PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hundreds of protesters occupied Mt. Tabor Friday night in an effort to keep the city from covering its reservoirs.
City officials plan to disconnect the existing reservoir at Mount Tabor sometime between 2014 and into 2016. New reservoirs would be connected on Powell Butte and Kelly Butte, and one of two reservoirs would be decommissioned at Washington Park.
Portland Police have arrested three people since the protest began.
Michael Meo, 66, was arrested and charged with criminal trespass for putting up signs against park rules. Another man was taken away in handcuffs, and other protesters said it was because he refused to take a tent down.
Troy Anthony Thompson, 42, was arrested after pitching a tent in the park in violation of rules that state visitors shall not erect a structure in the park.
Erik Daniel Zimmerman, 22, was arrested for Failure to Obey a Park Officer, Interfering with a Police Officer and Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree after he refused to leave the park after it closed.
At one point there were about 10 tents up, but they were taken down.
Organizers said they would protest for three days, but wouldn’t camp overnight — at least on Friday.
“Tonight was a good night to declare a victory,” said protest organizer Jessie Sponberg. “I mean it was an incredible night. Hundreds of people came out here. It blew my expectations away.”
Two weddings are planned for Saturday at Mt. Tabor. Protesters said they will not disrupt the ceremonies and they’re happening far enough away from the slopes they shouldn’t be able to even see one another.
People camped out in line in the winter to reserve a spot for a wedding at Mt. Tabor. City Commissioner Amanda Fritz asked the protesters to keep quiet during the ceremonies.
Protesters said the $400 million project to cover the reservoirs is more important than a wedding.
The park roads are typically closed on Wednesday for maintenance, but they did not re-open Thursday or Friday. Officials with Portland Parks and Recreation won’t say when they will re-open.
The road closures meant a long walk to the playground for families toting strollers, toddler and backpacks. Some people felt the city is going overboard by closing the road days before the protest.
“I guess I would ask why we’re cutting off access to a public park even if people are coming here for public protest,” said visitor Billie Tarscio. “It seems access to the park should be important to the city for anyone who’s here for whatever reason.”
Her husband, Michael Tarascio, said, “We have little ones and it’s kind of hard to walk. She’s seven months pregnant and we’re having to walk up a hill with a dog thats pulling and two 6-year-olds, so that’s not great.”
Mark Ross with Parks & Rec said he understands the inconvenience. “I know some people would prefer to drive in with their cars to the top of the volcano. If there was a permit associated with this demonstration maybe that could have been avoided.”
KOIN 6 News reporter Elissa Harrington contributed to this report.
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