Portland Police crack down on popular NE queer gathering spot

The skidmore bluffs are a popular meeting place in Northeast Portland

The skidmore bluffs are a popular meeting place in Northeast Portland

The skidmore bluffs. The place for NE queers, cyclists, hipsters and plain old fun loving folk to hang out on breezy summer nights. Ah, the killer view of the train yard, port, industrial district and the mountains and rivers beyond (I’m not joking). The wind in your hair, the noise of trains (and dogs) in your ears. Surrounded by friends and a smattering of bicycles, lovers holding hands, kids in the skatepark, badminton, frisbee, sunsets, and, a nice cold pabst in your hand. Or even, if you like things a little classy, a glass of wine. And maybe, even, a spliff.

Not for much longer. Police are cracking down on activity in the small park at the very western end of NE Skidmore. Is this the end of the bluffs as we know it?

Yesterday, June 23rd. My 31st birthday – occasion for me to gather some friends and head to the bluffs for an evening of merriment and sunset watching. Gathered together were I and my friends, a badminton set, and a six pack of pabst, and a pack of tecate. As we sat conversing about the higher things in life, as you do, some friends of ours who had just started walking out of the park headed back and quickly warned us: “There is a cop coming this way. Stash your empties and beers.” We quickly hid our goods,and I took off to warn the few other groups of people sitting and enjoying the view – but wasn’t able to spread the word in time.  Several groups of people with open containers were confronted by the cop, and he made them pour out their drinks, cited them with criminal trespassing, and asked them to leave the park (I have no more details on this, sadly). We had luckily been able to hide our drinks well enough, but were still subjected to a thorough grilling by the police officer who repeatedly asked us if we had “booze” on us.  According to the officer, neighbouring residents were complaining about “noise at night…trash and litter in their yards, and people smoking dope openly”. My goodness. Such a thing.

The rather stodgy cop, who was neither particularly friendly nor unfriendly, tried to garner our sympathy by informing us that he was just “doing his job, and that everyone is better of just policing themselves”. But I still don’t understand why there was a complaint in the first place. There were maybe ten or twelve people at the bluffs all total, and nobody was making noise or causing a disturbance.

But the law is what the law is. Obviously, if we hadn’t managed to conceal our drinks in time, we would have been cited and asked to leave the park too. So…bring a nalgene, and don’t leave your empties out. Ride your bike to the bluffs instead of driving, and if you have to drive, park further away and walk in. Keep the noise down. Take your trash with you. Go for a walk if you want to smoke a bowl. Keep your dog well controlled. Considering that safety is an issue for queer/trans/people of colour in this city, and the law is not on our side, let’s hope we can hang on to the park as a queer friendly public space by being more discreet.

The police officer left us with some passing words…”this is a nice place to hang out. But if we keep having trouble, we will keep having to come back”.

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