PORTLAND, Ore. (CBS Seattle) — A showdown between Occupy Portland protesters and local authorities led to at least 50 arrests and multiple injuries, including one sign language interpreter reportedly left in critical condition.
“What the police didn’t publicize is that they trashed Occupy Portland’s American Sign Language interpreter, Justin, into critical condition,” the movement’s website said. “After his beating, he was hauled off by the clothing around his neck, where he gasped and plead [sic] for air until he passed out.”
The release, displayed on the homepage of the site, adds that the alleged victim lost feeling in his right leg, and use of one of his arms, hindering his ability to relay messages to deaf protesters.
Kip Silverman, a volunteer participating in Occupy Portland who documented some of the chaos that ensued, knows the victim well.
“His name is Justin Bridges … and he’s one of the most gentle, peaceful, lovely people,” he said. “There’s nothing I can imagine he would have done to provoke being hurt by anyone. It’s a hard thing to deal with.”
In regards to those that were arrested, it is Silverman’s understanding that they may be held in police custody for several days.
The raid itself occurred at midnight on Nov. 13, with police working to clear out the park entirely for a temporary closing, reportedly to clean and repair the park after the effects of the 24-hour occupation that began Oct. 6.
CBS News reported Sunday that protesters, some wearing gas masks or goggles, went back to the park area in ever-increasing numbers to stand up to the police presence. After an hours-long stand-off, police temporarily stepped back, allowing Occupy Portland protesters back into the area.
The victory was short-lived, however, as police returned hours later to reclaim the park, allegedly threatening that those who resisted “may also be subject to chemical agents and impact weapons.”
Portland Mayor Sam Adams, in a statement posted on his website on Nov. 10, said that Occupy Portland has become a safety hazard, and that clearing out the park is in the best interest of the city.
He cited alleged drug overdoses, reported assaults close to the occupation itself, and an incident involving a Molotov cocktail as examples of escalating danger.
“Occupy has had considerable time to share its movement’s messages with the public, but has lost control of the camps it created,” the statement said. “The cost to the larger community is rapidly increasing.”
Silverman said the Mayor has been a cooperative supporter of Occupy Portland, and that he was both surprised and saddened by the events that came to pass.
“Of all the places I have lived across the United States, one of the most thoughtful cities I’ve ever lived in,” he said, adding that the protesters knew most of the police officers by first name. “The level of violence I witnessed … is not what I expected from our police officers, from our city, or from our city leadership.”
CBS Seattle reached out to the Portland Police Department and the office of Mayor Adams for further comment.