Portland’s Mayor detailed his reasons Monday for clearing protestors and homeless people away from the streets surrounding City Hall. But those on the sidewalks outside aren’t buying his rationale.
Former security guard Trevor Matney said he’s out of work and has been homeless for the last year and a half. He’s chained himself to a tree outside City Hall and says he’s protesting the city’s plans to clear people away.
“If they do that, then they have completely gone against all American’s first amendment rights, for their freedom of speech,” Matney said.
Police posted signs around City Hall Friday saying: “This sidewalk is for pedestrian movement only. Please Keep Clear.”
Monday, Mayor Charlie Hales explained why.
“Our job is to make sure that the public’s business can be conducted in a safe and welcoming way. The situation around this building has gotten to the point where that’s no longer true. Where people feel intimidated. Where we’ve had 113 calls for service to the police bureau in the last six months,” Hales said.
According to Hales the clear-up won’t solve homelessness and doesn’t address criminal activity. But he said, it will give control of the streets back to the city.
He said complaints about people living outside city hall have ranged from drinking and smoking pot, to harassment, public sex and fights.
Hales said his office is also working closely with non-profits and welfare agencies.
“Were going to work every day with social services providers to make sure that the people living on the street who actually want services, who want to get off the street, who want to get rid of their addiction, who are looking for housing, have the chance to do that.”
Hales said he thought the police sweep might come Tuesday. But Police Commander Bob Day only said only that it would come some time this week.
“I mean obviously our hope is that everyone is going to comply. And then if they don’t, there’s going to be the various ordinances and laws that apply to the lawful order of the police to move. So we’ll just have to evaluate that as we go,” Day said.
Back outside City Hall, Trevor Matney said he’s been staying on the sidewalk for months now. But he stressed, he’s not breaking any laws.
“I think I’ve made it pretty apparent today and the last few days that I’ve been doing this. That I am not camping. I’m a protester,” Matney said.
Quite apart from that legal distinction, the city is looking into whether the newly enforced sidewalk ordinance can be imposed 24 hours a day, or whether it can only be implemented during the day — when sidewalks are busy.