As threatened, Portland police and park rangers swooped in at roughly 7 am this morning to clear out the Village of Hope, the new homeless encampment that sprung up last weekend near Northeast Airport Way and Mason, organizers say.
Advocates Jamie Partridge, Lisa Lake, and others say about a dozen police and parks rangers used yellow tape to rope off access and gave residents and supporters mere minutes to leave, threatening arrest.
Platforms holding tents, along with other structures, were deconstructed by Rapid Response Bioclean, a city subcontractor that often works in the area, they said.
"They effectively out-maneuvered us this morning," Partridge told the Mercury, noting that there were about eight people in the village when police showed up earlier than expected—an hour before dozens of village supporters were planning to arrive.
The city has been promising action against the small, organized camp ever since it arose in a Northeast Portland natural area on Sunday morning. The Big Four Corners Natural Area is owned by Portland Parks and Recreation (though zoned for industrial use), and contains the waters of the Columbia River Slough, along with lots of wildlife.
Mayor Ted Wheeler's office released a statement Monday calling the new village "unacceptable" and saying the office would "work with the Parks Bureau to quickly address this situation."
Now five unhoused persons are working with advocates to find new places to go, Lake said, declining to offer specifics.
"I don't know where I'm going to go," said John "Thumper" Boggs, one of the five houseless residents and a manager at the nascent village. He's not sure when or how he'll be able to reclaim his possessions.
"I barely got a bicycle out of there," Thumper said. "We're being persecuted, dude. We don't have a house. That's why we're being persecuted. If we were Indian we would be the untouchables."
The city's swift crackdown differs from how City Hall has treated similar incursions in the past. When Lake and others took over a piece of land owned by the Portland Development Commission in 2016 in order to set up a camp for domestic violence victims, then-Mayor Charlie Hales chose to negotiate rather than bring in police. Hales' office promised Lake and other advocates promised they could have another piece of city-owned land if they vacated the PDC plot. The advocates agreed, but the city never produced the promised property.
Lake said this morning she was angry, but not surprised by the city's actions.
"I feel angry that the city’s not looking at alternatives that are sustainable, scalable, repllicable. I’m angry that our people are still suffering, and that the city’s still wielding their power every time a solution’s brought to them," she said.
Lake and others who were present said legal observers from the National Lawyers Guild were refused access to move behind officers' yellow tape to witness the sweep. "I approached [police] and said, ‘We need a legal observer in there,’ and they said, ‘Get back behind the line or you’ll be arrested,'" Lake said. "Not okay."
National Lawyers Guild attorney Cathy Highet referred the Mercury to another NLG member who could not immediately be reached. Mat dos Santos, legal director at the ACLU of Oregon, said his organization is working on a response to this morning's sweep.
"We have been in close contact with the organizers for the Village of Hope and have deep concerns about the city’s handling of this issue," dos Santos said. "Those concerns are both legal and ethical, as we believe the city has taken an approach that was both not required and potentially very problematic."
Ree Campbell, of advocacy group Boots on the Ground, says campers aren't going to be dissuaded by this morning's sweep.
"We are going to regroup probably around 3 o’clock for the next round of fuckery," Campbell said. "[Mayor] Ted [Wheeler]’s in a rage and we just think this is fun."
Partridge wouldn't be specific, but indicated more actions are on the way.
"It’s a community that isn’t going away, and it has a spirit and it’s organized and resilient and it will bounce back."