PORTLAND - Protesters and police faced off on the Steel Bridge Thursday morning in what was expected to be a day-long series of Occupy Porland demonstrations.
Police arrived early in the morning and closed the Steel Bridge in anticipation of a planned rally. After 8 a.m., one group of about 20 protesters sat down as they reached a line of officers in riot gear. Police made a series of peaceful arrests of the seated protesters.
Another group of about 100-200, including many holding union-related signes, stood behind the police line, chanting and holding their signs.
Sgt. Pete Simpson said the first priority of police was to arrest those sitting, then assess what to do next with the group standing.
He said they are more than welcome to walk about to the Rose Quarter transit station and take the MAXacross the Steel Bridge.
Shortly after 9 a.m., the remaining protesters walked off the bridge ramp and headed for a lower deck that connects with the Esplanade and Waterfront Park.
MAX trains continued to run in both directions during the incident, as well as eastbound buses. Westbound lines 4, 8, 44 and 77 were detoured until the bridge was reopened about 9:15.
Police warned Portlanders and downtown businesses a group allied with Occupy Portland said it planned to forcibly shut down major, corporate banks Thursday.
Protesters and labor groups planned to gather for an un-permitted 10 a.m. rally at Waterfront Park before actions in which activists would prohibit business-as-usual at the banking institutions.
The N17 (November 17) groups want banks to stop foreclosing on people's homes.
Police warned Portlanders that similar protests in other cities recently have included large groups entering and causing disruptions, protesters chaining themselves to structures, barring the doors and in some cases vandalism.
Officers said traffic tie-ups in the downtown core were also likely.
Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson told KGW Thursday morning closing the Steel Bridge was done primarily to make certain that mass transit was not affected by a protest. Pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers must choose another bridge, he said.
We will not allow them to take a bridge and shut it down. It will not happen today, he said.