Occupy Portland Protesters Leave Park Peacefully

PHOTO: Protesters celebrate winning the battle to stay in the Occupy Portland Camp with hugs, cake and milk in Portland, Ore., Nov. 13, 2011.PlayAP
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Hours after peacefully leaving two downtown Portland, Ore., parks on police orders, Occupy demonstrators were still in the streets facing lines of cops in riot gear, barring them from returning to their encampments.

The Occupy Portland demonstrators' decision to leave the parks around 8 a.m. seemed to defuse a tense situation that threatened the kind of violent confrontations that have occurred in Oakland, Calif., and other cities in recent weeks.

But as crowds returned to the blocks around the park, while police and city workers cleared the debris left behind by the protesters, tempers seemed to rise and fall as there were isolated scuffles and confrontations.

At one point when police started to move the crowd away from the parks, a woman among the demonstrators grabbed a bullhorn and led the protesters in chants of "Whose street? Our street," and "We are peaceful people."

Police Commissioner Nick Fish told ABC affiliate KATU-TV today that he thought the Portland Police Department "deserved high marks" for the patience they showed through the night and for the way they worked with the Occupy protesters to help them remove their belongings from the two parks.

Occupy Portland demonstrators claimed victory after defying the midnight deadline to leave the parks they had called home for 38 days, but then hours later peacefully followed police orders to move out.

Police began clearing tarps and debris after 8 a.m. after telling protesters who were still in Chapman and Lownsdale Squares "the park is now closed" and they had to leave, KATU-TV reported.

Many protesters obeyed the order, and police let them gather their belongings, KATU reported.

After the protesters left, police went in and started taking down tents that were left behind and gathering up garbage and whatever else was left behind.

Madison Dines, 25, told The Oregonian that after the midnight celebration, there weren't enough demonstrators left to resist the police.

"We don't have enough physical bodies to stop the police from what they are doing," he said. "We all declared victory and went home, but the reality is we needed to be here."

Though riot-geared police and some protesters faced off this afternoon as the parks were being cleared, Sgt. Pete Simpson told KATU-TV he did not expect any violence.

"I think we've arrested everyone who wanted to be arrested," he said.

Thousands of sympathizers of Occupy Portland had showed up before dawn, briefly halting downtown traffic, to support the protesters.

Occupy Portland's Facebook page lists an e-mail address for protesters wanting advice from the National Lawyers Guild -- suggesting the group was resolved to stay put at a time when officials are voicing concern about the safety and health of Occupy encampments in several cities around the country.

"Take off your riot suit. You're sexy, you're cute" and "Shame on you" were among the chants Portland protesters directed at police in riot gear who'd been dispatched to remove roughly 200 remaining protesters, according to ABC News Radio.

The early morning turn of events looked like a victory for Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who preached patience overnight after the demonstrators at first defied his order.

He had ruled out the kind of "surprise" actions police have carried out in some other cities that have resulted in violent clashes between police and demonstrators.

"The surprise enforcements that we've seen around the country have been not consistent with the values of the people of Portland," he said in an early morning appearance at the park today.

He said he wanted to balance free speech and public safety, KATU-TV reported. He also avoided blaming the demonstrators for creating a situation where he felt he had to set a deadline for them to leave the downtown encampment, but said he had to because of "a change in circumstances."

"I don't fault anyone in particular; it's a change of circumstances that was really out of the control of any one person or group of people," he said, KATU reported. "I was very clear [from the beginning of the protest] that behavior mattered and success mattered."

On Saturday, some protesters did dismantle their tents, heeding Adams' order to leave. The mayor said conditions are unhealthy at the encampment and that it is attracting drug-users and thieves, The Associated Press reported.

Throughout the night, the number of police fluctuated -- by 4 a.m., roughly 200 officers were stretched across a street fronting a federal courthouse -- but police showed no signs of moving against protesters, according to The AP.

Nevertheless, police said they had been preparing to fend off a clash against dozens of purported anarchists, AP reported.

It became evident to police -- and perhaps to the anarchist element -- that the core demonstrators did not want a violent clash when a group of protesters isolated a man who was threatening cops and then pushed him out for police to detain him, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson told KATU-TV today.

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

"We are not going to engage in confrontation for a misdemeanor," he said, noting that remaining in the park after midnight constitutes a misdemeanor.

Police action seemed less likely after crowds of supportes swelled in the parks during the early morning.

By then, protesters have already met to discuss how to proceed as the midnight deadline passed, and repeated the Occupy Wall Street movement's aim of being nonviolent.

"We are a peaceful resistance," Chico Tallman, a 63-year-old accountant told AP. "But we're fed up with the direction the country is going. It's all about profit."

Evidence of the complex relationship between demonstrators and police came Friday when some protesters told cops about weapons that were being made by some in the encampment.

King told ABC affiliate KATU-TV in Portland that after protesters alerted police about the weapons, they confiscated them. Demonstrators also told police about a man who planned to damage police cars parked near the camp, King told the TV station.

Elsewhere, two San Francisco police officers Saturday said they were cut by two people in an Occupy march who, after those assaults, disappeared into the crowd.

"Apparently one of the demonstrators had a sharp object on the end of one of their sign sticks, and reached across and sliced his finger," said San Francisco Capt. Rick Parry, adding that the officer was trying to clear an intersection.

A second officer was cut in the face in a scuffle with a protestor, Parry told ABC News Radio.

Occupy organizers were unconvinced.

"Police did a lot to try to force us off the streets and maybe someone had something sharp on them but that's just a conjecture," one protester told an ABC News Radio reporter who was recording on the scene.

In Philadelphia, police said an Occupy camper alleged that she was raped inside an Occupy tent by an out-of-towner who'd traveled to Pennsylvania to protest.

Soon after the attack, they arrested the suspect, whose criminal record includes several arrests for robberies in Kalamazoo, Mich., officials said.