Wednesday, July 9th 5 PM North Park Blocks Portland Coalition Against Poverty
On Tuesday June 24th, following the regular meal service under the Burnside Bridge, Portland Police awakened and dispersed over 50 people from above and beneath the Bridge. On Wednesday June 25th, the police and Clean and Safe awakened and dispersed 16-20 people from the East side of the Morrison Bridge and 10-14 people from the East side of the Hawthorne Bridge.
The people were removed with no alternative sleeping locations given. Alan Pyrah, who was sleeping on the Burnside bridge at the time of the sweep, asked an officer where he was expected to go. The unnamed officer replied, "Go across the river." Pyrah went to sleep under the Morrison Bridge, and was disturbed again the following evening. These aggressive acts on the part of the Portland Police highlight the continued contempt of the Portland Police bureau for the houseless and impoverished.
The police awakened the sleeping citizens using foghorns and boots, and gave them two minutes to collect their possessions. Clean and Safe, the security branch of the Portland Business Alliance, had brought large dumpsters with them, and all possessions not collected within the two minute limit were thrown into the dumpsters. A Portland Police officer stood by with a timer.
This method of dispersal is a break from standard Portland Police policy: Ordinarily, possessions are seized and taken to a central storage facility, where they can be claimed the next day.
Additionally, city policy requires the police to give 24 hour posted notice before enforcing the no-camping law. These dispersals are in accordance with the regular pattern of ticketing and harassment during the summer festival season. Interviews conducted at several nightly feeds immediately following the raids confirmed the worst suspicions of houseless advocates.
Larry Reynolds, a disabled veteran who sleeps outdoors, said, "They're targeting homeless people...taking people's gear and throwing it away. They're not posting notices or inviting social service agencies [as specified under the no-camping law] as they do it."
Two weeks before the Waterfront Blues Festival, the city has begun to increase pressure on people sleeping outdoors. It began with verbal warnings, and has been followed by ticketing and dispersal on a nightly or bi-nightly basis. This police aggression is intended to insure that attendees of the Blues Festival will not be confronted by the City's issues of poverty. Cheyenne, a houseless person affected by the dispersals, said, "It's the rich and the middle class stealing [sleep] from the poor."
In response to the targeting of poor and houseless people in the community, a demonstration is planned for Wednesday, July 9th. It will start in the North Park Blocks at 5pm. "Hands Off the Poor," a demonstration organized by the Portland Coalition Against Poverty demands an immediate end to police harassment and arrest of poor and houseless people in the community.