Portland, Oregon, Nov 14: Police in riot gear surrounded demonstrators in a downtown park area after hundreds of people defied the mayor's order to leave the park by midnight as the Occupy Portland protest intensified Sunday.
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. Demonstrators have been making their voices heard in U.S. town squares since September.
By early afternoon, officers in Portland had mostly surrounded the camp where the protesters were holding a “general assembly” meeting to discuss their next moves following the eviction order.
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 Press.
Choya Adkison, 30, said police moved in after giving demonstrators a false sense of calm. They thought they had time to rest, relax and regroup, she said.
“Camp was completely vulnerable, completely defenseless” when police moved in, she said. “I'm disappointed that they created a sense of trust by walking away and then completely trampled it.”
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.
At one point overnight, the Portland 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 AP, 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.
Around 4 a.m., dozens of police formed a line across from demonstrators who had poured into the street. Protesters facing them appeared to be in festive spirits with some banging on drums and plastic pails, another clanging a cowbell while others danced in the streets as a man juggled nearby.
Other demonstrators used pallets and old furniture, wood debris and even a bicycle to set up two makeshift barricades on a street that runs through the encampment, apparently in an attempt to block traffic.
Protesters ultimately got off the street after the police asked them to and also cleared away the barricades.
On Sunday at an impromptu news conference, the mayor defended his order to clear the park, saying it is his job to enforce the law and keep the peace. “This is not a game,” Adams said.
Officials said that one officer suffered minor injuries when he was hit by some kind of projectile in the leg. Police had prepared for a possible clash, warning that dozens of anarchists may be planning a confrontation with authorities. Officers seized pieces of cement blocks Friday, saying they were told some demonstrators had plans to use them as weapons against police. They said they believe some demonstrators were building shields and trying to collect gas masks.
Also on Sunday, for the third time in three days, Oakland city officials warned protesters that they do not have the right to camp in the plaza in front of City Hall and face immediate arrest. Police did not respond to requests for comment on whether officers were preparing to forcibly clear the camp.
The eviction notices came as officials across the country urged an end to similar gatherings in the wake of three deaths in different cities, including two by gunfire. Demands for Oakland protesters to pack up increased after a man was shot and killed Thursday near the encampment site.
Police officials have said a preliminary investigation suggested the shooting resulted from a fight between two groups of men at or near the encampment. Investigators do not know if the men in the fight were associated with Occupy Oakland, but protesters said there was no connection between the shooting and the camp.
The shooting happened the same day a 35-year-old military veteran apparently committed suicide in a tent at a Burlington, Vermont, Occupy encampment. Police said a preliminary investigation showed the veteran fatally shot himself in the head. They said the death raised questions about whether the protest would be allowed to continue.