Protesters outraged with the arrests of seven people at a home where a family was removed in September hurled rocks at officers, sprayed a fire extinguisher at them and damaged police vehicles on Tuesday.
The violence happened in broad daylight, and by evening, Mayor Ted Wheeler sent out a statement saying he was authorizing Portland Police “to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation … There will be no autonomous zone in Portland.”
“It’s time for the encampment and occupation to end,” Wheeler said in a statement that also acknowledged the issues the protesters want to fix, such as housing and health care. “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.”
The clash fits into a larger debate roiling in Oregon about whether state lawmakers should extend a pandemic-inspired moratorium on evictions that’s set to expire within weeks. Federal renter protections are also set to expire on Dec. 31 and housing advocates are worried that an end to those policies could lead to a huge wave of the newly homeless.
Portland has been the site of frequent protests, many involving violent clashes between officers and demonstrators, ever since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. But most happen at night, making the daytime protest a rare occurrence.
A group of activists for months have camped at the home dubbed “Red House on Mississippi” because it is on North Mississippi Avenue – to express their outrage against gentrification and the eviction of the Black and Indigenous family in September.
The Oregonian reported that the house had belonged to the Kinney family since the 1950s, according to the website for the Red House on Mississippi group protesting the eviction.
The Kinneys paid off their house but took out a new mortgage to pay defence lawyers after a family member was arrested in 2002, the Red House on the Mississippi group has said.
The house went into foreclosure and was sold to a developer at a 2018 auction, according to the group.
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.
The property’s owner complained that people were trespassing and officers showed up before dawn and made the arrests. TV images showed the clashes Tuesday morning.
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.”
Police in their statement said authorities between September and November received at least 81 calls about the property – including reports of fights, shots fired, burglary, thefts, vandalism, noise violations, trespassing, threats and illegally blocking traffic, sidewalks and access to homes.
Police blocked streets and sidewalks around the property to help sheriff’s deputies get the people off of the property, a police statement said.
One of the people at the property had a gun and was arrested and officers also found more guns on the property, the statement said.
Officers stood guard while the house was boarded up and the fence was erected only to be dismantled by the protesters to help create their barricade.
As police ordered the crowd, made up of a few dozen people, to disperse people yelled back expletives, “Go home” and “Get back.”
Police said that they used pepper spray after protestors threw rocks, paint-filled balloons at officers, broke a police vehicle window and deflated the vehicles’ tires.
Six additional people were arrested during the incident, including for charges such as disorderly conduct, interfering with a peace officer and resisting arrest.
Officers left the area around 10 a.m. and it has since been barricaded and occupied by around 100 protestors, media outlets at the scene reported.
Portland police said on social media Tuesday afternoon that they are “monitoring the situation.”
“People need to remove the barricades to allow the normal flow of traffic and for residents nearby to be allowed to come and go,” read a statement on the Portland Police Bureau’s Twitter page. “Continued criminal activity may result in arrests including the potential use of force.”