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Police clash with residents attempting to salvage discarded groceries following power outage

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Authorities in Portland, Ore., clashed with residents who were attempting to salvage discarded groceries from a dumpster on Tuesday after power outages occurred throughout the city due to winter storms.

Around a dozen Portland police officers confronted a group of people at a local Fred Meyer, according to The Oregonian. 

People began to gather around the dumpster around 2:30 p.m., according to the newspaper, and within hours, police officers came to guard the dumpsters.

Morgan Mckniff, an activist and outspoken critic of the Portland police, told The Oregonian that employees had been guarding the dumpsters before the police arrived. According to Mckniff, around 15 people gathered at the store to collect discarded groceries. The store’s manager eventually called the police.

“After that, other people started showing up and asking them, ‘Why are you guys guarding a dumpster?’” Mckniff told the newspaper.

According to a release from the Portland Police Bureau (PPB), authorities went to the grocery store because employees there “felt the situation was escalating and feared there may be a physical confrontation.”

“The position of the employees of the store was that the food was spoiled and required to be disposed of due to lack of refrigeration,” the PPB added. “The food was unfit for consumption or donation. Officers also tried to explain this to the group of people.”

According to PPB, the crowd of people eventually left, only to return after the police had departed. The police decided against returning to the scene unless there was an “an imminent threat to life or threat of serious injury.”

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“The people who were there weren’t there for selfish reasons — they were there to get food to distribute to hungry people around the city,” said Juniper Simonis, an activist and researcher who went to document the scavenging. “There are mutual aid groups that have been helping feed people at warming centers, because the city doesn’t have enough resources to feed them.”

Winter storms have covered large swaths of the U.S., causing widespread power outages in states such as Texas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is planning to send generators and diesel fuel to the state to help provide power.

As The Oregonian reported, more than 300,000 customers in the Portland area lost electricity over the weekend due to the snow and ice that fell over the city. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) declared a state of emergency on Saturday.

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