Portland police officers confronted a group of residents on Tuesday who tried to salvage food that was thrown away by a grocery store, authorities said.
A power outage caused by a winter storm forced workers at the Hollywood West Fred Meyer in Portland to toss thousands of perishable items into two large dumpsters outside the store, police said.
Police said officers responded to a call at about 4 p.m. from a Fred Meyer employee saying that they felt the situation was “escalating.” When officers arrived, the employee told the police that the food was spoiled and unfit for consumption or donation, according to the police.
Video and photos showed mountains of food, including packaged meat, large juice cartons, and dairy products.
Officers asked the group, which “grew to about 50 people,” to leave or risk potential arrest for trespassing on private property, police said.
The police guarded the dumpsters to prevent people from taking the discarded grocery items, local resident Morgan Mckniff told The Oregonian.
Juniper Simonis, who showed up to document police presence, said after the officers threatened arrest, the crowd dispersed and moved across the street, the newspaper reported.
After showing their press badge, Simonis said the officers responded, saying: “We’re going to arrest you if you don’t leave.”
“I was documenting the police, not what was in the dumpster,” Simonis said.
Portland police did not immediately answer a question about Simonis’ press badge Wednesday.
Fred Meyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Police said the officers eventually left, believing that there was “no longer any threat or harm.”
Simonis said their departure allowed people who were waiting to pick up food to return to the dumpsters, the newspaper reported.
Workers at Fred Meyer called the police again, but officers determined that there was no imminent threat and did not return to the scene, police said.
The people who were collecting the food that was tossed out by the grocery store were “not there for selfish reasons,” Simonis said. Some were in mutual aid groups that provided food and resources to people at warming centers, according to Simonis.
“None of this makes sense to me except through the lens of severely ingrained policing and a culture of disrespect for human dignity,” Simonis said.
“It’s not a bad situation or vandalism, it’s literally the exact opposite — feeding hungry people,” they said.