Say this for Michael Meo's strategy: He's avoiding the unpleasantness of jail food.
Meo, a retired Portland high school teacher and three-time Pacific Green Party congressional candidate, has been starving himself since December 1. As we reported last month, he says he's prepared to die unless Mayor Charlie Hales takes "substantive action" to rein in the city's police force.
The latest action on that front: Meo was arrested in the antechamber of the mayor's office for a third time on Christmas Eve (judges have ordered him to keep at least 25 feet from the office at all times). And when he showed up for a court date two days later, Meo was held in the city's (sometimes overcrowded, deputy-overtime generating) jail for five days.
Court records show Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael Greenlick ordered Meo booked in jail at a December 26 hearing. Bail was set at $1,000. Meo was released on his own recognizance on the 31st, and even given permission to travel to Seattle earlier this week.
The latest arrest in Hales' office means Meo is now facing four misdemeanor trespassing charges as a result of his protest, which involves little more than occasionally sitting in the mayor's office lobby, reading, and always announcing his presence and intentions in the mayor's official visitor's book.
And fasting, of course. Meo says he's ingested only liquids since the beginning of December.
"Today is Day 37—but who's counting, eh?" he wrote in an email yesterday. "I weigh 165 pounds, from 195."
Meo doesn't want to talk to Hales about his protest—he wants a "substantive action." Exactly what that needs to be is unclear. Meo has called on Hales to follow reform recommendations of the Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform, but has also said he'll end his fast if the city severs its ties with the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Taskforce, which officials will consider on February 5.
Hales' staff, meanwhile, say they're not sure how to placate Meo, and that he's not welcome in the office if he doesn't want to hash things out.
"I haven’t seen him since around Christmas," says Dana Haynes, the mayor's chief spokesman. "We talked for quite a while the last time he dropped by, but that’s been a while."
Update, 1:45 pm: Meo is back in Portland City Hall today. According to Denis, he told a group rallying outside the building he is preparing his will, only half jokingly. Denis says Meo was outside of Amanda Fritz's office when he last saw him, well outside the 25-foot distance he's been ordered to keep from Hales' office.