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class warfare: houseless person arrested for resting near abandoned downtown building

This is a brief account of the detainment and arrest of a houseless person on the streets of downtown Portland, near the intersection of NW Hoyt St. & NW 4th Ave. This happened Thursday, September 23 @ 3PM.

Photos and commentary follow.
the front of the abandoned building -- several windows are broken and unrepaired
the front of the abandoned building -- several windows are broken and unrepaired
four police on horseback have the houseless person surrounded
four police on horseback have the houseless person surrounded
houseless person:
houseless person: "I want people to know I haven't done anything wrong!"
officer attempts to fingerprint houseless person
officer attempts to fingerprint houseless person
officer arrests houseless person for
officer arrests houseless person for "tresspassing"
and off to jail they go!
and off to jail they go!
I was biking down the street at about 3PM, and noticed that there were four officers on horseback surrounding a houseless person. The black male-bodied houseless person was charged with trespassing while outside this abandoned building, where they were resting under an overhang to avoid the rainfall.

For about 20 minutes four white officers questioned the houseless person and made small talk. Officers were on the radio numerous times, relaying information and calling for backup.

At about 3.20PM a fifth officer arrived in a police cruiser. This officer pulled out an electronic fingerprinting device, and attempted to fingerprint and ID the houseless person. The houseless person did not have ID, and did not want to be fingerprinted. He put his hands underneath his legs, and was rocking back and forth, afraid of physical violence. He yelled "I'm the only black person here, help! Help! I haven't done anything wrong, I'm not a criminal." And he later yelled, several times "Rodney King! Rodney King!" To which one of the officers just chuckled and said "oh yeah, that's a good one."

Two officers on horseback left the scene (and spoke with me briefly before departing), leaving the other three officers to finish up. The officer that pulled up in the vehicle was not able to fingerprint the houseless person, and in turn wrote up a quick report and handcuffed them. The houseless person was arrested and escorted into the police vehicle at about 3.30PM.


The entire time I made sure to keep my distance from the police, on the other side of the street for the most part. I didn't engage them verbally, I simply took pictures with my camera phone. My goal was to simply document what was happening. Because this was a low-traffic street, not many people were around to witness the intimidation and harassment of the houseless person who was targeted by the Portland Police Department.

As I mentioned above, I had a brief discussion with two officers because they approached me to talk. One officer asked "so where are you going post this? Indymedia?" To which I responded "maybe, yeah, why?" The officer then said they "like reading what people have to say about us."

We continued talking for a few minutes, and I told them that I understand that they are doing their job by enforcing private property laws. And that I think it's a shame that they are forced to be engaging in class warfare for the rich by proxy. There are probably more valuable things the police could be doing!

One officer said "well, I don't think it's that dramatic." And I said that not everyone is able to own property. It's not fair that only the wealthy and that those with jobs are able to legally have a place to sit or sleep, etc. and that those without generally end up in prison as slave labor for private corporations because it's essentially illegal to be poor or unemployed. What are these folks supposed to do to avoid trespassing charges, float in the air?

The officer then said "if someone was sitting on your porch you'd have the legal right to call us too." And I said I would never call the police if someone was sitting on my porch because they were trying to get out of the rain, and that besides, this is an abandoned building! If the "owners" of this building really did call the police to have them remove that houseless person, well, that's fucked and obviously classist on their part. Couldn't they have just talked with this person face-to-face about their concerns instead of calling in armed bureaucrats who are well known to have executed houseless folks in the past?

The officer continued to tell me that Portland has better social services than most other cities, and that they are seeing an influx of poor folks during these bad economic times. The two officers who were speaking with me then went on their way and continued on their patrol route.


Overall, from my privileged perspective as a spectator, the officers were rather professional in handling the situation. But the fact that there was a "situation" in the first place is the problem.

The fact that the police are armed and dangerous and are charged with enforcing the laws of the rich at the expense of the poor is shameful and inhumane, and is ultimately only one facet of the class war that is waged on a daily basis in all sorts of ways big and small. It's a low intensity conflict that is always boiling, non-stop, right under the surface.

As long as property ownership translates into wealth and unfettered power and exploitation of the poor, then abandoned buildings will continue to sit vacant and empty while poor folks without access to housing are rounded up and sent to jail.

Even cars have more rights than living, breathing, human beings. How many parking spaces are there for cars all over the city? And poor folks can't even take rest on the unused margins of the cityscape without fear of altercations with the police.

And yet, somehow, for the average middle-class citizen these authoritarian power dynamics are all so easy to ignore so long as you're somehow able to keep your head down, work hard, and "make it."

copwatching 24.Sep.2010 23:10

Joe Anybody iam@joe-anybody.com

good job, nice report too

what happened didn't sound too nice, but I do appreciate the fact that you 'watched and shared'

thank you

here is a good print-out from the DA on filming the police in Portland



Dear Joe's Town DA ... 25.Sep.2010 16:42

Tracy Mapes

There is No Applicable Violation of Communications Interception in Public or Public Service.

If You Choose to Not Be in Public Service? ...That is of Your Choosing? But when in Service of the Community, You Will Be Examined wholly by Our Discretion for the Greater Public Good or Lack Thereof. You Hold No Special Immunities.

Take Care,

-Tracy Mapes

Did you get the name? 26.Sep.2010 08:23


Yes--Thank you for documenting, but one really important thing we can do as observers is also try to get any information from the arrestee to help facilitate finding them in the system. It is what can make the difference between 'documenting' and actively supporting (though just being there with a camera is a great deterrent to police violence). With a name you can find someone, get their public defender your documentation & your testimony (if you choose) & figure out if they need anything while inside (like access to health care, etc).

It is possible that this person would not have given much, but if they hear that you are trying to help them out while they're on the inside--they may be forthcoming. Similarly, it sounds like you were at a distance, but sometimes you can position yourself such that you can get in a good question on their way to the patrol vehicle.

This is not meant as a criticism--just some thoughts for future stops you witness. I have really regretted not getting names for folks getting brought in when I thought my film might help out.

Disgusting 26.Sep.2010 09:59

ma punk

Reminds me of this song by Fugazi:

on the morning of the first eviction
they carried out the wishes of the landlord and his son
furniture's out on the sidewalk next to the family that little piggie went to market,
so they're kicking out everyone
talking about process and desmissal forced removal of the people
on the corner shelter and location
everybody wants somewhere
the elected are such willing partners
look who's buying all their tickets to the game
development wants, development gets
it's official
development wants this neighborhood
gone so the city just wants the same talking about process and dismissal
forced removal of the people on the corner shelter and location
everybody wants somewhere everybody watns somewhere



was the guy releassed or did he have warrants? 26.Sep.2010 13:10


was he released or did he have warrants? was it the reason he refused to cooperate?

Alternate Opinion 28.Sep.2010 20:39

Conservative Thinker

This example doesn't seem to show anything wrong with the Portland Police Bureau and is more an example of the "Houseless" problem in Portland. Instead of expending so much of your energy on taking down the Portland Police Bureau, why don't you put your camera down and walk around Old Town and build relationships with these unfortunate people who live on the street. Find ways to assist them and get them off of drugs/alcohol and into a safe/secure environments. If the amount of time you folks spend complaining about the police and having sometimes destructive protests you could be actively helping people in the community in a tangible way.

If you take the time to talk to these people you claim to defend you might A. Help them and B. Find out that some of these "Houseless" are not so innocent and nice.

Good Luck!