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News / Northwest

Occupy Portland protesters target defense bill

Sunday demonstration follows arrest of 19 Saturday

The Columbian
Published: December 4, 2011, 4:00pm
3 Photos
Occupy Portland attempted to occupy another downtown park, Shemanski Park directly west of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, on Saturday.
Occupy Portland attempted to occupy another downtown park, Shemanski Park directly west of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, on Saturday. Police quickly moved in and made arrests. Photo Gallery

PORTLAND — A tense night marked by the arrests of 19 Occupy Portland participants was followed Sunday by a gathering of dozens of local protesters taking issue with a $662 billion defense spending bill.

The Oregonian reported some 30 protesters assembled at Salmon Street Springs Fountain in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Protesters noted language in a version passed 93-7 by the Senate version that says U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism can be detained indefinitely.

“The thing that concerns me is reflections on McCarthyism, where anybody suspected of being a Communist was detained and abused, essentially,” said march organizer Terris Harned, 32. “Our main concern and our main goal is to raise awareness. This bill has very much flown under the radar, and we don’t think people have been made aware enough about it.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has not voted on its version of the bill.

The defense bill protest followed activity the night before at South Park.

Officers moved protesters from South Park blocks around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, after the park was closed a half hour early, Sgt. Pete Simpson said.

But 19 who refused to leave or resisted were arrested, held with flex cuffs and hauled away by police, he said.

He said the arrests came amid “reports of demonstrators setting up structures in what appeared to be an attempt take over the park.”

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Occupy Portland protesters set up tents in a portion of the park that runs through Southwest Portland earlier Saturday and vowed to stay through the winter, defying city officials who said overnight camping will not be allowed.

They had been without an encampment since police swept through their downtown site three weeks ago, making arrests and dismantling tents.

The Occupy Portland website declared, “We have a park!” It said “the kitchen is open” and invited the public to bring love, tents, sleeping bags and snacks.

Protest spokesman Jordan LeDoux earlier told the AP that having a camp provides a place for demonstrators to focus their efforts and engage the public.

Police moved in a while later, dispersing the crowd and arresting the 19 people, who ranged in age from 17 to 60, Simpson said in a statement released early Sunday.

Fourteen were cited to appear in court on charges of criminal trespass and interfering with a police officer and released. Five were booked into Multnomah County Jail.

Simpson estimated that at least a dozen structures, mainly tents, were dismantled by the officers in an area of South Park blocks, near the Portland Art Museum, known as Shermanski Park.

Simpson said he didn’t know if protesters put up any resistance. KGW reported that witnesses said there was some pushing and shoving between the protesters and police.

The Oregonian reported that dozens of protesters who weren’t arrested marched to City Hall and gathered there, as riot police assembled nearby. Later, the protesters began walking as a group along several area streets, followed by police on bicycles.

Simpson said the protesters finally returning to the park where the arrests had been made.

“ The Police Bureau will continue to monitor the small demonstration,” he said. “People remaining in the park after hours could be subject to arrest.”

Police and authorities had earlier warned that remaining in the park beyond the 9 p.m. closing time and erecting structures violates park rules and could lead to police action to remove protesters.

But city officials said they shut down the park area at 8:30 p.m., a half hour early, after protesters confronted park workers and prevented them from enforcing park codes.

“The bureau issued the order to close the park after having very aggressive people force them (workers) out of the park,” Simpson said.

The park is five blocks west of Lownsdale Square, one of the two parks that demonstrators occupied for more than a month until police evicted them on Nov. 13. Lownsdale and two adjacent parks that had been the site of demonstrations remained fenced Saturday.

On Friday, Mayor Sam Adams told KATU-TV that he won’t allow the protesters to camp at any city park “based on the experience that these encampments become inherently dangerous.” Adams cited concerns about drug use, violence and safety when he ordered the original encampments shut down last month.