In the days leading up to this morning's sweep of the Occupy ICE encampment, both Mayor Ted Wheeler and ICE protesters acknowledged that the protest camp had become a problem for OHSU.
According to Wheeler, OHSU had become increasingly concerned that the blockade created by federal police on SW Bancroft St. would disrupt patient care and emergency access to its facilities nearby. While the protesters themselves hadn't set up barriers to block off the road—federal officers said they wouldn't lift their road block until the protesters no longer posed a threat to federal property. And, it appears, it's easier to evict a protest camp than get the federal government to lift a road block.
Juno Suarez, a spokesperson for a certain faction of the ICE protest (one that voluntarily left the camp Monday morning), echoed Wheeler's reasoning.
"We don't want to negatively impact people needing to access health care," Suarez told the Mercury yesterday.
This morning, OHSU confirmed those concerns. Here's how OHSU spokesperson Franny White explained it, in an email to the Mercury:
"OHSU respects the rights of citizens to demonstrate. Many OHSU faculty and staff have expressed outrage over the separation of children and families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
However, OHSU was concerned demonstrations at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Portland office at SW Macadam Boulevard & SW Bancroft Street could disrupt OHSU operations. Road closures or events that disrupt traffic flow always have impacts on OHSU's operations on the South Waterfront, including patient care. Patients access lifesaving care on OHSU’s South Waterfront campus a few blocks from the demonstrators’ encampment. OHSU also has a warehouse nearby that stores medical supplies, which are transported to OHSU hospitals and clinics via local roads.
Soon after the encampment was formed, OHSU met with both the Mayor’s staff and ICE demonstrators to discuss these concerns, and we are grateful the road closures near the encampment were infrequent. OHSU has been largely able to minimize the impacts of these road closures through advance communication with employees, patients and vendors."