Red House neighbors: Armed occupation is unacceptable

Multnomah County

Wheeler reached an agreement with the family of Portland's 'Red House' on Saturday

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said a tentative agreement has been reached between the Kinney family and the developer who owns the Red House on Mississippi Avenue, the site of a week-long occupation.

But residents in the Humboldt neighborhood are frustrated and fed up with the occupation and describe it as “unacceptable.”

And shortly before 6 p.m., the roads around the Red House were opened to vehicular traffic — the first time in almost a week cars could get through.

“The Mayor’s office used words, not weapons, to advance the safety of the neighborhood,” Wheeler said. He said that his office helped facilitate the negotiations, but that it was between two private parties.

“I want to thank both Kinney family and developer,” he said. Streets around the Red House reopened on Monday as barricades came down.

He said he wanted to use this as an opportunity to call on the “political gridlock in Washington D.C and Salem” over the upcoming end of the eviction moratorium in the new year.

“Support for rent relief is urgently needed,” he said.

Wheeler also thanked the neighbors and the Mississippi neighborhood for their patience.

The Kinney family, however, denied that an agreement has been reached.

“We have no choice but to continue occupying the land for the Kinney family. While our demands have been pushed through at the governmental level and the family’s story has reached a global audience, our fight is not over. The Kinneys have not yet secured their home. Developer Roman Ozeruga has yet to initiate any negotiations. The family’s cases remain in litigation,” a statement from the family said.

Wheeler said he did not regret his initial tweet last week authorizing the Portland Police to “use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation” but apologized to the Kinney family for any threats that they received in response to it.

Neighbors want the occupation to end

Despite barricades in the streets being removed, people were still occupying the Red House in N. Portland, December 14, 2020 (KOIN)

Stanley Minor, who describes himself as a “proud supporter of the neighborhood,” had his building vandalized.

“It’s hard to continue when you own a building and support the neighborhood and then it gets terrorized. I’m sorry to say it but I don’t think it’s right. There’s other ways to get support. That’s not the way to get support. Vandalism,” he said.

Minor said he’s not afraid of the protesters and is frustrated with city leadership.

Another neighbor who didn’t want to be identified over fear of retribution said none of his neighbors want the armed occupation

“I don’t know if what’s going on there excuses blocking off a part of Portland and then having armed guards patrol a neighborhood. This is unacceptable to me and everyone I talk to personally.”

Tasha Miller has been in the area asking people if they want to sign a card for the Kinney family.

“I want to see (the card), like, covered. So I have a lot more work to do,” Miller said.

Graffiti scrawled in the area of the Red House has neighbors fed up and frustrated, December 14, 2020 (KOIN)

This neighbor said they’ve seen “at least 2 Smith-and-Wesson Sport 2 AR-15 rifles. I’ve seen a Remingont 870 with a bandolier of ammo.”

“When there’s ammunition and guns in a residential neighborhood, that’s a recipe for something bad to happen. And I’m sure these kids out here don’t want that on their conscience, either. Any more than someone would want to be injured by a stray bullet.”

And the neighbor wonders if all the property taxes they’ve paid “can’t go towards preventing armed vigilantes from patrolling my neighborhood.”

Press conference followed a week of back and forth

Monday’s press conference comes nearly one week after the beginning of the occupation at North Portland’s “Red House” Mississippi Avenue. Demonstrators started forming barricades around what they call the home on Tuesday and have since been occupying the area, trying to prevent the family’s eviction. Witnesses told KOIN 6 News that people inside the area were armed with guns.

Wheeler said he reached an agreement Saturday night with the Kinneys, the Black and Indigenous family who has been fighting to keep their foreclosed home. He said the streets and sidewalks near the home will be reopened.

In his statement Sunday, Wheeler said, “My goal remains finding a peaceful resolution to the situation on North Mississippi Avenue. My focus has been on protecting lives.” 

Wheeler sent the Kinneys a letter Saturday stating he and other city leaders share their perspective about the urgent need to address systemic failures in the housing, banking, and judicial systems.

“We acknowledge these failures are, more often than not, the result of institutional racism and overt
racist action to oppress Black and Indigenous people,” Wheeler wrote. The mayor also offered the family help with finding temporary housing and legal counsel. He also explained methods that could help them regain their home.

Wheeler will also likely discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the fact that vaccines have now reached Oregon hospitals.

The FDA granted its blessing for the Pfizer vaccine over the weekend — meaning hospitals like the Oregon Health and Science University and Kaiser Permanente are prepping for distribution. Storage and distribution of the vaccine demand serious planning.

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