The mayor of Portland, Oregon, has authorized police to “use all lawful means” to end the violent, armed occupation of a so-called “autonomous zone” set-up to reclaim a house where a black family had been evicted.
At least 200 protesters had clashed with officers in broad daylight Tuesday as they came to help take back the so-called “Red House on Mississippi” that has been occupied for at least three months.
At least 13 people were arrested as police used pepper spray after officers were pelted with rocks and paint-filled balloons, with squad cars also having windows smashed and tires flattened, Portland police said.
One of those arrested had a firearm, while others were later found inside the long-occupied house in a historically black neighborhood that has gentrified.
Despite the violent clashes and warnings from law enforcement, many protesters returned to the house and rebuilt fencing that had been torn down, with at least one armed guard still at each intersection of the area being blocked off still on Wednesday, The Oregonian said.
Video shows strips of nails set up outside fences with signs including “people over property,” “Stop all evictions” and “colonizers f–k off this is Indigenous land.” Others have Antifa symbols, along with anti-police messages like ACAB — for “All Cops are Bastards” — “Cops R peepee poopoo” and “hit a cop, win a prize.”
Police and politicians alike warned of further action to remove them.
“I am authorizing the Portland Police to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation,” Mayor Ted Wheeler warned late Tuesday.
“There will be no autonomous zone in Portland.”
The controversial Democratic leader agreed that “many of our nation’s systems and structures are fundamentally racist and require significant reform,” saying they “disproportionately impact Black people.”
“It’s also true that illegal trespassing, ignoring lawful orders from police, blocking sidewalks and streets, and intimidating neighbors inflame these crises and make them more difficult to solve,” he said, saying, “that is what’s happening on North Mississippi Avenue right now.”
He insisted that the eviction that sparked the occupation followed a “lengthy, thorough judicial proceeding.”
“It’s time for the encampment and occupation to end,” Wheeler said.
“There are many ways to protest and work toward needed reform. Illegally occupying private property, openly carrying weapons, threatening and intimidating people are not among them.”
Portland police also warned that “continued criminal activity may result in arrests including the potential use of force.”
The house had for 65 years belonged to the Kinney family, who had paid it off before taking out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers after a family member was arrested in 2002, The Oregonian said.
The house went into foreclosure and was sold to a developer at a 2018 auction, according to the protesters. The family argued that coronavirus laws forbid their eviction, but in September a judge ruled that it did not apply because their struggles began before the pandemic.
Law enforcement moved in this week after the new owner asked for help claiming it, officials said.
In the previous three months, police had at least 81 calls to the property — including reports of noise violations, vandalism, burglary, fights and even shots fired.
The occupiers claimed the protest was “also a real-time fight against gentrification.”
“We don’t need another empty, high-rise, high-rent luxury condominium,” they wrote.