In a tense escalation of the Occupy Portland protest, police in riot gear Sunday surrounded demonstrators in a downtown park area after hundreds of people defied the mayor’s order to leave the park by midnight.
Some officers used nightsticks to push people away from the encampment and used loudspeakers to warn that anyone who resisted risked arrest and “may also be subject to chemical agents and impact weapons.” Demonstrators chanted “we are a peaceful protest.”
Police could be seen carrying at least one protester away from the park. Another man was taken away on a stretcher; he was alert and talking to paramedics, and raised a peace sign to fellow protesters, who responded with cheers. There was no immediate word on arrests.
“We were talking about what we were going to do and then they just started hitting people. Seems like a waste of resources to me,” protester Mike Swain, 27, told The Associated Pres.
Portland Mayor Sam Adams had ordered the camp shut down Saturday at midnight, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment’s attraction of drug users and thieves.
The anti-Wall Street protesters and their supporters had flooded the park area even as authorities in other cities stepped up pressure against demonstrators, arresting dozens of people.
In Portland, at one point overnight, the crowd swelled to thousands. As dawn arrived, riot police had retreated and most of the crowds had gone home, but protesters who have been at the two parks since Oct. 6 were still there.
One of the organizers, Jim Oliver, said the night had been a victory for Occupy Portland.
“We stood up to state power,” Oliver told The Associated Press, standing on a corner opposite the camp.
Still, the camp was a shadow of what it was before Saturday. A large segment of the campers consisted of homeless people who had been drawn to the free food and shelter offered by Occupy Portland. They are gone, after outreach workers went through the camp to help them find shelter elsewhere.
And as the Saturday midnight eviction deadline neared, protesters themselves began dismantling tents.