Sheriff's office and private security force sweep houseless encampment in Southeast Portland during rainstorm on Human Rights Day
Portland, OR - December 14, 2015 - Around 8:00am on December 10, 2015 private security guards and a crew from Multnomah County Sheriff’s department arrived at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church on Portland’s southeast side and removed the personal belongings of many of the people who were sleeping there on the grounds and sidewalks near the church. Guards from Pacific Patrol Services and members of an inmate crew loaded tarps, sleeping bags, clothes, shoes and blankets into a truck and hauled it away in the rain. Temperatures at the time were about 48F, with winds gusting up to 26mph.
Ibrahim Mubarak, an advocate for houseless people and a founder of Right 2 Survive, received a text about the sweep as he was being interviewed at the KBOO radio station a few blocks away. Mubarak left the radio station and arrived at St. Francis at around 9am. Mubarak approached the sheriff department employee and said “You are sweeping people in this weather? It’s supposed to be a state of emergency. They have nowhere to go." Rainy, cold weather in Portland the three previous nights has caused flooding and home evacuations. The crew leader denied that it was a sweep and said the crews were simply “cleaning” the sidewalk. Then he called the Portland Police on Mubarak, contending that he was being "aggressive". Police arrived, but did not arrest Mubarak. As they talked, the police officer said that this was a sweep that had been ordered by East Precinct Captain Sara Westbrook, contradicting previous assertions by sheriff department representatives that it was not a sweep. Mubarak reports that Valerie Chapman, the St. Francis Parish Administrator, was also present. Mubarak left St. Francis and went down to Portland Mayor Hales' office, where he conveyed the seriousness of taking away people's survival gear in this kind of weather. Josh Alpert, mayoral aide, responded two days later in a text to Mubarak: "St Francis action is part of weekly maintenance cleanup of the area, no cites issued, people required to only relocate with the belongings they want to keep to a block away. Trash and unwanted items are disposed of. Campers generally return shortly thereafter.
http://www.oregonlive.com/multimedia/index.ssf/2015/11/mayor_charlie_hales_visits_haz.html) Mayor Hales is also the Chief of Police. State ordinances require advance notice of any sweep. There is no ordinance regarding "cleanings". No one was arrested on that cold rainy morning, but Mubarak was outraged about the actions of the crews, especially during the rainy, cold weather. "No one spoke up about their stuff being taken because they were afraid they were going to get arrested," he said. "It was Human Rights Day and this is what they do?" Mubarak posted photos of the sleeping bags and tarps being hauled away from St. Francis with this caption "go eat breakfast and come back to your stuff gone what a day time nightmare". (See attached photographs.) Right 2 Survive was founded in 2009 and is a direct action group that educates both houseless and housed people on their civil, human, and constitutional rights. We also work to bridge the gap between housed and un-housed people by clearing away misconceptions and stigmas associated with houselessness and empower houseless people to stand up for them selves when their rights are violated.