Mayor calls for clearing protest encampment

PORTLAND — Portland mayor Charlie Hales announced a plan on Monday to evict protesters from an encampment in front of City Hall that began in 2011 during the Occupy Portland movement.

Hales says crime and litter at the encampment forced his hand.

"People who work in this building have been harassed in and out of the building," Hales said during a news conference on Monday.

Protesters reacted with dismay to the news. About 30 protesters, ranging in age from teenagers to people in their 60s, still were gathered in front of City Hall Monday afternoon.

Seth Ozturgut said he has been staying at the encampment for more than four months. He says he hopes the protest brings the homeless plight to the city's attention.

"Sleep is a human right," Ozturgut said Monday near the sleeping bag in which he's made his home. "That's just the respect you deserve."

Ozturgut echoed complaints from several people at the encampment who say that food is readily accessible in Portland, but shelter is not.

The city posted eviction notices on Friday and changed the zoning around City Hall to "high-use pedestrian," which makes it illegal for people to stay at the site for long periods of time.

Area homeless were not unanimous in their opposition to Hales. Joseph Gordon, 32, a former protester at Occupy Portland who remains homeless, said the encampment wouldn't have drawn the city's ire if protesters had kept the area clean. On Monday, a dish of dog food was turned on its side, and yellow and red pebbles of food piled on the sidewalk.

Empty water bottles sat next to overflowing garbage cans. Some protesters say the city's closure of bathrooms overnight has forced them to create latrines in public areas.

The protest began in the waning days of the Occupy Portland movement, under the previous mayor, Sam Adams, and has suffered some of the same problems.

Adams instructed Portland police to post eviction notices on the 300-person encampment in downtown and a smattering of protesters reacted by establishing camp at City Hall.

The protest has continued since then. Sometimes the number of protesters shrank to fewer than 10 participants.

Both the Occupy Portland encampment and the one in front of City Hall drew members of Portland's homeless population, some of whom suffer from mental illness or have drug and alcohol addictions. That, in turn, has caused sometimes-violent incidents, including a fistfight involving more than four people in early July that drew several police cars and closed a lane of traffic.

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