Riot Ribs is dead. Long live Riot Ribs. Today, at five in the morning, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) gave people in Chapman Square Park and Lownsdale Square Park—many of whom were sleeping in tents—a ten-minute warning to leave before they began arresting them.
Protesters, volunteers, and homeless persons quickly crossed SW Salmon to the north sidewalk, leaving behind wallets, phones, clothes, and other personal items in their haste to avoid arrest. In a press release, the PPB said its officers arrested and booked nine individuals on charges "related to the closure."
Many of those arrested were volunteers working with Riot Ribs, a barbecue tent that has been serving up free food to anyone who asks since the Fourth of July. From the sidewalk of SW Salmon, the volunteers who avoided arrest watched the blue awning of their stand collapsed by government contractors, still within the boundaries of Lownsdale Square Park. The volunteers hadn't been able to grab anything associated with the stand, including a large stainless steel grille they'd received the night before from Pok Pok, and thousands of dollars worth of food donations that they'd planned on feeding to hungry people.
Over Riot Ribs' social media and later in person, a volunteer who goes by "Beans" told the Mercury that they're less worried about the stand's supplies—they can buy more stuff—and more worried about their volunteers. Many of the Riot Ribs' volunteers are homeless, meaning they've lost their tents, clothes, sleeping bags—everything that was in the park.
Andrew Duran, a homeless teenager whose parents kicked him out for being gay, woke up to officers dragging his tent across the ground. He said they gave him three seconds to find his shoes, but because the tent was broken around him he struggled to even get out of the tent in that timeframe.
"I was saying, 'Man, I just woke up. I live here. This is my family. These are my folks.' And they said they didn't care," Duran said. He was arrested for interfering with a police officer and trespassing.
"I wasn't resisting." Duran insists. "I fell face flat on the ground." Duran said that during his arrest, officers pinched his ear (Duran wears an earring), punched his face, and kicked him. He has red marks on his skin from the zip ties used to cuff his wrists.
"It's only been getting worse and worse... The way cops are acting." Duran said "The way they're responding to these types of situations isn't right. Once they started throwing tear gas that's where it all started going downhill. Obviously they don't really care."
Parker Giles, 25, was charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.
"I was eating a hot dog when they came up with the LRAD, and told us to get out of the park." Giles said. "We were filming them on our phones. I was on [the north sidewalk on SW Salmon] when they pointed me out and just bum rushed me. I was arrested on the sidewalk."
Giles said that the arresting officers asked for his address. He asked if he had to provide that legally and they said he did. "But later on, an officer said that was optional. I said, 'The first officer said I had to provide it.' And they were like, 'No, but we have it now.'"
Giles wasn't living in the park, but he was impressed by Riot Ribs feeding people for free so he started cleaning up and collecting trash to support them. The Mercury spoke with him shortly after his release and he couldn't find his keys or backpack. "The police said they didn't have my glasses, but they knocked them off me when they arrested me,” Giles said.
A third person who had just been released declined Mercury's request to be interviewed, stating shakily that they were too traumatized by the arrest to speak about it.
Police at the scene said both Chapman Square Park and Lownsdale Square Park—both public city-owned parks—will be closed "for the foreseeable future." This includes the sidewalks around the parks and on SW Main, between the parks. People who fled the park can contact the clean-up contractors Rapid Response Bio Clean to reclaim their possessions.
In a morning press release, PPB said the parks would remain closed for "until needed repairs are made and the parks are ready to reopen for all to enjoy. The Police Bureau will assist other City bureaus to facilitate park closure and repair to lawns, bathrooms, benches and public art."
This morning's massive sweep and subsequent arrests follows a massive clean-up of the Lownsdale park bathroom, which Riot Ribs organized the night before. An evidence photo, released by the PPB with their statement, shows no less than six mops and brooms and countless cleaning agents.
The incident follows escalating pressure from the federal government on Portland's city government to quell the downtown protests.