Portland Community Beats Back Eviction, Erects Barricades
Eviction comes when COVID-19 deaths are exploding and the end of the eviction moratorium looms.
On Tuesday morning, Portland community members successfully repealed heavily armed and militarized Multnomah County Sheriffs backed by Portland police officers, who were attempting to evict the Afro-Indigenous Kinney family, who has lived in the “Red House on Mississippi” in the North Portland neighborhood for 65 years.
Since September, people have been protesting the eviction of a Black & Indigenous family from their home in Portland. Activists put up a 24/7 eviction blockade around the Red House on Mississippi. Today, Mayor Wheeler threatened them with police violence. https://t.co/8wHSReHncO pic.twitter.com/iDsqE3oSay
— pdx law grrrl (@pdxlawgrrrl) December 9, 2020
The eviction began in the early morning, after officers officers “violently dismantled the 75+ day “Red House” [support] encampment,” and then “entered the home itself, destroying its interior, and violently arrested two residents – injuring at least one.” Supporters and neighbors responded by pushing police off the property, into their cars, and out of the area. Police cars had their windows busted out, were covered in paint, and their tires were slashed, while riot police were confronted, driven back with rocks, sprayed with a fire extinguisher, and according to one report, were “chased…into a full retreat reminiscent of recent street warfare seen in Paris.” Police responded by firing tear-gas at the crowd. Tuesday’s attempted eviction is only the latest in a series of attempts to remove the family from the home in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.
The Afro-Indigenous Kinney family, longtime owners of the “Red House,” maintain cultural and generational ties to the home in question. The tactics we are facing, of sneaky and illegal foreclosure tactics, predatory banking and loans, elected judges who take campaign contributions from the real estate industry, coupled with violence from law enforcement and no real Due Process, have been used across this historically Black neighborhood to displace Black and poor people, says homeowner and Indigenous elder Julie Metcalf. If Black and indigenous lives matter in Portland, this must stop.
Since September of 2020, an eviction resistance encampment has grown outside of the home, ready to mobilize if law enforcement attempted to evict the family. From the Red House Mississippi website:
The Portland community has united to save the Red House on Mississippi, rallying support around the family to reclaim the house and hold the land in a 24/7 eviction blockade. Since September, support has grown for the Red House and today we maintain an around-the-clock community presence along with onsite camping, a fully functional kitchen offering two free hot meals a day, and free programming centered in healing and abolition. This is what it looks like for neighbors to truly take care of each other.
After police were driven from the property, supporters and community members dismantled a fence set up by police around the home and began to set up barricades on the streets. As night fell, over 100 demonstrators had mobilized to defend the space and fortify the barricades.
Things have evolved considerably in the few hours I’ve been gone. Multiple layers of barriers have been fortified – at least 3 to the north I’ve counted in defense of the Ted House on Mississippi #RHAZ pic.twitter.com/FIMuNII0iw
— Peter (@gravemorgan) December 9, 2020
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler around this same time tweeted out, “I am authorizing the Portland Police to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation on North Mississippi Avenue and to hold those violating our community’s laws accountable. There will be no autonomous zone in Portland.” Ironically, the Kinney family is currently in litigation to save their home with the US Supreme Court, and the “Urban Housing Development has until December 23rd to respond,” leading many to describe the current eviction as illegal itself.
Protesters in Portland are occupying space around Mississippi Avenue following police returning to the “Red House,” where a local family is being evicted pic.twitter.com/C4b4JRhN7T
— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) December 8, 2020
Currently, thousands of renters across Oregon are threatened with eviction as a moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of the year as COVID-19 cases and deaths across the state explode. Just on Monday, “the Oregon Health Authority…announced 1,341 new confirmed or presumptive cases and 36 deaths, a single-day record for reported fatalities.” According to Democracy Now!:
New research finds more than 400,000 COVID-19 cases and nearly 11,000 deaths resulted from evictions, after many states allowed eviction moratoriums to expire over the summer.
The heroic and militant eviction defense in Portland in solidarity the Red House is just the latest action in a growing housing movement. This includes the formation of groups such as the Autonomous Tenant Union Network, organized rent strikes across the country, home reclamations in Oakland and in Southern California, and moving of formerly houseless families into squatted homes in Philadelphia.