PORTLAND -- One officer was injured and one protester was arrested in a standoff overnight after the deadline passed for the Occupy Portland encampments to close, but that was the only violence to erupt and by morning, many demonstrators appeared to be leaving.
The face-to-face standoff with police peaked when thousands of demonstrators blocked 3rd Street between Main & Madison and the officer was hit by a projectile in the dark of night.
At around 6:30 a.m., officers on loudspeakers warned that everyone must clear out, or there would be arrests. Protesters backed up and returned to the parks and sidewalks. About 20 minutes later, police backed off, too and demonstrators dismantled barricades.
By noon, Lownsdale Park was entirely cleared out and police were preparing to install a fence around it. About 20 protesters remained at Chapman Square and were talking about a possible downtown march.
"Fortunately, things died off after a long night. We feel like we're in good shape today and people continue to leave the parks," Sgt. Pete Simpson with the Portland Police Bureau said earlier in the morning.
Police Chief Michael Reese spoke to reporters briefly, after being at the scene all night. He said this was an ongoing police mission and felt it was going well so far.
Mayor Sam Adams spoke to reporters a short time later. He said the city would soon be putting up fences around the parks, as part of the closure process.
"Now it is up to us to figure out the safest way and safest time to do that," Adams said. "I think that the surprise enforcements that we've seen around the country have not been consistent with the values of the people of Portland. They have been dangerous, unnecessarily so, and in the end have been very, very costly because of the number of people injured."
City dump trucks pulled up to the parks after the sun went up and some protesters started filling them with trash. The mayor said maintenance crews would also be arriving to clean up the parks but he did not give a timeline.
Deadline passes with defiance
A Saturday midnight deadline to evacuate the parks came and went with an atmosphere that at times was more like a party than a protest. At midnight, Occupy Portland supporters counted down the seconds, New Year's Eve style, as a deadline set by Mayor Sam Adams passed. The two parks have been filled with camping protesters since October 6.
Many tents were removed earlier Saturday but, despite the eviction notice, about a hundred tents and about two hundred protesters remained in the encampment. A large crowd of thousands remained in the area well after midnight.
Portland Police Lt. Robert King told KGW it was possible some people came down to the area anticipating a clash between police and protesters.
"There's been no violence," Lt. King told KGW shortly after midnight. "It's almost like a festive environment...almost like a college football game." King said the gathering was peaceful and police expected it to remain peaceful. Lt. King said police would continue to communicate that the parks were closed and ask people to leave but he would not specifically answer if or when protesters would be evicted from the encampment.
"The time has come for this portion of Occupy Portland to end," City Commissioner Nick Fish told KGW minutes before the midnight deadline. "I hope and I pray that there is no violence here tonight."
One officer injured, man arrested
Shortly before 2 a.m., an officer was injured by a projectile thrown from the crowd, according to police. Minutes later, a man was taken into custody. Cameron Matta, 23, was booked on disorderly conduct, harassment, and interfering with a peace officer. The officer was taken for medical treatment. Officials said the officer was going to be OK.
Protesters in the encampment spent the evening engaged in what they called "Occu-Fest", with singing and speeches. An estimated 200 to 300 protesters marched from Pioneer Courthouse Square to Terry Schrunk Plaza at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, police said.
The food tent and communications tent were removed by 9:30 p.m. The information desk had also been cleared, but coffee was still being served.
Demonstrators, police hope for peaceful resolution
Protest organizers have pleaded for peace and said anyone who acted violently would not be representing the movement. But police said they had information indicating an extremist element could have planned a confrontation.
Homemade masks were handed out by demonstrators wanting to protect people in case police used tear gas.
"It’s just a piece of cloth soaked in seltzer water and lemon juice,” protester Jillian Johnsen said as she passed them out. They were distributed free of charge, with the agreement that protesters remain non-violent.
"We were concerned that people would come down from other places...anarchists...but we really have not seen that," said Lt. King with Portland Police.
Background: On Friday, police seized pieces of cement and plywood, saying they were told some demonstrators had plans to use the cement as a weapon. A demonstrator, who declined to give her name, denied the claim.
Demonstrators planned marches originating in various locations around Portland on Saturday, ending at the encampments around 5 p.m., followed by a potluck for the public to "celebrate freedom of speech, and support for those who will be arrested," protest spokesman Jordan LeDoux said.
After more than a month of camping, some demonstrators began cleaning up and packing in Friday, vowing to continue their movement elsewhere. Others dug in, vowing to remain in the camp in defiance of an eviction order.
The city and Occupy members have both agreed a growing level of violence and drug use have co-opted the group's original aims. By Saturday morning, there had been four near-fatal drug overdoses reported in the camp. Medics in each case were able to revive the victims.
Community leaders and clergy members expressed their support for the protesters in a pair of statements released Saturday afternoon.
"We acknowledge that the Occupy Portland encampment is not without problems," said a press release from a group of community organizations including Alliance for Democracy. "That said, it would be wrong to suggest that the homelessness, mental illness, substance abuse and violence so often highlighted by the corporate media and certain public officials was created by the encampment."
Area clergy members also spoke out against people in the camp "who are not protesters", saying, "These individuals are of particular concern to the clergy, and we call on them to abide by the spirit and wisdom articulated repeatedly at general assemblies: principles of nonviolence and peaceful protest.”
Both groups said they would condemn any violent action by police.
On Thursday, Mayor Sam Adams and police chief Mike Reese said it was necessary to clear protesters out of Lownsdale and Chapman Squares by 12:01 a.m. Sunday in order for the city to make repairs, clean up the parks and ensure the safety of everyone involved.
“I cannot wait for someone to die," Adams said at a press conference Thursday. "I'm not faulting organizers, but events have conspired to the point now that we have to act."
The city said it had increased outreach to the group after announcing the deadline. Portland police officers handed out mental health brochures to occupants at the camp. Homeless advocates were also sharing information about shelter options.
Officers also posted "no camping" signs, many of which were torn down, and said they were making every effort to help people get to shelters.
Some of the demonstrators seemed willing to break up the camp, but others welcomed a clash with police.
"The group decided overwhelmingly, with almost 100 percent consensus, to stay in the parks," spokesman Jordan Ledoux announced Friday.
He said one faction of the group was "planning on cleaning the parks of as many structures and messes as possible" and another was "dedicated toward getting more people down on Saturday."
"There have been no calls from the Occupy Portland movement to mobilize any kind of forceful resistance to the police," Ledoux wrote, adding "We cannot control what individuals do."