Portland police have called for a peaceful resolution of the occupation of a public space in the city and expressed alarm that people involved in establishing the new autonomous zone have fortified barricades, stockpiled weapons, and posted armed guards.
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said in a Dec. 9 statement: “We are greatly concerned about the fortification of barricades, stockpiling of weapons, armed sentries, attacks on journalists, and threats to kill officers in graffiti in this public space.
“Our goal is for this to resolve peacefully to increase safety for all involved.”
Lovell called on the individuals involved in the occupation to reach out to officers to “discuss a peaceful outcome.”
A group of people blocked a section of North Mississippi Avenue between North Skidmore Street and North Prescott Street on the morning of Dec. 8, after which they set up additional barricades and fortifications, police said.
The police said in an earlier statement that as law enforcement officers stood on the perimeter of the barricade, people threw rocks and paint-filled balloons at them.
Some of those involved in the occupation have committed assault in the area, and the barricades threaten the community by blocking traffic and transit, impeding emergency vehicle and paramedic access to people in need, the police said, adding that the actions of those responsible for the disruption suggest an intent to harm the community.
“Residents cannot move freely to and from their own homes,” the police stated.
A group of activists for months has camped at a home, dubbed “Red House on Mississippi” because it is on North Mississippi Avenue, allegedly out of outrage at the eviction of a black and Indigenous family in September.
Police said authorities between September and November received at least 81 calls about the property, including reports of fights, shots fired, burglary, thefts, vandalism, noise violations, trespassing, and threats, as well as reports that occupiers illegally blocked traffic, sidewalks, and access to homes.
On Dec. 8, occupiers of the home hurled rocks at officers, sprayed a fire extinguisher at them, and damaged police vehicles.
The violence happened in broad daylight, and by evening, Mayor Ted Wheeler had sent out a statement saying he was authorizing the Portland police “to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation.”
“It’s time for the encampment and occupation to end,” Wheeler said. “There are many ways to protest and work toward needed reform. Illegally occupying private property, openly carrying weapons, threatening and intimidating people are not among them.”
Portland has been the site of frequent nighttime protests and riots, many involving violent clashes between officers and demonstrators, since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. But daytime protests are comparatively rare.
Some demonstrators have been rallying around the home of the Kinney family, who lost the house they owned for 65 years after it was sold on an auction as a nonjudicial foreclosure in October 2018 and they were denied their right to buy it back, according to a fundraiser page set up in support of the family.
Police said that when they sought to disperse people from the property on Dec. 8, some individuals began throwing objects at police vehicles and officers, broke police vehicle windows, and flattened tires on two police cars.
At least six people were arrested in connection with the incident, police said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.