People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
On June 13, the night before Portland's Gay Pride Parade, eight members of the homeless activist group Soapbox Under the Bridge camped out all night on the north side of Pioneer Courthouse Square. They were approached by rent-a-cops eager to throw them out based on the city's anti- camping law. The activists displayed City Code 14A.55.010‹"Access to Public Property for Parade Event," which provides that camping out prior to a parade is legal, like the famous Portland tradition of camping out the night before the Rose Parade. The group was then allowed to remain. "We're celebrating the fact that the anti-camping ordinance has a loophole," said activist Barry Joe Stull. "If camping is so dangerous, why allow it on a few nights each year?" (Portland Mercury, June 18).
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by Oregon Law Center against the City (PPR #47) is moving forward, though Judge Ann Aiken dismissed their claims that the anti-camping ordinance violates people's rights to freedom of travel. Still standing are claims that the law may violate the "cruel and unusual" clause of the Constitution (Oregonian, August 5).
Unfortunately, officers' kindness to homeless campers appears not to have extended to everyone celebrating at Gay Pride: that same night, people celebrating at an Old Town bar say they were subjected to physical and verbal abuse by homophobic civilians. When Portland Police arrived, says Jose Cruz, a DJ injured in one of the fights, they acted "aggressive" and left without investigating who had assaulted him. A followup event at which 100 community members discussed alternatives for the future included a workshop by Rose City Copwatch (Oregonian, July 14).
While drinking at Jody's Bar and Grill on June 26, Multnomah County Deputy Steven Cowles fired his personal Taser at another patron, supposedly because he thought the other man had threatened a female club employee. To his credit, "Sheriff" Bob Skipper distanced himself from the zap-happy chap, saying "That's not what we expect from any employee...the drinking part, or the Taser." Attending the strip club seems OK with Skipper. Cowles faces criminal charges of "unlawful use of an electric stun gun" (Oregonian, July 29).
Meanwhile, a study in Alberta, Canada found that one in ten model X26 Tasers (the kind used in Portland) is defective, putting out excess voltage. Canada is considering a ban on the devices (Edmonton Journal, April 23).
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.