Armed protesters have set up a new ‘autonomous zone’ in Portland to protest the eviction of a black family.
Demonstrators have barricaded themselves in the property, dubbed the Red House on the Mississippi, and have set up booby-traps, laid down homemade spike strips to puncture the tires of vehicles and are stock piling weapons as they prepare to defend the home.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’ and warned officers will use force if necessary to clear the occupation.
The same day, people were seen setting up more barricades including spike strips made of boards and nails and armed guards were stationed at intersections keeping watch, reported Oregon Live, in efforts to prevent the removal of the Kinney family.
By Wednesday night, blockades stretched at least two-and-a-half blocks, from North Skidmore to Blandena streets, along North Mississippi and Albina avenues, as occupiers cordoned off parts of the road, pitched up tents and huddled round a small fire as night fell.
The Kinney family have owned the Red House since the 1950s but took out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers for their son, William III, when he was sent to prison for a car incident in 2002, according to the Red House on the Mississippi group.
With the family owing $97,000 the house went into foreclosure and was sold to a developer at a 2018 auction and the family was evicted at gunpoint three months ago, the group said.
A group of activists have camped at the home ever since to express their outrage against gentrification and the eviction of the black and Indigenous family.
The outrage came to a head Tuesday when the property owner complained people were trespassing and officers showed up and made several arrests.
Protesters stand around a fire near the Red House on Mississippi Street in Portland, Oregon, Wednesday night
An aerial view shows the area and road around the home cordoned off, graffiti scrawled on the road and tents pitched
Armed protesters have set up a new ‘autonomous zone’ in Portland to protest the eviction of a black family
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the North entry to the Red House on Wednesday night as people occupy the area
Chief Lovell said in a video message Wednesday that police were aware of a ‘stockpile of weapons’ in the zone.
‘Portland Police share the community’s concern about the barricades, occupation and criminal activity, on North Mississippi. Those present at the barricades should leave it behind, put down your weapons, and allow the neighborhood to return to peace and order,’ he said.
‘We are aware of the stockpile of weapons, and the presence of firearms. We are aware of the threats to the community, to media, to police. We’ve seen the attacks.’
He warned that the police will ‘enforce the law and use force if necessary to restore order to the neighborhood’.
‘It can be avoided with those participating ending it peacefully by putting down their weapons and leave the barricade,’ he said.
Lovell said neighbors around the home are ‘suffering’ and told people to ‘stay cautious’ and avoid the area altogether if possible.
‘The people living near the occupation have suffered for weeks. That has grown worse – we understand their suffering,’ he said.
‘Remain cautious as you come and go from your home or business. For your own safety avoid confrontations around the occupation.
‘Those without need to enter should avoid the area for the time being.’
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the entry to the Red House on Mississippi Street
Crime has spiked in the Portland neighborhood where armed activists have set up an ‘autonomous zone’ protected by booby-traps to protest the eviction of a black family
Occupiers have been stockpiling weapons and ‘threats’ have been made to community members, the media and police in the zone taken over by demonstrators outside the property, dubbed the Red House on the Mississippi, police said Wednesday
Activists and the Kinney family speak about the attempted eviction outside the Red House Wednesday
He called on occupiers to allow their neighbors ‘to return to peace’.
There have been more than 80 911 calls about the home since the start of September, around the time that the Kinney family said they were forced out of the home by gunpoint, according to police.
Police said officers had received multiple calls for incidents at the home including fights, gunshots, burglary, vandalism and noise complaints between September 1 and November 30.
Neighbors in the area, which has become increasingly gentrified, have also complained about the disruption since the occupation including not being able to get to their homes and that sidewalks have been blocked, reported Fox News.
New barricades had already been erected Wednesday morning along Mississippi Avenue, reported Oregon Live.
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block were seen along the north entry to the Red House, at least one armed occupier was stood on guard and multiple tents were set up near the home.
Occupiers were seen reinforcing the barricades with corrugated iron, tires and chipboard, and had stockpiled shields and defensive gear in preparation for police returning.
Anyone who can is being told to avoid the area as Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’
Protesters stand behind barricades at their encampment outside the home as they protest the eviction of the Kinney family
Occupiers reinforce the barricades with corrugated iron, tires and chipboard Wednesday following clashes with ;police Tuesday
A resident stands on their porch on the far side of the barricade as police say neighbors are ‘suffering’
Masked protesters by an occupied home speak with a neighborhood resident opposed to their encampment
Along the railings, banners read ‘stop the eviction’ and ‘evictions hurt everyone’
Residents of homes on the other side of the barricades looked on as homemade spike strips were laid out to puncture car tires entering the ‘autonomous zone’.
Along the railings, banners read ‘stop the eviction’, ‘stop the sweeps’ and ‘evictions hurt everyone’.
Despite concerns of violence and unrest, some local business owners said they had not witnessed any problems and some demonstrators were seen holding peaceful prayer circles during the day.
A barista at the Albina Press coffeehouse, just outside the ‘autonomous zone’, told Oregon Live occupiers hadn’t caused any problems for the business.
According to the outlet, a group of people gathered in an Indigenous prayer circle outside the house ‘to send our prayers up’ and sang ‘Hallelujah’.
The Kinney family and local activists held a press conference in front of the house Wednesday afternoon to tell their story.
Julie Metcalf Kinney, 62, said a predatory loan caused the family to fall into financial difficulty.
‘It was truly unfair for that to happen to my family,’ Kinney said of the eviction on September 9. ‘Why this is taking place, the people organically saw the devastation that was taking place that day.’
‘Help us occupy this land,’ said Ragina Rage, an activist and community organizer.
‘Help us do this so that we can protect other families that they’re going to do this to. They will target other Black and brown families because of the anti-Blackness that exists within this… system.’
Mayor Ted Wheeler sent out a statement Tuesday night saying he was authorizing police ‘to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation’ and insisted ‘there will be no autonomous zone in Portland.’
‘It’s time for the encampment and occupation to end,’ Wheeler said in a statement.
The violence came after the removal of the Kinney family, who in 2002 were forced to take out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers for their son, William III, pictured
Protesters who have camped for months to prevent a Black and Indigenous family from being forced to leave a home took the property back on Tuesday after morning clashes with police
Protesters who have camped for months to prevent a black and indigenous family from being forced to leave their longtime North Mississippi Avenue home took the property back Tuesday
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’ and warned officers will use force if necessary
The Mayor admitted there are issues around equal access to housing but said the occupation is not the right way to protest.
‘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,’ he said.
The mayor’s office later said ‘all lawful means’ does not include the use of tear gas after it was banned in the city during protests earlier this year.
Clashes had broken out Tuesday when cops arrived on the scene to fence off the property for the legal owner.
Demonstrators hurled rocks at officers, sprayed a fire extinguisher at them and damaged police vehicles outside the property in an attempt to set up an autonomous zone there.
A total of seven people were arrested during the incident, including for charges such as disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Police were outnumbered and left the scene quickly by around 10 a.m., leaving activists to cordon off the home and surrounding area.
The Red House on the Mississippi group say the family, pictured, were evicted from their home at gunpoint three months ago
Following the arrests and the clashes, protesters Tuesday afternoon used power tools to set up a barricade with wire fencing, debris and wood pallets to block off street access to the house.
The demonstrators also hung signs saying ‘Stop the Foreclosures’ and ‘No Jurisdiction.’
The violence came after the removal of the Kinney family, who in 2002 were forced to take out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers for William III.
He was sent to prison at the age of 17 for two five-year sentences, totaling 10 years, over an automobile incident, the Red House on the Mississippi group has said.
William, who is now 35, told Oregon Live: ‘It’s devastating. It’s almost like a dream. Like a nightmare.’ He was one of seven arrested Tuesday, the website reports.
His mom Julie added: ‘My husband has been here since he was four. This has been his family home. He’s completely devastated.’
The Oregonian reported that the house had belonged to the Kinney family since the 1950s.
The family argued in court that the eviction moratorium in place until the New Year should apply to their case, but a judge in September found it did not apply because their struggles began before the pandemic struck.
A GoFundMe group to try and raise $250,000 to re-purchase the home had more than $90,000 of donations as of Wednesday morning.