HUNGER STRIKER Cameron Whitten—grown increasingly frail in his quest to push a passel of housing-justice demands—is ready to announce an end to his nearly two-month-long protest this Thursday, July 26, the Mercury has learned.
Whitten, speaking before press time on Tuesday, July 24, said he and a trusted intermediary—Reverend Kate Lore of downtown's First Unitarian Church—had worked out a compromise "proposal" with Mayor Sam Adams' office. The proposal, which Whitten declined to detail because he says it hadn't been finalized, would allow him to declare a victory and resume eating.
Whitten started his strike on June 2 consuming juice, tea, and broth, but switched to water and supplements after 30 days. He said he was planning a news conference for Thursday, and would be inviting reporters on Wednesday, July 25.
"We're moving forward," Whitten said. "It'll be announced when we know what can be done."
Adams' office, also reached before press time, deferred to Whitten on whether any announcement would be forthcoming. But a city source has confirmed that an agreement is in place.
The recent "discussions," as they were termed, took on new urgency not only as concerns grew over Whitten's health—but also as city hall grew increasingly frustrated with an Occupy Portland sidewalk camping protest that Whitten's presence helped reinvigorate ["Get Off Our Lawn!," News, July 19]. The talks came despite harsh words from other city officials, including Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who publicly wrote off any further efforts to work with Whitten.
The compromise would mark a symbolic victory for Whitten, who had laid out a small list of largely intractable demands before focusing on one in particular: waiving the rapidly piling code violation fines against Right 2 Dream Too, the Old Town homeless rest area operating at NW 4th and Burnside.
Whether Whitten would find some other way to end his strike, absent having those demands met, had long been a quiet matter of speculation. City officials kept in touch with Whitten throughout his strike, many with the intent of finding some kind of compromise. But Whitten kept insisting he had no end date in mind.
At a rally in his honor at Terry Schrunk Plaza on Friday, July 20 that drew sympathetic mayoral candidates Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales as speakers, Whitten announced another event meant to mark the 70th day of his strike on August 10. That event likely won't be happening.
On his website earlier on Tuesday, Whitten posted the text of an essay he'd submitted to the Oregonian. He didn't promise an end to his hunger strike. But by challenging his new supporters to translate their passion into deeds, so his effort wouldn't be wasted, Whitten hinted that an endgame was on his mind.
"I chose to hunger," Whitten said, "because the crisis cannot be ignored any longer."