Wheeler: Streets and sidewalks near ‘Red House’ will reopen

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Mayor Wheeler says his goal is still to find a peaceful resolution to the situation on North Mississippi Avenue.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he reached an agreement Saturday night with the Kinneys, the Black and Indigenous family who has been fighting to keep their foreclosed North Portland home. He said the streets and sidewalks near the home will be reopened. 

Demonstrators started forming barricades around what they call the “Red House on Mississippi” on Tuesday. They’ve 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. 

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.

Although he didn’t specify the conditions of the agreement that was reached, Wheeler said he feels the agreement to reopen the streets and sidewalks is an important step toward de-escalation and a long-term resolution for the neighborhood and the family who wants to keep their home, the Kinney family. 

“I maintain measured optimism that we can accomplish this step and move toward the next steps to advance the safety and well-being of the family and the safety of the neighborhood,” Wheeler stated. 

Wheeler thanked neighbors in the North Mississippi area for their patience and understanding while the mayor works to resolve “a very dangerous situation.” 

KOIN 6 News spoked to Chris Kim who works at Nu Rite Way Food Center, a store that’s located blocks from where the barricades are near the Red House. Kim said he knows one of the women who lives at the house and that she’s a customer at his store.

“I don’t know the details of the situation of the house, but hopefully she stays there,” Kim said.

Kim said some neighboring business owners feel the occupation has blocked customers from accessing their businesses. He said a lot of people will be happen when the barricades come down.

“That sounds very good, first of all, and if they get the resolution to stay in the same house, making everyone happy, we will see,” Kim said.

Saturday night, William Kinney, whose family is being evicted from the home, told KOIN 6 News that they are also hoping to reach a peaceful resolution.

“Commitments from the mayor of the PPB that there won’t be any threat of another raid on the red house while we finish the negotiation process. But, the common goal is that we want to restore the Kinney home to the Kinney family,” William Kinney said.

Online statements from those occupying the space indicated that they would have the barricades removed by Monday.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and Portland Police Bureau arrived at the home on Tuesday, Dec. 8. They were serving a writ of execution to evict the family, but were met with demonstrators opposing the eviction. A large number of firearms were discovered on the property and six people were found in the home. All six were arrested and charged with trespassing in the first degree, without incident.

According to the sheriff’s office, public court documents indicate that a civil complaint was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Nov. 19, 2018, for an eviction due to a nonjudicial foreclosure on the home.

The current state and federal eviction moratoriums in place during the coronavirus pandemic do not apply to nonjudicial foreclosure cases, such as this, according to the Oregon Judicial Department.

In 2018, the family’s son, who goes by William X. Nietzche, filed a federal lawsuit in an attempt to block the eviction of their home on the 4400 block of North Mississippi Avenue, which was denied by a judge.

In a dismissal, the judge wrote Nietzche, who is not a lawyer, filed suit against entities that do not exist, such as the “United States Corporation Company,” and that they “requested irrelevant, nonsensical and sometimes offensive information” from the financial institutions.

After the forced sale two years ago, the judge said the family tried to transfer the property to their son, who then served a quit claim deed on various state officials, including the governor and the archdiocese of Portland — and sent a copy to an agency in Sweden.

The sheriff’s office said it worked with local service providers to get resources available such as shelters, bus passes, food, water, clothing, blankets and hand warmers prior to the Dec. 8 eviction. After they secured the property, it was turned over to the property owner who then hired contractors to remove items from the home and clear the property.

However, a large number of people returned to the property shortly after law enforcement left the area, Multnomah County Sheriff Reese said. They set up an encampment in the neighborhood by barricading streets using fencing, wood boards, pallets and personal items from neighbors’ homes.

Reese said law enforcement and community members have seen individuals at the encampment heavily armed, establishing blockades, producing incendiary devices, constructing spike strips using barbed wire and stockpiling shields, sticks and rocks.

He said the current “armed occupation” is in a residential neighborhood and is putting a couple of dozen homes and businesses in the area in immediate danger.

On Friday, Dec. 11, KOIN 6 News learned that the Kinney family at the center of the “Red House” protest owns a second home on the 2800 block of Northeast Eighth Avenue in Portland’s Irvington neighborhood.

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