They are the 99%. Drunk, high, illogical or whatever. Whatever being code for insane.
Now that they face a deadline to leave two downtown parks by 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the members of Occupy Portland must decide what’s next for the movement. So far, protesters appear divided between relocating peacefully to other city parks or manning the barricades.
Gathering Thursday in front of City Hall, demonstrators passed around a bullhorn asking for solutions to the group’s dilemma — triggered by an ultimatum from Mayor Sam Adams to clear the two small squares of the tents, tarps and hundreds of people ensconced there since Oct. 6.
After a woman suggested scattering to different quadrants across the city, the next speaker declared: “The hours are ticking down. Defend your camp. Defend your home.”
Occupy Portland volunteer Katy McNulty urged the mayor to negotiate a later deadline.
“I think we can obtain a peaceful transition, but in three days?” McNulty said. She’s worried that’s not enough time to organize all campers — many who are vulnerable and unprepared to pick up and move, she said.
Police Officer West Helfrich watched the City Hall assembly and was philosophical about what’s to come. “Everyone knows it has to end,” Helfrich said. “Some people are going to make our job easy, and some will make it hard.”
“We’re not leaving!” a passing protester yelled at Helfrich and a fellow officer.
“That pretty much sums it up,” Helfrich said. “You can’t reason with people who are illogical, whether they’re drunk or high or whatever.”
Hundreds of Portland police are expected to work late Saturday night and early Sunday, from mounted police and bike officers to Rapid Response Team officers in riot gear.
The Justice Center jail — across from one of the occupied parks — has posted notices on its front doors, telling family and friends of inmates that they can’t make any social visits to prisoners after 2 p.m. Saturday because of the Occupy Portland eviction.
The mayor set up the showdown when he announced, with Police Chief Mike Reese at his side, that a rise in crime around the encampment and health concerns had forced him to close down Chapman and Lownsdale squares. The city also will clear Terry Schrunk Plaza next door, a federal park across from City Hall.
“Occupy has had a considerable time to share its movement’s message with the public, but has lost control of the camps it has created,” Adams said.
Police have responded to two recent overdoses at the parks, including one Wednesday when officers arrived at a tent where a man had turned blue after taking heroin he bought in the encampment. Emergency workers revived him as nearly 100 people gathered around them.
Earlier in the week, police arrested a man found at the Occupy camp for allegedly damaging the stairs of the World Trade Center with a Molotov cocktail. Bail is set at $1 million for David J. Hodson, 29, charged with first-degree arson. He told investigators he obtained all the components for the device from within the encampment.
“I cannot wait for someone to die in the camp,” Adams said. “I cannot wait for someone to use the camp as camouflage to inflict bodily harm on others.”