, the Portland Police posted illegal camping warnings along the walls of City Hall. According to many of the protesters, they are the same posters police put up before they sweep campsites in accordance with the parks exclusions law (see picture below).

The protesters were asked to move their belongings to the edge of the sidewalk nearest to the road, and police were called to the area when they received complaints that the legs and feet of some of the people were hanging over the sidewalk.

According to the posters, the area around City Hall will be swept on Tuesday.

Shaken and angered by the arrests, the protesters re-grouped Saturday night in a meeting to discuss the next steps of the protest. They reminded each other not to use any drugs or alcohol near City Hall, to clean up after themselves, and ended the meeting with shouts of “Unite! Not Divide!”

The spirits and resolve of the protesters were further buoyed by the return of those who were arrested. By 10 in the evening on Saturday, all seven had been released.

Jeff Bissonette, one of the candidates running to fill Sam Adams’ seat on the City Council, was there, answering questions and helping the protesters plan what to do. The consensus last night was to invite Mayor Potter to a meeting on Monday with the protesters.

The protesters hope to be able to find a compromise with the mayor on the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances.

“It’s very unfortunate that the mayor is taking options off the table and not providing additional leadership,” Bissonette says, adding that he thinks the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances should be suspended until longer term solutions are found.

The protesters also want to make it clear to Potter that what they’re doing is not camping. They’re protesting.

“I feel that Potter keeps thinking wrongly about why we’re here,” Rios says.

“The Mayor can say it’s camping, but I think even if that action is taken, we won’t be sweeping away the questions and issues that are being raised,” Bissonette says.

Disillusioned by the political weakness they see in Potter’s refusal to consider suspending the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances and the enforcement of the anti-camping law, some of the protesters don’t trust that the Mayor will come through for them.

“Some of us feel he has a black heart now,” Rios says.

“They’re changing their tactics,” says Larry Reynolds of how the City is regarding the protest. (Up until this time, the City and police were not enforcing the sit-lie or anti-camping ordinances, because the protest is constitutionally protected.)

“This isn’t a camp. It’s a peaceful protest,” says Reynolds, who is one of the people arrested yesterday.

Reynolds says he has no interested in talking to Mayor Potter now that he was arrested, and doesn’t think that the mayor (who is the housing commissioner until Erik Sten’s seat is filled) is interested in working with the protesters to find a solution.

“I’m here because I’m tired of it. I’m just sick of it,” Reynolds said. “This is still a protest. No matter what they say.”