Dozens of Occupy protesters have been arrested during a weekend standoff with Portland police. Thousands of people took to the streets to protect their camps in two local parks from being torn apart by officers in riot gear.
At one point, police used loudspeakers to broadcast a warning to protesters that they might use “chemical agents and impact weapons” to control the crowd. However, the authorities have rejected allegations that weapons of any kind were actually used against the demonstrators.
As the deadline to dismantle the camps in Portland passed, hundreds of protesters remained in their two encampments, prompting riot police to move in to evict them. The standoff continued through the night, as police continued to push protesters back. One demonstrator said police had created a false “sense of calm” before moving in.
"The camp was completely vulnerable, completely defenseless," Choya Adkison said. "I'm disappointed that they created a sense of trust by walking away and then completely trampled it."
A video of the action shows tensions visibly rising as police attempted to push the crowd out of the streets. More than 50 protesters were arrested and others were forced to leave the scene. Later, thousands of supporters joined campers in a march through the city.
Protesters accused police of using excessive force against them as they peacefully discussed what their next move would be after leaving the camp. "We were talking about what we were going to do and then they just started hitting people. Seems like a waste of resources to me," said 27-year-old protester Mike Swain, as cited by AP.
Last week Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams, ordered that the Occupy camps should be shut down by Saturday midnight, citing health and safety concerns. She said the encampments had triggered an increase in crime and drug overdoses, while one of the camps sheltered an arsonist.