PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The occupation surrounding the Red House in North Portland continues and despite the hope for a peaceful resolution, those who have been inside the barricades say the number of people who are armed inside the zone has increased.
Gabe Johnson, the director of the Coalition to Save Portland, told KOIN 6 News he went into the autonomous zone Friday afternoon to speak with people directly connected with the occupation. He said that armed security for the protesters had significantly increased.
“A lot of the security you will see inside the zone is people with long arms, 9MM military Glocks and what-not along with stashes on the ground, either rocks, bottles, things to throw at the police, you know, if they decide to come in,” Johnson said.
“One of the things that I saw immediately when I went in was just how fortified it was, even a day later, probably double the armaments, double the security.”
Johnson said he wanted to find out what might bring the occupation to a peaceful resolution.
“Yesterday (Thursday) it seemed to be more of a down day,” he said. “But today there was well over 200 to 300 people that were inside that zone.”
Johnson said he also spoke with nearby residents who said they are concerned the streets are blocked to emergency vehicles.
“If you want to continue the occupation for the Red House you need to clear the street,” he said. “People deserve and have a right to those public services and it’s a shame at this point they can’t.”
They’re also concerned about the concentration of weapons.
“You have untrained people with a cache of guns, a lot of guns,” he said. “At any point a weapon could go off.”
In a statement Friday afternoon Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office said, “If diplomacy and de-escalation fail, we are prepared for other alternatives because the Mayor will not let an armed occupation stand in the City of Portland.”
The mayor also said that threats against the Kinney family will not be tolerated.
PPB Chief Chuck Lovell also released a statement.
“We are pursuing all available efforts to de-escalate the situation. The illegal road closure and armed occupation is a threat to the safety of everyone in the area,” Lovell said. “The streets must be re-opened and weapons must be put away.”
Johnson said he eventually talked to 2 women who said they could speak on behalf of the Kinney family.
“One of the things that they wanted was a letter from PPB stating that anyone that’s in the autonomous zone will not be arrested or prosecuted if they start to take down the barricades,” he said.