From the Willamette Week, May 13, 2008

This afternoon, leaders of the homeless protesters outside of City Hall met with Mayor Tom Potter behind closed doors for a meeting they said was pre-planned and not addressing their concerns.

“He already had a response to this meeting before the meeting took place,” Arthur Rios, Sr. told a press conference outside of the Mayor’s office. “He still feels that we are a public safety problem. That’s bullshit.”

Rios gave WW a copy of the Mayor’s statement immediately after Rios left the 45-minute meeting with the Mayor, which begins “Today, I met with five folks who represent those who are protesting in front of City Hall.”

The Mayor did not meet with five people. He met with more than eight, including a three-legged dog.

The statement continues, “I listened to their concerns about homelessness about and City policies, and they listened to mine about public safety and public health issues that are concerns both to the public and to the protesters.”

A little odd that the statement is written in the present tense before he even met with the protesters, as was able to disburse it before a press conference with the media.

When asked why the statement was prepared beforehand, Potter dodged the question, saying that he began the press conference by talking about the issues brought up during the meeting.

Rios and other leaders of the protest requested that the meeting be recorded so the public could be made aware of the conversation. Potter refused, and when asked why information was being kept from the public, he said that was not case.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing right now [in this press conference],” Potter said.

One of the chief requests the protesters made to Potter was to suspend the anti-camping and sit-lie ordinances for four weeks until service providers can meet with the protesters and other homeless people to help them access services and find solutions to their homelessness.

Since the beginning of the protest, Potter has refused to consider suspending or repealing either ordinance.

“I can’t suspend it,” Potter said. “City Council must make that decision.”

When asked whether he would be willing to bring forward the idea of suspending or repealing the ordinances to the Council, Potter said he would not, and justified both ordinances by saying that they are “a valuable tool when police get complaints.”

Rumors of a police sweep that was expected to occur last night have been circulating amongst the protesters outside of City Hall. Many think that it will take place later today. Rios told media present that such a sweep will not break apart the protest.

“We will be prepared,” Rios said, adding that he is willing to be arrested by the police as many times as necessary until a compromise or better solution can be found.

The protesters have been outside City Hall since April 25 peacefully protesting for more affordable housing and the suspension or repeal of the anti-camping and sit-lie ordinances. Up until this week, the police and City have allowed the protest to happen.

When asked why the sit-lie and anti-camping ordinances are being enforced at this point, Potter cited problems with drugs, violence and fights in front of City Hall.

“We are asking that they comply with the protest rules like everyone else,” Potter said, who has maintained throughout the protest that the people outside City Hall retain the right to protest. (Up until today, no one from the protest has applied for a protest permit).

Rumors regarding a police sweep that was supposed to occur last night have circulated amongst the protesters, who think that it will take place later today. Many of the protesters are ready for it, and have packed up their belongings and are prepared to carry on the protest if a sweep happens. Check back to WWire for coverage of a sweep (if it happens).