Monday, November 14, 2011

Police, Occupy protesters head for Oregon showdown

PORTLAND, Oregon, U.S., November 15, 2011(Tehelkanews)

Anti-Wall Street protesters and their supporters flooded a city park area in Portland early Sunday in defiance of an eviction order, and authorities elsewhere stepped up pressure against the demonstrators, arresting nearly two dozen.

As many as 3,000 people converged on two adjacent downtown Portland parks, after city officials set a Saturday midnight deadline to disperse.

But more than two hours later, the protesters were still there and their supporters were streaming in. Throngs spilled out into the streets adjacent to the camp, tying up traffic.

Organisers said they hope enough people will join them to make it difficult if not impossible for police to carry through on any eviction.

"Occupy the street," one organiser said through a bull horn. "Remain peaceful and aware. We have strength in holding the streets."

Some of the protesters referred to police in a chant: "Do not attack. We're not violent."

Clusters of police with nightsticks and helmets had been positioned on area corners but their numbers seemed to dwindle in the early hours, and there were no signs of any action directed toward the campers.

"We'll take action that's appropriate, when it's appropriate," police spokesman Lt. Robert King told The Associated Press.

"We are not going to engage in confrontation for a misdemeanour," he said, noting that is the legal violation for remaining in the park after midnight.

It appeared earlier that about 200 campers planned to get arrested. But police action seemed less likely after the crowds swelled the parks in the early morning hours.

Elsewhere, for the second time in as many days, city officials in Oakland, California, warned protesters on Saturday that they do not have the right to camp in the plaza in front of City Hall and face immediate arrest.

The eviction notices come as officials across the country urged an end to similar gatherings in the wake of three deaths in different cities, including two by gunfire.

Demands for Oakland protesters to pack up increased after a man was shot and killed on Thursday near the encampment site.

"Your activities are injurious to health, obstruct the free use of property, interfering with the comfortable enjoyment of (Frank Ogawa Plaza), and unlawfully obstruct the free passage or use of a public park or square," the notice read.

Oakland officials first issued the eviction notice on Friday after first pleading with protesters to leave the encampment.

Police officials have said a preliminary investigation suggested the shooting resulted from a fight between two groups of men at or near the encampment. Investigators do not know if the men in the fight were associated with Occupy Oakland, but protesters said there was no connection between the shooting and the camp.

The shooting occurred the same day a 35-year-old military veteran apparently committed suicide in a tent at a Burlington, Vermont, Occupy encampment. Police said a preliminary investigation showed the veteran fatally shot himself in the head. They said the death raised questions about whether the protest would be allowed to continue.

In Salt Lake City, police arrested 19 people on Saturday when protesters refused to leave a park a day after a man was found dead inside his tent at the encampment.

The arrests came after police moved into the park early in the evening where protesters had been ordered to leave by the end of the day. About 150 people had been living in the camp there for weeks.

Authorities in Denver forced protesters to leave a downtown encampment and arrested four people for interfering with officers who removed illegally pitched tents, said police spokesman Sonny Jackson.

Jackson said police had advised protesters since Wednesday that their tents in Civic Centre Park and on a nearby sidewalk were illegal.

Violence marked the protest in San Francisco on Saturday where police said two demonstrators attacked two police officers in separate incidents during a march.

Police spokesman Carlos Manfredi said a protester slashed an officer's hand with a pen knife while another protester shoved an officer, causing facial cuts. He said the officer was not seriously hurt and the assailants couldn't be located.

Meanwhile, in Southern California a small group of protesters braved soggy weather on Saturday to gather for the first time under the banner of Occupy Inland Empire. Members of Occupy movements in Fontana, Redlands, Riverside, and other nearby towns marched past banks and in front of San Bernardino City Hall in what they called a "visibility action," The Sun newspaper reported.

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