Water Bureau protests lead to numerous arrests

See why this protest at the Mt. Tabor Reservoir sent numerous, sometimes confusing, messages. Oddly, many arrested aren’t even from Portland …

Drivers honk their horns as they pass the protesters at the Mount Tabor Reservoirs, many signaling support; others expressing distain for the message of the protesters.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because East Portland News has covered stories about building the Portland Water Bureau Powell Butte Reservoir Number 2 – and will soon give readers a look at the new Kelly Butte Reservoir project – it seemed fair to cover protests staged starting July 12 by those who oppose such projects.

Some protesters carried signs, others banged pots and pans, and still others “hung out” – adding numbers to protest below the historic Mount Tabor reservoirs, built between 1894 and 1911, along SE 60th Avenue.

First arrest: 66-year-old Michael Meo, for erecting signs in the park.

Early on in the protest, at 2:37 p.m., Portland Police arrested one man after he violated park rules and refused to leave after being excluded by park officials.

“66-year-old Michael Meo was erecting signs in the park against park rules, and was issued an ‘exclusion from the park’. Meo then refused to vacate the park after being excluded by park officials,” said Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

Records show that Meo was arrested and charged with Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and booked into the Multnomah County Jail; he was released “on own recognizance” later that day.

Unofficial but vocal “Camp Cascadia” spokesman Jessie Sponberg airs his grievances against the Portland Water Bureau.

A “Camp Cascadia” spokesman – the protesters had no “official” spokesman, he said – Jessie Sponberg, held court… giving interviews to media reporters and anyone who would listen.

“Look how much the actual charge for water is,” Sponberg said. “Then look at the rest of your water bill. Where is the rest of the money in the bill going to?

“It is all going to pay past debts that we owe, from the big bonds that [the Portland Water Bureau] sells,” Sponberg answered his own question. “Our city is using our water as collateral. We’ll never be able to pay back the interest of the money that we already owe. These people continue to line their own pockets.”

Many gather to protest Portland’s water policies.

Asked who “these people” are, Sponberg said he was referring to a former Portland Water Bureau executive, Joe Glicker, whom Portland water activists claim is a regional president of MWH Global, that, on their website, claims to be “The Global Leader In Wet Infrastructure & Water Engineering”.

A search of their website for “Glicker” produced no results.

“What we need is direct pressure on City leadership,” Sponberg proclaimed.  “We elected them to represent us in there, and not representing us at all. They are representing a small portion of people that people contribute money to [their political campaigns] – most notably, Joe Glicker, former water bureau employee, who went to work for CH2M Hill. In the private sector, he became the guy that got the contracts to build the reservoirs.”

Speaking directly to East Portland News, Sponberg continued his comments, “We’re here because we can’t afford to line Joe Blicker’s or Charlie Hales’ pockets with our rate payer money. They think that [the Portland Water Bureau] is their ‘unlimited expense account’ that they can do anything that they want with.”

Pointing to the 100-year-old non-reinforced concrete reservoir above the protest, Sponberg continued. “They spent a whole bunch of money to seismically restructure the reservoirs – and now they’re going to decommission them.”

Other protesters’ signs proclaimed a variety of messages. “Save our Reservoirs and Water” was a popular slogan. Asked which reservoirs they wanted to save, the picketers typically said, “All of them!” Asked what water to which they were referring, the reply was “All of it.”

Some protesters say the 100-year-old Mount Tabor Reservoirs, which form the backdrop to their protest, “don’t need fixing”.

Some chanted, “Our reservoirs are not broken, they don’t need fixing.” However, this group had no reply when asked what would happen to the homes below the Mount Tabor Reservoirs if an earthquake shook loose the non-reinforced retaining walls holding back millions of gallons of water.

Others decried the City buying covers for open reservoirs, then “selling them on the cheap”.  And still others demanded that the bureau “Keep the Willamette River out of our drinking water!”

Former TV news reporter, and now Portland Parks & Recreation spokesman Mark Ross says he was designated to be the City’s point person at the protest.

“I am here, designated by the mayor, to be representative of the city as a whole, at least as a starting point,” said Portland Parks & Recreation spokesman Mark Ross.

“The message that we want to get across is that all City leaders fully support the First Amendment and peoples ‘right to gather and their free speech. Of course this comes in the context of obeying park rules,” Ross told East Portland News.

The rules of which he spoke included no camping, no erecting structures, and obeying park officers at the unpermitted event – as well as a requirement to leave the park at midnight.

Ross said he felt a “positive vibe” at the protest, and thought it would continue to be a “very positive, peaceful demonstration. Demonstrators have been very courteous, and obviously effective in getting attention.”

Second Arrest: 42-year-old Troy Anthony Thompson.

At 9:15 p.m. that evening, Portland Police officers arrested 42-year-old Troy Anthony Thompson for pitching a tent in Mt. Tabor Park during a demonstration.

“Erecting a structure in the park is a violation of park rules,” commented Sgt. Simpson. “Thompson was arrested and booked into the Multnomah County Jail on a charge of Interfering with a Police Officer.”

Many who protest choose not to talk with the news media, saying they prefer to let their signs speak for them.

Marjorie Axtel walked by, looking at the protesters on the way home from her bus stop.

“I’ve heard what they have to say, and I believe many of them are misled in their beliefs, based on inaccurate or incomplete information,” Axtel told East Portland News.

“While the PWB ‘beefed up’ the Mount Tabor Reservoirs, I don’t believe they would withstand a major earthquake,” Axtel went on. “A major seismic event would probably cause one or more of these reservoirs to fail, washing away many of our homes, below.”

The man carrying this sign chose not to explain why Mayor Charlie Hales should feel shameful.

From all accounts, the protest was peaceful, albeit with banging of pots and slogan shouting – all expressions of free speech.

But, when the park closed, some protesters refused to leave.

Erik Daniel Zimmerman of Lake Oswego – along with four others from places unknown –Jonilka Calcano, Pablo Mark Avvacato, Joanna Michal Nordness, and Robert Ziggy Walker – are arrested after being asked to leave at midnight.

Five individuals didn’t heed warnings from park security or police officers and were arrested after midnight. They were 22-year-old Erik Daniel Zimmerman, 21-year-old Jonilka Calcano, 19-year-old Pablo Mark Avvacato, 30-year-old Joanna Michal Nordness, and 20-year-old Robert Ziggy Walker

“They were arrested for Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree. Avvacato, Nordness and Walker were also charged on charges of Interfering with a Peace Officer,” Simpson said.

“Calcano was a reported missing person from Rhode Island,” Simpson added. Zimmerman gave a Lake Oswego address; none of the other four provided a Portland address.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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