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Portland eviction protest fueled by history of gentrification

Portland house occupation
Aerial view of home at center of occupation protest over Portland gentrification

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Protesters in Portland have barricaded streets in a neighborhood and set booby traps after police made arrests in a clash over gentrification and the eviction of a Black and Indigenous family from a home.

Several city blocks on Wednesday were closed off by blockades also laced with booby traps that included homemade spike strips and piles of rocks.

An eviction protest that's simmered since September exploded on Tuesday, when police made 12 arrests.

Mayor Ted Wheeler said Wednesday the city would not tolerate an “autonomous zone,” and his police chief threatened more action.

“Those at the barricade should put down their weapons, leave it behind and allow the neighborhood to return to peace and order,” Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Wednesday in a Twitter video. “Portland police will enforce the law and use force if necessary to restore order.”

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.

Julie Metcalf Kinney, the family matriarch, said her father-in-law bought the house in 1955 and she gave birth to both her sons there. Nearly all the Black families that lived in the neighborhood are now gone after a push to extend the city’s famed light-rail train north began in 1998, she said.

“My kids played ball here, they played hide-and-seek in the field,” she said. “I warned the city ... that they were displacing family after family after family ... I let them know what they were doing to this community — and then all of a sudden all the tactics were turned on my family.”

The occupation of the property began in September after a judge rejected the family’s request for an emergency stay.

But it gained steam and national attention Tuesday when officers responding to the new owner’s complaints conducted a dawn sweep and arrested about a dozen people.

The 124-year-old house is known as the Red House on Mississippi and was one of the few remaining Black-owned homes on North Mississippi Avenue.

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.

Over the past two decades, the area has rapidly gentrified — with brew pubs, coffee shops, bicycle shops and upscale condominium complexes replacing Black residences. The Kinneys’ former small red house is dwarfed by a modern apartment complex next door where one-bedroom apartments start at $1,200 a month.

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