Did the City of Portland and Police do the right thing forcibly reopening Main St.?
PORTLAND -- 'Occupy Portland' activists held a march late Thursday evening in support of those who have been arrested in nationwide protests.
The march, free of incident, started and ended at Lownsdale Square park and included a stop at Pioneer Courthouse Square Park.
Earlier Thursday, Portland Mayor Sam Adams said "today is about clearing the street" minutes after police reopened the one-block stretch between Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks.
Activists were allowed to remain in encampments in the two parks to continue their 'Occupy Wall Street' protest.
Raw Video: Adams explains his decision
"I think we’re going to stay here as long as it takes for the world to change," protester Ethan Edwards said. "There’s a lot of stuff that has to be done so it’s hard to say how long we’ll be here. I don’t think any of us in camp are thinking about long we’re going to be here, we’re just here."
Police first moved in about 5:45 a.m., then used motorcycles, then bicyclists and officers on foot to clear the street. Moments before, some 'Occupy Portland' activists had cleared a portion of the street on their own.
"We're going to keep the street open," Adams said. "This is less about symbolism and more about keeping the traffic moving."
Bureau spokesman Lt. Robert King said there were eight arrests for disorderly conduct or interfering with a police officer. Some 'Occupy Portland' vehicles were being pulled away in what he called 'courtesy tows.'
He said that the majority of the activists wanted the street to be opened. King noted that, at 6:30 a.m., there was no backlash of any kind from protesters in the two parks, and that the initial police move was peaceful. He expects the activists to allow the street to remain open and not interfere with traffic.
Raw Video: Police clear SW Main just before 6 a.m.
Like Adams, he reiterated that police would allow the protest to continue in the two parks. He said city officials would continue to meet with activists at their daily 'general assembly' meetings.
Adams said allowing the protesters to remain was part of "a balancing act. The city has discretion." He likened the situation to a traffic officer handing out a warning or a ticket.
Jordan LeDoux has appeared in the past week as a spokesman for 'Occupy Portland.' He spoke with KGW just after the street was reopened. He said he was speaking only for himself.
Raw Audio: KGW interview with Jordan LeDoux
LeDoux said he was disappointed that the situation needed police action to rectify, but that he understood the sentiments on both sides.
He said that at a general assembly meeting Wednesday evening, 88 percent of 'Occupy Portland' protesters wanted to vacate Main Street. By earlier agreement, 90 percent is required for anything to move forward, he said.
That seems like a high bar for consensus but he said, "We have been trying hard not to disenfranchise the disenfranchised."
There is a 'silver lining' for activists by the police action to clear the street, he said. The focus can now return to the group's original concerns.
'Occupy Wall Street' wishes to bring an end to what the movement believes is an out-of-balance accumulation of wealth among a few in the United States.
LeDoux said that he does not expect problems later Thursday or in coming days with keeping the street clear. Most 'Occupy Portland' members also want the attention to shift away from a street closing, though a few may try to focus their attentions on blocking the street.
The movement, he said, will not leave Lownsdale and Chapman Square parks.
Protesters with "Occupy Portland" had refused to move Wednesday after Portland Mayor Sam Adams called for SW Main street to be reopened. Police asked seated protesters to clear the street and were told "no."
Three Portland Police cars were vandalized Wednesday, one by someone who wrote "PIG" in what appeared to be Magic Marker, there were no suspects identified.
Around 1 p.m. a confrontation began when one pickup driver tried to get through. Some protesters laid down in the street and others surrounded the truck. The driver eventually backed out.
"We're going to take Main Street no matter what," a protester shouted into a bullhorn, as a pair of police officers on bicycles stood watch nearby. "We are prepared to be arrested."
But Occupy Portland activists distanced themselves from the faction in the street.
"All I want to say is that it is not the intention of Occupy Portland to continue to block the street," protester Owen Sanders said.
In a letter to the mayor and city council, Portland's Clean & Safe District Board Chairman Dave Williams requested the street be re-opened in lieu of construction detours around town and safety.
"Given that traffic on the Morrison Bridge is currently very limited due to construction, the Hawthorne Bridge now handles heavier than usual traffic," he wrote. "Its closure only worsens the traffic problems created by the Morrison Bridge closure. Closing Main Street is not only frustrating for those who work downtown, but it also creates an impediment to those who wish to patronize our downtown businesses and enjoy our downtown entertainment and recreational amenities."
Earlier in the morning, some of the activists took down one set of barricades, allowing emergency vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians to wind through in one lane of the downtown street. But they did not allow motorists to drive through.
Around noon, Portland Mayor Sam Adams told the crowd: "We're going to reopen the street. I have a responsibility to the whole city," according to City Hall staffer Amy Ruiz. "OWS is about economic inequity, not street closures," the Mayor said.
Protesters earlier said they planned to remain in Lownsdale and Chapman Square Parks in downtown Portland and would continue to block Main Street, which runs between the two parks.
Adams and Police Chief Mike Reese toured the site Tuesday. Mayor Adams called the demonstrators "cooperative" but added they wanted to safely open Main Street.
Alex, an Occupy Portland protester, responded that "it's really a safety issue - we have two camps here, we have kids running around, there are going to be people walking around and we don't want anything bad to happen."
Photos: Tuesday tour of Occupy Portland
Main St., which has been closed since the parks were occupied, is normally used by eight bus lines, as well as bicyclists and 7,500 cars. Mayor Adams gave protesters an exception from city policy that prohibits overnight stays, allowing them to camp at Chapman Park.
Rain has created some muddy spots and the grass has been trampled. On Tuesday, demonstrators brought in bales of hay to help.
Background: Portland Marathon cooperates with protesters
Parks turned into camps
What started as a march last Thursday resembled an encampment in the heart of downtown by Monday.
Adams initially bent the rules against overnight stays in city parks, saying the protesters would be allowed to camp overnight in Chapman Square, something the city ordinance does not allow. By Monday, Occupy Portland had set up medical, food and supply tents. Some had even plugged in to an electric car charging station near the parks. On Tuesday, the city reportedly turned off power to the charging station.
There were no reports of disruptions during the race or clashes between Portland Marathon participants and protesters.