Police Send Disabled Peace Protestor to Hospital|
Vigil keepers at the Portland Peace Encampment at SW 4th Avenue and Main Street across from City Hall were visited by five Portland Police Bureau officers at 8:30 in the evening on Saturday, May 10. Before they left the scene, where they came to take the few possessions of the peace campers, police had to call EMS and fire personnel to transport a man to the hospital.
Andy Seaton, a disabled peace demonstrator and contributor to Portland Indymedia that has been an integral part of the organized Encampment effort to protest peacefully against the wars of the Bush administration, refused to relinquish his folding chair when one of the officers present commanded him to do so.
Seaton, who has a documented history of back problems and was wincing in pain moments before police arrived, told officers that he needed the chair because he could not stand for long periods of time. Seaton then showed the officers his Honored Citizen Tri-Met bus pass and other documentation of his condition. His vehicle, with a handicapped parking tag hanging from the rearview mirror, was parked in a handicapped space across the street.
After being shown documentation in support of his need for a chair to sit in, three officers attempted to push Seaton out of the chair and later lifted Seaton to a near-standing position before removing the chair and letting him go. Seaton then fell back into the street and, after a few moments, asked for help in standing.
When he was unable to stand with assistance from nearby peaceful demonstrators, Seaton asked that 911 be called on a cell phone. The 911 dispatcher, on learning that the call was from the Peace Encampment and that police were on the scene, told Seaton to deal with the police and ended the call. After speaking again with Seaton, who remained lying on his back on the sidewalk, an officer on the scene called 911. An ambulance and fire truck arrived a few minutes later.
Emergency Medical Service and fire personnel placed Seaton on a backboard and transported him by ambulance to the St. Vincent Hospital Emergency Room, where he was treated for a back injury and released.
During their visit to the Peace Encampment, the officers confiscated Seaton's chair and the personal possessions of other demonstrators present.
Peace Encampment Targeted by Police Bureau Night Shift
Peaceful demonstrators have maintained a 24-hour per day protest between City Hall and the Federal Building in downtown Portland for 51 days since the United States intensified bombing in Iraq and invaded the country on March 20. During that time the Encampment has become a favorite target of the Portland Police Bureau.
Twenty-four hours after police posted a notice declaring the Encampment an illegal campsite in April, a large number of mainstream media visited the site to cover the return of the police to clear the camp. The police failed to show during the day with media present. Since that time, however, police have visited the site on several occasions during the early morning hours, under cover of darkness, to harass the demonstrators and confiscate any property that could not be held by the people present.
When asked why they continue to harass the Peace Encampment, which has peacefully complied with all requests by law enforcement since the beginning of their protest, police respond that they are merely following orders to enforce Portland's Sit-Lie ordinance. The ordinance, enacted without public input by the mayor and City Council after Mayor Katz promised that community comment would be heard, prohibits the blocking of public sidewalks except under certain conditions. The Encampment, however, has ensured that the sidewalk along SW 4th Avenue remains unobstructed at all times, even putting down duct tape to mark the boundary. The demonstrators believe that the police are using the Sit-Lie ordinance as a pretext to intimidate them for practicing their Constitutional right to free speech.
Thus far, police have failed to cite or arrest anyone at the Encampment for refusing to comply with the Sit-Lie ordinance, opting instead to repeatedly confiscate property and leave the scene.
Peace Encampment to Address City Council on Wednesday, May 14
Well before Saturday's incident involving the injury of Andy Seaton, several members of the Encampment, including Seaton, had signed up to speak before the Portland City Council at the council's weekly meeting at 9:30am on Wednesday, May 14. They intend to explain to Mayor Katz and the council why the Encampment exists. They also will ask why they have been repeatedly targeted by the Police Bureau and what it will take to end the harassment.
Peace Encampment Needs Video or Digital Camera and Police Scanner
The Portland Peace Encampment has a real need for a video or digital still camera to document the harassment they are receiving from the police bureau, often in the late night or early morning hours when no other witnesses are present. They could also use a police scanner. Anyone who has access to such tools and is able to donate them to the Encampment is encouraged to drop by the site at SW 4th Avenue and Main Street, 24 hours per day.