Angry Residents Wave Pitchforks, Torches In Protest Of Mayor's Crackdown On Homelessness

02/14/2014 05:02 pm ET | Updated Feb 15, 2014

A group of fired-up activists in Portland, Ore., who were tired of seeing homeless people being mistreated staged the kind of protest that will be difficult for the mayor to ignore.

An estimated 4,000 people sleep on the streets of Portland, Ore., on any given night and, since last summer, life has become increasingly difficult for them.

So, a group of protesters descended upon Portland City Hall on Tuesday night carrying pitchforks and torches to "shame the mayor into action," organizer Jessie Sponberg told The Oregonian.

Portland appears to be gearing up to revive a bill that would allow police to rouse homeless people sitting on sidewalks, The Oregonian reported at the end of last year. In July, Mayor Charlie Hales launched an effort to clear out homeless campsites, according to the Portland Mercury.

Sweeping campsites often exacerbates the situation for people living on the streets because the police discard homeless people’s few possessions, which may include their only warm clothing and blankets, advocates noted in a Change.org petition.

But Hales told The Oregonian in August that he plans on balancing the crackdown on homeless camps with increasing funding for overnight shelters. But he didn’t commit to a spending figure.

"This is not about homelessness," the mayor told the paper about the anti-camping law. "It's about lawlessness."

Hordes of advocates have continued to voice their concerns about the extensive measures, but Film the Police Portland -- a grassroots advocacy group -- took their protest beyond just handing out petitions.

The group of about 50 protesters set up shop at City Hall on Tuesday, waving pitchforks and torches. They turned the surrounding gardens into a cemetery scene to signify the number of homeless people who have frozen to death, Sponberg wrote on his Facebook page.

portland homelessness

They said they hope their efforts will urge Mayor Hales to stop criminalizing homelessness.

"You know, the cops are out there sweeping out these camps. Destroying the closest thing to a normal life that these people have managed to carve out in this crazy world," Sponberg wrote. "Throwing everything they have into the garbage. And it’s not that the cops are doing this because they are jerks. They may be jerks, but they get a pass on this one. In this case they are just doing their jobs, following city policy, as per established by Mayor Hales."

h/t Al Jazeera America

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