Occupy Mount Tabor protests open-air reservoirs closures
PORTLAND, Ore. - Protesters converged on Mount Tabor Park on Friday evening for a demonstration against the city's plan to close its open-air reservoirs.
The protesters congregated at the park at Southeast 60th Avenue and Southeast Salmon Street before the 5 p.m. demonstration.
The protest is in response to the city of Portland's plan to disconnect the open-air reservoirs at Mount Tabor and Washington Park in order to comply with a federal mandate. Federal officials want the reservoirs to be buried to avoid water contamination.
City officials said they hoped the event would remain peaceful, but were ready to step in if needed.
"We welcome people who wish to assemble peacefully and exercise their First Amendment rights," Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. "We ask that demonstrators who come to Mount Tabor to express their views also respect the park and follow park rules, so that everyone can enjoy it safely."
That hope came true and the vast majority of protesters were peaceful. The number of demonstrators began to dwindle after 8 p.m. and few remained by 11 p.m.
Three people were arrested, however.
At 5 p.m., Michael Meo, 66, was apprehended on suspicion of second-degree criminal trespass. Park officials asked him to leave because he was erecting signs in the park against park rules.
He was arrested after refusing to leave, police said.
At about 9:15 p.m. police arrested 42-year-old Troy Anthony Thompson for interfering with a police officer. Police say he pitched a tent in the park, which is also against park rules.
Just after midnight 22-year-old Erik Daniel Zimmerman was arrested for failure to obey a park officer, interfering with a police officer and criminal trespass.
Asked how the group planned to protest, organizer Jesse Sponberg said: "Rabble-rouse. Have signs. Have chants. Usual stuff. Set up tents."
"Make sure everyone in Portland is talking about our water," he added.
Sponberg said about 300 people showed up for the protest and called it "an incredible success."
The park closes at midnight and Sponberg said shortly after 11 p.m. that demonstrators were cleaning up and moving out rather than risk a police confrontation.
"We don't want to get bullied off the block," Sponberg said. "We don't want anybody to get hurt. We don't want to break any laws, but this country was built on civil disobedience."
He said they planned to return Saturday evening.
Don't occupy my wedding
Occupy Mount Tabor has put a wrench in three weddings planned there Saturday. There are concerns the protest could mean some uninvited guests.
Already, the city has given these couples a heads up about the protest and said it will work to keep things calm.
A heavy presence of park rangers, water bureau security officers and police have staked out Mount Tabor. Police said they plan to make arrests if demonstrators don't leave the park by the midnight closing time.
Sponberg said he's already talked with the couples and alleviated their concerns.
"I think it's really disappointing the city and the parks bureau are using these people's weddings like a child in a divorced family," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.