PORTLAND, Ore. — Tension increased at the Occupy Portland encampment Saturday night where protesters faced a midnight deadline to disperse or face possible police arrest.
Up to 200 demonstrators remained at 9 p.m. Saturday, police said, while another 400 people gathered nearby to show their support.
Earlier in the day, the demonstrators dismantled large sections of their encampment amid a heavy police presence before the deadline to clear out of two downtown parks following the month-long protest.
Demonstrators marched through downtown before an evening potluck, and demonstrators said they hope radical elements don't use violence to overshadow the movement's attempt to peacefully demonstrate its right to assemble.
But police with nightsticks and helmets were prepared for a possible clash, warning that dozens of anarchists may be planning a confrontation with authorities. Officers seized pieces of cement blocks Friday, saying they were told some demonstrators had plans to use them as weapons against police. They said they believe some demonstrators are building shields and trying to collect gas masks.
On Saturday, police released photos of wooden pallets with nails sticking outward and other "improvised weapons" they say they've seized. Social service workers have gone through the camp offering housing and other assistance to people without a place to stay when the park closes. Demonstrators have struggled to deal with a rising population of homeless people and others, some suffering from mental illness, drawn to the camp for free food, shelter, safety and camaraderie.
Protest organizers have pleaded for peace and said anyone who acts violently does not represent the movement. Organizers also plan to pass out information about safe places to stay for the night and get basic first aid if they're injured in a potential clash, and some distributed phone numbers for the National Lawyers Guild in case demonstrators are arrested.
"It looks like they're (protesters) doing the right thing. I hope it all works out," Said Gordon Bogusch, 88, of Portland, who was showing support for the protesters Saturday night, accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Ralph Prows.
"The movement is not over," Ralph said. "People are hurting and out of work."
Dozens of occupy protesters from cities such as Seattle and Salem, Ore., said they've come to Portland to show solidarity.
Gabriel Rola, a 41-year-old unemployed chef and musician who has been staying at the camp for two weeks, said he hopes police don't use force.
"If somebody gets hurt, it's going to be the shot heard round the world," he said.
Demonstrators plan to regroup Sunday in Pioneer Courthouse Square — another downtown plaza where crews recently erected the city's large Christmas tree.
Both during the afternoon and again at night, lawyers explained to some protesters what their rights are under the law and how to react should they choose to force arrest. Police have said they'll work to accommodate anyone who wishes to be peacefully be arrested by defying the park's curfew.
Later, demonstrators danced in the rain to rock and techno music blaring from speakers in Terry Schrunk Plaza, a federally owned park across the street from the two city parks that have served as home to about 300 people.
Mayor Sam Adams has ordered the camp shut down, citing unhealthy conditions and the encampment's attraction of drug users and thieves. Paramedics treated two people suffering from apparent drug overdoses, one on Friday and one on Saturday, bringing to four the number of nonfatal overdoses inside the camp, police said.
The harder line from the city comes as leaders across the country feel increasing pressure to shut down Occupy encampments. One man died in a shooting in Oakland, Calif., and a 35-year-old military veteran apparently shot himself to death in a tent in Burlington, Vt. Another man was found dead from a suspected combination of drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a propane heater inside a tent in Salt Lake City.
"I cannot wait for someone to die," Adams said Thursday. "I cannot wait for someone to use the camp as camouflage to inflict bodily harm on others."
The Portland encampment went up Oct. 6 after a march in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting income inequality and what demonstrators see as corporate greed. They set up an intricate village with free food, medical care, political discussions and a library.
But it also became a magnet for people not originally part of the movement. Sanitary conditions worsened and businesses complained of theft.Comment on this story
City officials' patience began growing thin when activists sought to occupy another park on Oct. 30. Police dragged away 27 of the protesters when they refused to leave.
Protesters marched over two bridges on Nov. 2, but declined to inform police about the march route. That forced officers on bicycles, motorcycles and in squad cars to follow and block traffic for more than an hour. An officer was pushed into a moving bus sometime near the end of the march, police said. He received minor injuries.