From Israel Beyer of Street Roots, May 15, 2008

In many ways Street Roots has remained rather quiet on the protests in front of City Hall. While most newspapers, TV and radio stations in Portland covered the homeless protests – Street Roots stepped back – one because of our publication schedule, two, we have a small staff working with individuals on the streets throughout Portland.

Instead of trying to report every single detail, while missing the bigger picture, we relied on our experience, relationships, and knowledge of the homeless front and the politics surrounding the camp and homelessness in Portland.

Street Roots has two special editions every year, the first of which was the “Drug Issue” in early April. While the newspaper tomorrow is not a special edition, it might as well be. Since the protest began we’ve had three reporters on the scene, and at least five vendors sleeping out in front of City Hall.

The headline of the new Street Roots is entitled, “The mice who roared.” The newspaper includes a photo package, two in-depth news stories on the lives of the people protesting, the emotions involved and how exactly we came to this point, and what is being done behind the scenes. We’ve also included a detailed eight-year timeline of direct actions, protests, legal decisions, and policy surrounding the camping and sit-lie ordinances along with commentary from protesters and a cost analysis of shelters vs. permanent housing.

We also have an in-depth interview with John Verdi with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and commentary on Fusion Centers. You may be surprised at just who is spying on you.

And of course, we have street art, poetry and two vendor profiles of individuals selling the newspaper. Pick up a copy tomorrow from a local neighborhood vendor. One-dollar goes a long way, and you get something great in return.

Here’s a peak into the newspaper’s take on what’s going down.

City needs back-up long term plan

Street Roots fully supports the idea of housing first – the idea that we as a community can engage individuals on the streets with low-income housing.

Portland is badly in need of leadership that will guide our city to the resources needed for people on the streets to thrive through a broad approach that includes economic development (micro-enterprising), outreach and engagement efforts through non-law enforcement and harm reduction models, and of course, housing itself.

The protesters in front of City Hall demanding an end to the camping and sit-lie ordinances have thrown a wrench into a larger bureaucratic battle that’s been playing out behind the scenes for years.

The city’s response to what many bureaucrats say are unreasonable demands (repealing the camping and sit-lie ordinances) have been to open 102 emergency shelter beds, 90 for men and 12 for women. The problem is that one of the goals of the 10-year plan to end homelessness was to get away from sheltering individuals and to providing permanent supportive housing first.

The reason for this is twofold: First, shelters are more expensive to run and don’t wield the results of the housing first model. Secondly, when shelters beds don’t fill up, the city can enforce the city’s camping ordinance. State law requires law enforcement not to enforce the ordinance if shelters are full.

Like it or not, many individuals experiencing homelessness are not going to sleep in a shelter, period. There are also people living with animals; couples, and families that simply will not be split up due to archaic shelter guidelines. And yes, there are drug addicts. Individuals dealing with an addiction are human beings, and using law enforcement to force individuals into the criminal justice system, and not have the same access to shelters as the broader population, is inhumane, costly, and backwards.

Street Roots has been covering camp sweeps, the camping ordinance and other criminalization efforts, along with innovative solutions to ending homelessness since our inception. On the ground level, we’ve consistently been told by our peers, vendors and other people on the streets that the number one issue beyond finding housing is law enforcement moving individuals from one place to another, time and again, with no alternative.

The people in front of City Hall have organized themselves. Their leadership is strictly from the streets. For better or worse, they’ve created community, and at the end of the day, tried to make the world a better place for themselves and people just like them.

We are all on the same side in this fight — local businesses, community organizations, City Hall, advocates, social services, and the people affected the most. It’s clear that there are not enough resources. But we can’t lose our focus on being able to couple short-term, out-of-the-box thinking with a housing first model that has proven successful. We can’t be distracted into thinking shelter beds are a satisfactory means to end the criminalization of the homeless or to house people. Portland’s leaders need to reinforce long-term solutions to truly make a difference.

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From the Oregonian, May 15, 2008

Sit/lie – Police tell homeless advocates at City Hall that camping won’t be allowed

Portland police moved homeless campers from the sidewalks outside City Hall early Thursday, but their public protest for more housing and permission to sit on sidewalks and camp on public land remained.

Mayor Tom Potter asked police to act so workers could clean the sidewalks, said his spokesman, John Doussard.

“We had campers out there for 21/2 weeks,” he said. “And it doesn’t matter where your campsite is, after 21/2 weeks it needs to be cleaned.”

Around 5:30 a.m., officers told about two dozen people — most lying on the sidewalks — to move along, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz. No one was arrested as the protesters left, Schmautz said, but about an hour later, officers arrested Andrew Newman, 20, for standing in the street and yelling at police.

Police wrapped the area in yellow tape, then cleaning crews moved in from Downtown Clean and Safe, a service that the Portland Business Association runs under city contract. Those workers used to be homeless, part of a “homeless to work” program run by the business association and Central City Concern, PBA spokeswoman Megan Doern said. The business association did the job for free, she added.

Many protesters crossed the street to Chapman Square Park, hanging out and holding up protest signs while the cleaners worked. The sidewalk opened again about 12:30 p.m. Police handed out a list of rules explaining where protesters could stand on the sidewalk and saying they could have animals and property with them in those spots for eight hours — but no more camping.

“We’re basically looking for a clean slate, so people understand it’s a protest, not camping,” Schmautz said.

Several protesters declined to comment but passed out fliers asking for “the immediate repeal of sit/lie & camping ordinances” and “affordable and safe housing in Downtown Portland.”

From Portland Indymedia, May 15, 2008

After the Portland Police department swept protestors from City Hall at 5:30am, the United Poor People have regrouped and continued their protest. We are calling for new ways to address the lack of adequate housing for the people of Portland in the hopes that it can serve as a model for other cities.

At 5:30am on Thursday, May 15 between 20-30 Portland Police officers swarmed City Hall to clear peacefully sleeping protesters off the sidewalk. Left with little time to gather their belongings before being threatened with arrest some protesters lost possessions. The police did not say that the protesters were being moved due to any violation but rather because the sidewalk needed to be cleaned.

Many protesters were shocked and insulted by the heavy handed approach of the police in clearing out their protest, saying that they would have responded if the request to temporarily relocate had been made by as few as two officers instead of more than two dozen. At least one other campsite was swept during the same night, clearing out several people that had left the City Hall protest.

Immediately after being cleared from City Hall protesters held an impromptu coordinating meeting across the street, forming a new alliance, United Poor People (UPP). UPP is continuing the struggle through an inclusive and empowering movement based on consensus of those involved, attempting to bring together people that live on the street with other members of the community that have shown support for the struggle. There are a number of safety issues faced by people staying on the streets and UPP provides a safe space for a larger body of people to stay together.

The protest has been ongoing for over 20 days, starting April 25th, since police performed sweeps at many of the common camp sites that people were staying at. Larger issues have become key such as the lack of adequate housing, shelters that provide space for those with mental and physical health issues, couples and people with pets, as well as for sexual minorities and increased space for women.

The existing shelters, which police gave information for during the sweep, are already full as are the beds that Mayor Tom Potter has trumped up for the media. Of the additional beds that Potter cites, only 12 were available for women, with a waiting list of 45 women already. Most of the shelters that were on the sheet given to protesters require TB documentation and the services for TB tests were closed on the day of the sweep.

An immediate goal set forth by UPP is to counter a series of false statements made in the mainstream media, notably The Oregonian, including the claim that the protest encampment had been disbanded on the previous Tuesday. Additionally, Mayor Tom Potter’s office has been given credit for starting dialog with the protesters while it was in fact the protesters that had been pressuring him for a meeting.

Potter eventually gave a meeting that was not public, as protesters had requested, and issued a response that had been typed up before the meeting even took place.

Protesters have stated that they would stop sleeping at City Hall if a temporary Green Zone was approved to allow those without houses to camp in a safe environment. This would require repealing the Camping ordinance and protesters would like to see the Sit and Lie ordinance repealed as well. The Sit and Lie ordinance was passed with the pre-conditions that several new bathrooms and benches would be built but there has been a lack of follow through on the part of the city.

More long-term solutions are being debated by UPP such as searching for ways to provide affordable housing for people who are poor. Innovative changes must be addressed with proper representation for the poor instead of solely allowing existing service providers to make decisions.

Please come out to support members of your community because this issue effects all people. Any time is good for people to come down but especially on Wednesday morning for the City Council meeting at 9:00am.

For more information please contact UnitedPoorPeople@gmail.com.

From Matt Davis at the Portland Mercury, May 15 2008

From the cops:

Early this morning the Police Bureau closed the sidewalk around City Hall for cleaning. All individuals were removed and the sidewalk will remain closed until Safe and Clean completes the cleaning. Once the sidewalk reopens, individuals will once again be allowed to walk or protest on the sidewalk in front of at City Hall. Police will enforce all applicable laws related to camping and sleeping on the sidewalk.No one was arrested during the sidewalk closing. However, one person was arrested about a half hour later. The man, 20-year-old Andrew Newman, was arrested for Interfering with a Police Officer after he refused repeated commands to get out of the street.

Discuss.

From KPTV.com, May 15, 2008

Homeless people who were camped outside Portland’s City Hall since late April were swept away by police Thursday morning.

Officers at the scene said protesters were forced to move so cleaning crews could clean the sidewalk.The protesters want the city to suspend its anti-camping and anti-loitering laws. While protesting is legal, camping in front of City Hall is not.After the sidewalk is cleaned, police said they will allow people to walk or protest in front of City Hall again. However, they said officers will enforce applicable laws related to camping and sleeping.

From KATU.com, May 15, 2008

CAPTURE VIDEO

Portland police removed homeless protesters who have been sitting in front of Portland’s City Hall building Thursday morning. One man was arrested for not getting out of the street.

The sweep of protesters began about 6:30 a.m. after police issued a warning earlier saying the protesters were in violation of a no-camping city ordinance. A large group of officers were on hand for the confrontation, but only one person was arrested.

The protesters, most of them homeless, are upset about the ordinance and other city laws they say violate their civil rights.

Many had been camped out in front of the City Hall building for up to three weeks.

On Wednesday, Portland mayor Tom Potter warned protesters they were in violation of the law and that officers would break up the group, but the deadline for such action was flexible.

Some of the protesters left the area while others congregated across the street. City crews arrived with power-washing equipment shortly after the protesters left the sidewalk area.

Following cleanup of the area, it will be technically legal for the protesters to take their spots on the sidewalk again, which may lead police to clear them again according to current city statutes.

From the Portland Tribune, May 15, 2008

A three week protest by the homeless in front of Portland City Hall ended abruptly this morning as police moved in.

Just before 6 a.m., two officers began stringing yellow police tape around City Hall while another dozen officers wearing blue protective gloves, began asking protestors to move. Most were given just a couple of minutes to gather their belongings.

There was some shouting, but no visible struggles and no arrests until one protestor refused police orders to get out of the crosswalk. He was quickly handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car. Police identify him as Andrew Newman, 20. He is charged with Interfering with a Police Officer.

Many of the protestors left with their belongings, while a small group yelled at officers from the park across the street.

Some of the protestors say they will go right back to the sidewalk in front of the building as soon as the police tape comes down. Portland Mayor Tom Potter tells KPAM 860 the homeless have a right to protest, but cannot camp on the sidewalk.

Portland Police say they will enforce all applicable laws related to camping and sleeping on the sidewalk.

A cleanup crew spent about an hour picking up garbage and pressure washing.

For the past three weeks, a large number of homeless have been camped out in front of the building, hoping the city would add more shelter beds and relax anti-loitering laws.