Growing health and safety concerns over Occupy Portland - KPTV - FOX 12

Growing health and safety concerns over Occupy Portland

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As Occupy Portland marks week three, concerns are growing over health and safety issues at Lownsdale and Chapman Squares, where hundreds of demonstrators remain camped.

The Portland Police Bureau reports a steady increase in disturbances since the occupation started earlier this month. Four officers and a sergeant remain assigned to the parks to keep an eye on public safety.

Meanwhile, the Clean and Safe District and Portland Business Alliance have expressed concerns over the restrooms, saying the parks were never meant to be used as camp sites and don't have the sanitary facilities to accommodate the number of people now using them.

"Unfortunately, restroom resources aren't the most ideal, but we are making it work," said Raya Cooper of Occupy Portland's information desk. "Everyone here is doing their part to make sure everything here is clean and people are safe."

However, some demonstrators on the Peace and Safety Committee say they're starting to worry. 

A flier, which began circulating Tuesday, proposes moving the occupation.  It reads, "The current ‘occupation' at Lownsdale and Chapman parks is currently unsustainable and growing like a pressure cooker."

"We're seeing more people fighting and not getting along,"said Charles Stubbs, who says he's part of the Peace and Safety Committee. 

"We have addressed some of these concerns," said an occupier who wanted to be identified only as Remi. He says the occupation has grown four or five times since it started.

"That crowd attracts a lot of people," said Remi.  "People who are homeless, people who are mentally disabled, people who are mentally ill. It attracts people who are not here for good reasons, same with any event."

Remi says he and many others are committed to the greater cause and larger issues affecting the county.

"Overall, we'd like to see a just society," said Remi.

While people who work nearby say they appreciate freedom of speech, some say they'd like to see the city take action.

"Everybody thinks it's kind of ridiculous that the city won't enforce the law," said Ben Kelley.  "You're not supposed to camp in the park.  They can demonstrate, but it's not appropriate to demonstrate overnight for weeks at a time."

And while some occupiers say they'd like to move to another location, others say they plan to stay put.

"Some people say we're here for a long time, other people say we're not here for a long time," said Remi. "Right now, rumors are rumors.  We have people discussing options of moving elsewhere and discussions of people staying here and making this sustainable. No one has made any decisions."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman with the mayor's office says the city is continually monitoring the camps from a public safety perspective as well as a city facilities perspective, according to Amy Ruiz. 

She says Clean and Safe, which contracts with the park, is continuing to clean the restrooms on a regular basis.

County health officials also walked through the park following a few calls about health concerns.

"If anything arises regarding health issues on city property, in this case Occupy Portland camp, we will alert the mayor and city officials, and they will decide how to address the issues," according to county spokesman David Austin.

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