PORTLAND (AP) — It looks like the Portland Marathon will be sharing space with demonstrators who have camped out in downtown Portland in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Portland Marathon course director Chris Hardman arrived at Chapman Square late Friday afternoon with two police escorts to talk to demonstration organizers. He says marathon directors are fine with the presence of the protesters but says they can’t come and go while the race is under way Sunday.
Hardman told the crowd, “If I didn’t have the marathon, I’d be out here myself.”
Demonstrators earlier said they’re determined to stay despite requests from authorities to make way for an estimated 10,000 runners.
Callers overwhelmed phone lines at the Portland Marathon Friday. They included runners calling to find out the status of the race and Occupy Portland supporters urging Marathon organizers to share the park space.
An automated response to inquiries by email, as well as a marathon news release, says there’s no need for concern.
“We will find a compromise that meets the needs of both parties,” it reads. “We are working closely with the City and representatives from Occupy Portland to reach a solution.”
Portland Occupy organizers say protesters will not leave the downtown park, despite Portland city officials’ demands that they clear out in advance of the marathon.
More than 600 protesters camped out overnight in Lownsdale and Chapman squares across from the Federal Courthouse at Southwest Third Avenue and Main Street.
Protesters plan to settle into Chapman Square indefinitely, said organizer Ivy Knight. “This is our space, we won’t be moving.”
City officials are talking with organizers of the protest and the marathon to find a solution.
As crowds swelled to as many as 1,000 demonstrators, Imre Illes, another organizer, said the decision to stay came in part because of the likely solidarity between protesters and some 10,000 expected marathon participants.
“We feel like the runners and athletes are part of what we represent, and we’re confident we can share the space with them. With all due respect, this is bigger than a permit that was filed a year ago,” Illes said. “This is a national movement.”
Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said the last resort would be arrests.
Reaction to the protest was largely supportive Friday.
Bob Van Dyk, political science professor at Pacific University, who was outside the federal courthouse leading a group of pre-law students to a meeting with a judge, stopped to watch the gathering.
“I agree with them,” he said. “I’m distressed by the gridlock in Washington D.C.”
The Oregonian contributed to this report.