July 16th, 2012 10:41 am | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: Activism, City Hall, PDX Votes

UPDATED: Smith and Hales Will Attend Cameron Whitten's Hunger Rally

whittenbigCameron Whitten ran for mayor, now on hunger strike - Aaron Mesh

If City Hall protester Cameron Whitten survives another five days of his hunger strike, mayoral candidates Charlie Hales and  Rep. Jefferson Smith (D-Oregon) will be there.

Whitten has announced an "Epic Rally for Housing Justice" this Friday to mark the 50th day of his hunger strike. He's been camped along Southwest 4th Avenue in front of City Hall to demand the city do more for the homeless. 

Hales plans on speaking at the event, an Occupy Portland-affiliated rally, to talk about housing issues. Hales tells WW a large part of his motivation is getting Whitten to end the hunger strike.

"I agree with a lot of what Cameron is advocating for," Hales says. "I question the method. I've been encouraging the current city leaders to get to some progress that will allow Cameron to have had a positive impact—but get off the street and get fed."

Smith's campaign manager Henry Kraemer says Smith's attendance is not a show of solidarity with all of Whitten's demands, which include a second homeless camp like Dignity Village. Instead, Smith wants to send a signal he will listen to activists.

"He's going to be a really involved mayor," says Kraemer. "If activists are engaged, we want to be there as often as possible to listen."

Most city commissioners have met privately with Whitten, but the city's only public response has been to issue a notice last Thursday that protesters should stop littering and having sex on the sidewalk. 

WW recently reported that Terry Shrunk Plaza, the federally owned park across the street from City Hall, is harboring a brown rat infestation that some people link to Occupy's camps in Lownsdale and Chapman squares this fall (they're located just north of the plaza). 

The city power-washed the sidewalks outside City Hall this morning, temporarily evicting the protesters.

Whitten, a former mayoral candidate himself, says he needs to keep vitamins, sterilized water and sleeping bags on the sidewalk in order to avert "a very dramatic hospitalization, which is publicity that I would rather wish to avoid."

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