The ACLU of Oregon sharply criticized the city's decision to sweep a newly erected homeless tent village Friday, but stopped short of promising legal action.
"The City's actions may have been unlawful; they were certainly shameful," wrote Mat dos Santos, legal director of the group, in an open letter to the city of Portland posted to the ACLU website on Friday.
"But let's keep the focus on the people of Portland, many of whom live in poverty, unsheltered, or barely sheltered. Today, Portland is failing them. And when the City fails to protect its most vulnerable residents, it fails us all."
Dos Santos accuses the city of various constitutional violations in the way they sweep homeless camps and in the specific approach to Village of Hope:
As we have said before, the destruction of property owned by people who are living on the streets is likely a violation of the Fourth or Fifth Amendment. We believe sweeping people from tents when there are insufficient beds available for sleeping is a violation of the Eighth Amendment. And when Portland Police explicitly refused to allow National Lawyer’s Guild legal observers to film law enforcement actions against village residents, they likely violated the First Amendment. Finally, when Park Rangers and other City officials took action against residents of the Village of Hope early today, they may have violated not only the U.S. Constitution, but also City Code.
City officials have said they store homeless people's possession, though WW has documented a case where that did not happen last year as well as raised questions about how often those items were stored in the past.
In a statement issued Friday, city officials said the Village of Hope occupied park land, not industrial land.
The also said they'd offered people in the Village of Hope the option of going to a shelter and had handled their possessions carefully.
"We are pleased that the camp cleanup at Big Four Corners occurred without incident this morning," said Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who is parks commissioner, in a statement Friday.
"Park Rangers and Police acted with courtesy and compassion, and assisted the two resident campers in gathering their belongings and moving off the site. Those camping were offered shelter options. The campers and organizers were cooperative, and no arrests were made."