Members of Occupy Portland’s liaison team gathered Tuesday to speak out against a violent police crackdown that left protester Justin James Bridges in a wheelchair.
While Mayor Sam Adams had originally voiced support for the movement, he announced last week that protesters would be forced to leave the park.
“You decided to cave to pressure from your friends at the Portland Business Alliance, the police association and other groups interested in maintaining the status quo of economic injustice and issued us an eviction notice,” spokesperson Elena Melville said of Adams at a press conference. “Instead of allowing us to address conditions within our encampment in a Democratic way, you chose to enlist the full apparatus of police repression to destroy our encampment.”
“Thousands of Portland residents of all ages came out over the weekend to support us and help defend our constitutional right to peaceful assembly. They were greeted by hundreds of militarized riot police armed with tasers, stun batons, beanbag weapons, tear gas, pepper spray and live ammunition. This was shocking to many of us who did not expect you to respond to unarmed, peaceful and joyful protests with potentially deadly force.”
She continued: “The next day we observed police officers clubbing our fellow citizens and friends with batons, throwing people to the ground and making unnecessary arrests in the process of destroying our encampment. An example of this police brutality is the violent attack on Justin James Bridges, the sign language interpreter for Occupy Portland. After repeatedly communicating to Portland police officers that he had a broken back, police officers responded by beating him and by putting a knee into his back. He was hospitalized and lost feeling and control and movement in one arm and one leg due to the unnecessary physical aggression inflicted by these police officers. Justin was released from the hospital yesterday after spending the night in the hospital. Justin is now in a wheelchair.”
“This is not democratic, this is autocratic,” Melville added. “The actions of the Portland police have made it clear where you stand, and no amount of political grandstanding will justify your creation of a police state in downtown Portland. … This trust can be somewhat repaired if you choose to apologize for the actions of those under your command this weekend, and hold all officers fully accountable for their use excessive physical violence against unarmed peaceful protesters.”
At a General Assembly meeting Monday night, demonstrators vowed to continue protest actions, including a Black Friday sit-in on the day after Thanksgiving, a walk-out at Portland State University and an Occupy the Banks march on Thursday.
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast Nov. 14, 2011.