PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland police say an improvised incendiary device was set off outside a downtown office building and they’re investigating a possible link to the Occupy Portland camp.
Lt. Robert King says a Molotov cocktail caused minor damage Tuesday night on an external stairwell of the 17-story World Trade Center. The building is located one block east of the two parks where Occupy Portland demonstrators have been camped since Oct. 6.
King said police had already been investigating unconfirmed information that “a person or people” at the Occupy Portland camp may have constructed Molotov cocktails.
He said there’s “preliminary information” indicating a connection between the device left Tuesday night at the World Trade Center building and Occupy Portland, but he refused to give specifics. The exterior stairs were damaged from the bottle breaking and from flames.
The World Trade Center houses the headquarters for Oregon’s largest electric utility, state offices, a number of law firms and the office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.
The incident occurs as city officials are stepping up pressure on Occupy Portland organizers to do something about fights that have occurred at the camp, drug abuse and deteriorating sanitary conditions, among other problems.
Relations between the camp and the protesters took a turn for the worst last Wednesday after a police officer was pushed against a moving bus during an unruly march through downtown and over a bridge. The officer suffered minor injuries.
Mayor Sam Adams this week warned the camp to address its issues with drugs, violence and other criminal conduct, saying he worries that someone could die there or get seriously hurt. He pointed out someone died at the Occupy camp in Vancouver, British Columbia from a suspected drug overdose.
“The way things are operating now is not sustainable,” Adams wrote in an open letter to demonstrators. “I know there is a nationwide Occupy process for working through those things, which I want to give some time to work. But we cannot wait long.”
The 300-person encampment in downtown Portland began after an Oct. 6 march. Since then, it has drawn not just activists but also homeless people, radicals, drug abusers, and street kids.
Police said Tuesday that year-over-year crime increased 18 percent in the neighborhoods bordering the encampment. Between Oct. 6, 2010, and Nov. 6, 2010, police responded to 488 offenses.
In the same month-long stretch in 2011, police responded to 578 cases. The increases were found in disorderly conduct, larceny and simple assault cases. The increase in crime is set against the fact that 300 people are living in an area that typically empties out after 6 p.m. during the week.
Occupy Portland organizers have struggled to control troublemakers.
Organizers said they’re trying to determine the feasibility of removing the worst offenders from camp to restore order.
No decisions have been made, but protesters are considering taking pictures of the offenders and posting them in the security and kitchen tents. People who repeatedly violate camp law would be removed and would not be eligible for the camp’s free meals.
But some organizers said removing people is at odds with the movement’s principles.
“I’m kind of saddened by it a little bit,” said organizer Micaiah Dutt. “This issue of drug abuse and homelessness, we can’t even begin to have social change if we’re not willing to work with the people that are here.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)