PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Riot police moved quickly to thwart efforts by Occupy Portland demonstrators to set up a new protest site, arresting nearly 20 people in a nighttime crackdown.
Officers moved protesters from South Park blocks around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, after the park was closed a half-hour early, Sgt. Pete Simpson said.
But 19 who refused to leave or resisted were arrested, held with flex cuffs and hauled away by police, he said.
He said the arrests came amid "reports of demonstrators setting up structures in what appeared to be an attempt take over the park."
Occupy Portland protesters set up tents in a portion of the park that runs through Southwest Portland earlier Saturday and vowed to stay through the winter, defying city officials who said overnight camping will not be allowed.
They had been without an encampment since police swept through their downtown site three weeks ago, making arrests and dismantling tents.
The Occupy Portland website declared, "We have a park!" It said that "the kitchen is open" and invited the public to bring love, tents, sleeping bags and snacks.
Protest spokesman Jordan LeDoux earlier told the AP that having a camp provides a place for demonstrators to focus their efforts and engage the public.
Police moved in awhile later, dispersing the crowd and arresting the 19 people, who ranged in age from 17 to 60, Sgt. Simpson said in a statement released early Sunday.
Fourteen were cited to appear in court on charges of criminal trespass and interfering with a police officer and released. Five were booked into the Multnomah County Jail.
Sgt. Simpson estimated that at least a dozen structures, mainly tents, were dismantled by the officers in an area of South Park blocks, near the Portland Art Museum, known as Shermanski Park.
Sgt. Simpson said he didn't know if protesters put up any resistance. KGW-TV reported that witnesses said there was some pushing and shoving between the protesters and police.
The Oregonian reported that dozens of protesters who weren't arrested marched to City Hall and gathered there, as riot police assembled nearby. Later, the protesters began walking as a group along several area streets, followed by police on bicycles.
Sgt. Simpson said the protesters finally returning to the park where the arrests had been made.
"The Police Bureau will continue to monitor the small demonstration," he said. "People remaining in the park after hours could be subject to arrest."
Police and authorities had earlier warned that remaining in the park beyond the 9 p.m. closing time and erecting structures violates park rules and could lead to police action to remove protesters.
But city officials said they shut down the park area at 8:30 p.m., a half hour early, after protesters confronted park workers and prevented them from enforcing park codes.
"The bureau issued the order to close the park after having very aggressive people force (workers) out of the park," Sgt. Simpson said.
The park is five blocks west of Lownsdale Square, one of the two parks that demonstrators occupied for more than a month until police evicted them Nov. 13. Lownsdale and two adjacent parks that were the site of demonstrations remained fenced Saturday.
On Friday, Mayor Sam Adams told KATU-TV that he won't allow the protesters to camp at any city park "based on the experience that these encampments become inherently dangerous." Mr. Adams cited concerns about drug use, violence and safety when he ordered the original encampments shut down last month.