People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
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Homeless Continue To Be Targets of the Powers That Be The insidious Sit/Lie ordinance continues to be enforced, primarily against homeless people and, primarily, by officers on large and intimidating horses. At each meeting of Commissioner Amanda Fritz's Sidewalk Management Plan committee, a Portland Copwatch (PCW) observer points out to the group that the data provided by police indicate most citations are given to those with no address, are given out by the Mounted Patrol, and the enforcement often leads to pretext arrests. These points are always greeted by silence but will continue to be made.
While there has been no indication of problems at Right to Dream Too (R2D2), a rest area for the houseless by the Chinatown gate (PPR #55), the Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS), in its infinite wisdom, considers this to be a recreational campground. BDS insists that R2D2 must have proper permits and inspections, and in January began to levy fines (Oregonian, January 19). While it might be considered ludicrous to consider sleeping in tents in the rain and the cold (when there are no other options) as "recreation," the fines continue to pile up. On February 1, residents of R2D2 and their many supporters held a demonstration in front of City Hall to protest the fines and to request that they be waived. They then testified at Council, but the Commissioners seemed more concerned that people were clapping or voicing support than in whether the fines continued. To add insult to insult, police were standing by the doors as people filed into City Hall, whereas such security is not called in for others--like members of the Portland Business Alliance. The February 22 shooting of two homeless men sleeping under the Morrison Bridge should make it clear to the politicians and bureaucrats that safe places like R2D2 make these tragic events less likely.
In December, 2008, the Oregon Law Center (OLC) filed, on behalf of four homeless people, a lawsuit in federal court challenging the City's anti-camping ordinance (PPR #47). The OLC alleged there was no alternative to camping and that police rousting people and seizing their belongings in camp sweeps violates the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual. A tentative settlement is pending, but the terms still have not been made public. In December 2011, Federal Judge Ann Aiken rejected a class action status and stated, "This case cries out for a political solution rather than a legal one, and the Court strongly urges the decision makers in this case to consider realistic and practical measures to resolve plaintiffs' claims" (Portland Tribune online, January 23). While the City has worked with some churches to open up parking lots for cars and other vehicles so people can sleep in them, there is still a lack of places for people to sleep with some rudiment of shelter. A man who sleeps in his car told PCW that police are constantly harassing him to "keep on moving."
Kate Lore, a minister at the First Unitarian Church, testified at the February 11 Department of
Justice Forum (see article, this issue) that she has
heard time and again from homeless folks that police go into
camps and systematically ask whether people are part of Occupy Portland. If so, the person is taken
in, roughed up and their belongings taken away. While this may represent some relief for those not
identifying as Occupy members, it certainly smacks of selective enforcement and political profiling.
Portland Copwatch Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability
through citizen action.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.