Mayor Sam Adams tonight sent out an open letter to the Occupy Portland encampment that comes as close as he ever has to setting a deadline for clearing the camps out—urging occupiers to do more, and do it faster, to deal with problems involving violence and drug use and mental illness.
The missive comes days after the mayor sat down for a live interview on the encampment's livestream—and after tensions erupted during a march last weekend in which police say an officer was pushed in front of a bus. Meanwhile, arrests and sanitation complaints have continued to weigh on Adams as he works to balance health and safety with the rights of protesters to express their freedom of speech.
To the Occupy Portland encampment:
I know that you agree that the growing number of arrests and reports of illicit drug and alcohol use, violent behavior and other criminal conduct must be immediately addressed. I understand that similar challenges have arisen at other Occupy encampments. Uniquely, I appreciate that Occupy Portland, via the website www.occupyportland.com, is one of the few encampments to clearly note these challenges.
Thanks you for meeting with representatives of the police bureau, my staff, non-profit service providers, and me to discuss concerns and potential solutions face-to-face.
The purpose of this open letter is to underscore to all Occupy Portland supporters the urgency of dealing with these issues. The way things are operating now is not sustainable.
I know there is a nationwide Occupy process for working through those things, which I want to give some time to work. But we cannot wait long.
It is imperative that solving these serious problems be a priority for Occupy Portland, before a serious injury or death occurs. I do not want to see something like the following incidents occur in Portland, and I’m sure you do not, either:
In Vancouver, B.C., there has been a death in camp that is a suspected drug overdose; and,
In Washington D.C., protesters have reportedly been the victims of two hit-and-run incidents.
I have said from the beginning that I believe the Occupy movement would have to evolve in order to realize its full potential. Based on my conversations with mayors around the country, I know that Portland is not unique in facing these real issues around camps. But I hope we are unique in our solutions. In Bend, Oregon, Occupy participants have closed their camp, but continue to meet regularly. I believe Occupy Portland can lead the nation in figuring out what the next phase of the Occupy Movement looks like.
We've got work to do—and by we, I mean everybody, including all Occupy supporters. I look forward to finding solutions in the coming days.