Portland business owners and retail workers joined the organization “Enough is Enough” to release a video Thursday drawing attention to the growing crime and violence in the city’s homeless encampments.
“Enough is Enough” is a Portland-based Ballot Question Committee that launched in 2022 in opposition to several citizen initiatives led by the Maine Democratic Socialists of America (MDSA).
“Untold stories of assaults, harassment, hard drug use, human waste, and discarded needles plague the area while the city council ignores pleas for assistance,” Enough is Enough wrote in a Thursday press release.
“Many retail workers declined to speak publicly about the incidents for fear of retaliation,” the organization wrote.
The interviews in Enough is Enough’s video focus on businesses near the Marginal Way Park and Ride encampment, which recently became Portland’s largest encampment after the city swept the Fore River Parkway encampment.
The city’s Encampment Crisis Response Team turned its attention to the Park and Ride encampment on Sept. 18, and will follow its procedure of offering services and housing to the homeless individuals residing in the encampment before eventually cleaning it out.
The Maine Wire has documented how the Marginal Way encampment functions as an open air drug market, businesses put on lockdown over safety concerns, and hypodermic needles and feces littering the businesses’ property.
One retail assistant manager interviewed in the video described an incident in which a customer rushed into the store as three homeless individuals from the nearby encampment fought in the parking lot.
The fight continued in the encampment across the street as the employee called the police.
“One man jumped off his bike, and ran up to another man on his bike, attacked him and then was on the ground punching him before getting a pipe from a nearby tent and striking him on the head,” the employee said.
Another retail worker described repeated incidents of individuals waving needles around wildly in their store and parking lot.
“We had customers waiting to come into the store who witnessed a man with two needles in his handles, mumbling and rocking back and forth,” said the retail worker in the video.
Fears of violence are on the rise for the businesses across from the Park and Ride encampment due to increased sightings of machetes, “who often swing them wildly when they are under the influence.”
“I’m a former Army Officer, and not easily intimidated, when you look into their eyes it’s very unsettling,” said Scott Rousseau, one of the impacted business owners in the video. “We’ve had difficulty opening the store because of people from the encampment under the influence of drugs, people from the encampment, sitting on our steps with needles in their hands, and we have difficulty clearing them out before we open.”
The Enough is Enough team say that during a recent visit to the Marginal Way encampment they learned that the homeless were using a tent over a storm drain with a bucket modified with a hold in the bottom as a makeshift on-site bathroom.
“I don’t see how it’s humane to let them stay in a place that has no running water, no place to bathe, no place to use the bathroom, in conditions where increasing violence is acceptable, it’s not humane,” Rousseau said.
“The city stance this summer, and currently right now has been we will allow illegal activity everyday across the street in city limits and will not do anything about it is complete irresponsible,” he said.
“I don’t understand how tenting is illegal, but tenting is allowed. I don’t understand how drug use is illegal, but the city provides clean needles every day. I don’t understand how assault and battery is illegal, but that’s happening over there on a regular basis,” the business owner said.
“It seems to me that is okay as long as it stays amongst themselves,” he added. “At the end of the day the people of this neighborhood are being victimized by the city’s inaction to deal with illegal activity every day.”