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actions & protests | homelessness

Portland Police Bureau Harasses Houseless

The Portland Police Bureau has continued its criminalization of houselessness, by sweeping 50 folks from under and atop the Burnside Bridge on 6/24, and sweeping almost 50 more folks from the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges the following night. Their possessions were confiscated and thrown away. The Portland Coalition Against Poverty is hosting a demonstration to demand an immediate end to police harassment of poor and houseless people. It is on Wednesday, July 9th, at 5pm, in the North Park Blocks.
On Tuesday June 24th, following the regular meal service under the Burnside Bridge, Portland Police awakened and dispersed over 50 people from above and beneath the Bridge. On Wednesday June 25th, the police and Clean and Safe awakened and dispersed 16-20 people from the East side of the Morrison Bridge and 10-14 people from the East side of the Hawthorne Bridge. The people were removed with no alternative sleeping locations given. Alan Pyrah, who was sleeping on the Burnside bridge at the time of the sweep, asked an officer where he was expected to go. The unnamed officer replied, "Go across the river." Pyrah went to sleep under the Morrison Bridge, and was disturbed again the following evening. These aggressive acts on the part of the Portland Police highlight the continued contempt of the Portland Police bureau for the houseless and impoverished.

The police awakened the sleeping citizens using foghorns and boots, and gave them two minutes to collect their possessions. Clean and Safe, the security branch of the Portland Business Alliance, had brought large dumpsters with them, and all possessions not collected within the two minute limit were thrown into the dumpsters. A Portland Police officer stood by with a timer.

This method of dispersal is a break from standard Portland Police policy: Ordinarily, possessions are seized and taken to a central storage facility, where they can be claimed the next day. Additionally, city policy requires the police to give 24 hour posted notice before enforcing the no-camping law.

These dispersals are in accordance with the regular pattern of ticketing and harassment during the summer festival season. Interviews conducted at several nightly feeds immediately following the raids confirmed the worst suspicions of houseless advocates.

Larry Reynolds, a disabled veteran who sleeps outdoors, said, "They're targeting homeless people...taking people's gear and throwing it away. They're not posting notices or inviting social service agencies [as specified under the no-camping law] as they do it."

Two weeks before the Waterfront Blues Festival, the city has begun to increase pressure on people sleeping outdoors. It began with verbal warnings, and has been followed by ticketing and dispersal on a nightly or bi-nightly basis. This police aggression is intended to insure that attendees of the Blues Festival will not be confronted by the City's issues of poverty. Cheyenne, a houseless person affected by the dispersals, said, "It's the rich and the middle class stealing [sleep] from the poor."

In response to the targeting of poor and houseless people in the community, a demonstration is planned for Wednesday, July 9th. It will start in the North Park Blocks at 5pm. "Hands Off the Poor," a demonstration organized by the Portland Coalition Against Poverty demands an immediate end to police harassment and arrest of poor and houseless people in the community.

DISGUSTING! 27.Jun.2008 08:49

Den Mark, Vancouver

Taking people's stuff & destroying it all, takes this to a new depth of stupidity & meanness. Next level of police brutality would be beating up the people. Who the hell do these cops think they are. And who are the houseless folks hurting.

Contact Bluesfest for Solidarity Statement 27.Jun.2008 10:24

Joe Anybody iam@joe-anybody.com

I wonder if the Bluesfest spokesperson could comment on this?

And / or make a statement regarding the "impact on the homeless" that this/their "festival" brings to those with no where to live

In part (I Think?) the Bluesfest is raising food for the hungry ..it would seem they could instigate some "pull" regarding the "cleanup of surrounding area"

I also wonder if a visible "protest" at the Bluesfest (especially if there is NO support from spokesperson) would help accent the tie (if there is one - like it seems there is) to bring awareness to the community what happens to the folks who's lives are impacted so dramatically by these festivals and the (sic)"cleanup/sweep around the area" that the festivals cause!

City destruction of property 27.Jun.2008 10:56

fresno used to do this

United States District Judge Oliver W. Wanger gave preliminary approval today to a $2.35 million dollar class-action settlement between a class of hundreds of homeless Fresno residents and the City of Fresno and the California Department of Transportation. The court had already determined that Fresno's practice of immediately seizing and destroying the personal possessions of homeless residents violates the constitutional right of every person to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.