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Thursday, September 5, 2013

City Hall Camping Protest Organizer Withdraws Support, Calls Action "Unsuccessful"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Sep 5, 2013 at 4:57 PM

One day after presenting a six-point, low-cost plan to address homelessness in front of Portland City Council, and two days after he was the victim in a brawl outside city hall, one of the leaders of what's been a nearly two-year-old homelessness protest at the city's front door has announced that he and other advocates are pulling their support.

The statement came from Mike Withey, who'd been in contact with Mayor Charlie Hales' office in recent days to discuss his plan for addressing homelessness. It says the protest has become too unsafe—something closer to a chaotic, unmanaged camp—and that bad headlines associated with it are hurting the protest's overall cause.

The "vigil to end the camping ban" that has lasted nearly 2 years, has been unsuccessful. At this time, the organizers of the protest are not able to gather support from those in attendance, to participate in the protest in any fashion. In fact, those at Terry Schrunk Plaza and Chapman Square have perpetrated violence and intimidation on camping ban protestors, driving them away. The few organizers left, have decided that this "protest" is no longer a safe or peaceful place to protest homelessness. We feel that our message of safe sleep has been diminished to such a degree that it is having the opposite effect on public support for our cause. Therefore, I am sorry to say that I (and others) am withdrawing my support for the "vigil to end the camping ban" and will no longer participate in that action. However, we will continue to vigorously fight for the homeless cause and utilize all legal means to bring safety, comfort and hope to those terribly effected by the loss of their homes, no matter the cause.

It's unclear what the real effect of Withey and others leaving might be. The protest, since displaced to Chapman Square, and now Terry D. Schrunk Plaza, has amassed its own gravity in recent months. Others will likely keep flying the protest flag.

But having senior organizers declare an end to the protest—organizers who have built relationships with guards and cops and rangers and city officials and also provided some stability—could provide the police and city hall with more leverage when it comes to attempts to clear campers away once and for all.

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