PORTLAND, Ore (Reuters) - Occupy Portland protest sites emptied out on Sunday in the face of a city-issued eviction notice, as authorities around the country try to close down encampments occupied by demonstrators for weeks.
Officials made moves over the weekend to dismantle a protest camp in Salt Lake City, Utah, while in Denver, police on Saturday removed mattresses, cooking grills and tents illegally placed on a public sidewalk.
Seventeen people were arrested, Denver police said on Sunday.
Protest encampments in several cities sprang up in recent weeks in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York to protest what demonstrators see as economic inequality and undue influence over U.S. politics by corporate interests.
Citing health and safety issues, some officials have urged demonstrators to take down the camps and others have used such concerns as reasons for police to force the issue.
"This movement has changed and the people have changed," he said. "We are now at a critical point where we must reevaluate our entire relationship with this very changed group."
He said communication has broken down between officials and protesters, and city concerns over fire hazards, litter and a lack of toilets have gone unaddressed.
Added to that are thefts, assaults and an alleged sexual attack at the camp at Dilworth Plaza, he said in a statement.
The mayor said a $50 million makeover of Dilworth Plaza is planned and by opting not to move, "Occupy Philly is now purposely standing in the way of a nearly 1,000 jobs for Philadelphians at a time of high unemployment."
Elsewhere, authorities in Salt Lake City moved to dismantle a camp at a downtown park and arrested 15 people on Saturday.
In Portland, most protesters packed up and left after warnings by city officials that they would be evicted over the weekend.
Fewer than a dozen tents remained on Sunday at the two downtown parks where protesters have camped since early October. Nevertheless, a sizable crowd of protesters was growing, and was being met by police in riot gear.
Portland officials said they planned to put up fences around the parks to close them to protesters.
"The parks are going to be closed to the public effective when the Portland Police Bureau feels that it can be done in a peaceful and successful way," Mayor Sam Adams said at a Sunday morning news conference.
In Oakland, California, the scene of previous clashes between police and demonstrators, city hall issued a third eviction notice on Sunday. It warned protesters they faced "immediate arrest" if they continued to camp out in the city's plaza and parks.
The city offered alternative emergency accommodation at two local area homeless shelters, and laid on a shuttle service to one that was not within walking distance of the encampments.
The nationwide protest movement, which started in New York in September, has voiced opposition to what the demonstrators see as an unfair concentration of wealth in the United States. Among other issues, they object to corporate excesses and bailouts of major banks.
(Additional reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Tim Gaynor in Phoenix, Dave Warner in Philadelphia, and Bruce Olson in St. Louis; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Jerry Norton)