Inmates Clear out City Hall Homeless Camp

Multnomah County jail inmates removed property from a homeless camp outside City Hall this morning, as Mayor Charlie Hales delivered on his promise to clear the Southwest 4th Avenue sidewalk.

The jail may soon have new residents. City Hall officials tell WW that campers who want to be arrested in protest will be later this morning.

By 7 am, most of the 45 campers in front of City Hall had moved across the street and camped on the sidewalks around Terry Schrunk Plaza.

As WW reported, Mayor Charlie Hales is clearing out the growing camp of protesters and homeless people from the plaza in front of City Hall—his plan is to install food carts there instead. The area, he says, is a high pedestrian use zone and must be kept clear.

About two dozen Central Precinct officers made their way to the plaza and City Hall shortly after 8 am, and began asking people to move their belongings off the sidewalks on both sides of Southwest Fourth Avenue, and campers started screaming at cops about displacing the displaced. 

"The sidewalk is sacred ground!" one man shouted. "You don't mess with the sidewalk as far as protest goes!"

Next, a Multnomah County inmate work crew arrived around 8:30 am and cleared up cardboard and other items left by campers. Inmates have a contract with the city to do such clean up; city workers are set to perform the power washing Hales promised yesterday when he announced he was cleaning out the campers.

On the use of inmates, Hales spokesman Dana Haynes says "it's one of those contractual things... it's not the best visual."

Jim Whittenberg, who is not homeless and lives in Northeast Portland, sat on the bench of his wheeled walker, saying that he plans on getting arrested in solidarity.

"Hales is bad news, he's acting just like a corporate entity," Whittenberg says.

The mayor's office is also removing a set of homemade shrines, including the thatch tent that calls on people entering City Hall to pray for the end of the city's camping ban.

The city is crafting a code of conduct for the plaza as its justification for removing the vigils and has hung the new code in the windows at City Hall:


WW reporter Aaron Mesh contributed to this report.