PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A gentrification protest that has blockaded several city blocks in Portland, Oregon, entered its third day Thursday as people dressed in black and wearing ski masks continued to build makeshift barriers.
The fencing, lumber and other impediments went up Tuesday after officers arrested about a dozen people in a clash over the eviction of a Black and Indigenous family from a North Portland home.
The street behind the blockade in the neighborhood of homes, coffee shops and restaurants was laced with booby traps aimed at keeping officers out — including homemade spike strips, piles of rocks and thick bands of plastic wrap stretched at neck-height across the roadway.
It recalled more than four months of confrontations between police and protesters decrying racial injustice and police brutality that only abated weeks ago. Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city would not tolerate an “autonomous zone,” a reference to a weeks-long protest in Seattle where people essentially took over a several-block area in the city during racial injustice protests.
Supporters of the Kinney family, the Black and Indigenous family that faced foreclosure, say the home was unjustly taken through predatory lending practices that target people of color. The property sold at auction for $260,000, the family said, while the private land next door is valued at more than $10 million.
It’s in a historically Black part of Portland that for decades was one of the few areas Black residents could own homes because of racist real estate and zoning laws. The 124-year-old home was one of the few remaining Black-owned residences in an area that has rapidly gentrified in the past 20 years.
The bank foreclosed on the property in 2018, but the Kinneys refused to leave. The developer who bought the house at auction filed a lawsuit and the Kinneys counter-sued, alleging they were the victims of predatory loan practices.
They most recently requested an emergency stay, citing an eviction moratorium in Oregon during the pandemic. But the moratorium only applies to homeowners suffering pandemic-related financial woes and a judge rejected the request in September.
Protesters began camping on the premises at that time, but the occupation gained steam and national attention this week when officers responding to the new owner’s complaints conducted a dawn sweep and arrested about a dozen people.
Police say between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30, there have been 81 calls to the property for fights, gunshots, burglary, vandalism and noise complaints, among other things.
Surrounding homeowners also complained that the sidewalks were blocked and they could not get to their homes, police said.