Portland Mayor Allows Activists to Occupy Neighborhood

by

Friday, January 1, 2021


For an entire week this December, activists barricaded and occupied several city blocks in a northeast Portland neighborhood. The occupation stemmed from the eviction of the Kinney family who had owned a single-family home, known as the “Red House,” for decades.

According to supporters of the family, in 2002, the Kinneys took out a loan against their home. In the years that followed, the family began to pay off the mortgage until 2017, when reports show they missed several payments.

Since the family was not making payments, their lenders attempted to foreclose on the Red House. William X. Nietzche, a member of the Kinney family, filed several lawsuits in response to the foreclosure. Nietzche’s explanation of his legal case involved spurious allegations about a government conspiracy.

It has been reported that Nietzche believes in the Moorish sovereign citizen doctrine. The theory stems from a fringe belief that Black Americans are indigenous to the American continent and have a collective claim to its land, which supposedly allows them to be unimpeded by United States law. Following the doctrine, Nietzche seemingly believes that his family is immune from having to make their mortgage payments.

Nevertheless, on September 9, the Kinney family was evicted.

Since the eviction, the Kinneys returned to Red House as squatters. Others joined them, setting up a camp on the property. In the three months that followed, the area around the property became a hazard. The Sheriff’s office reported receiving 81 calls related to the encampment around the Red House. 

According to a police press release, on the morning of December 8th, law enforcement attempted to clear the camp around the House and return the property to its new owner: a home remodeling company. However, further footage shows dozens of protestors hurling projectiles toward officers, forcing them to flee the area.

The demonstrators then raised several barricades, blocking traffic at intersections surrounding the Red House. The barricaded intersections effectively created an autonomous zone surrounding the house. Within the barricaded area, dozens of demonstrators were roaming about the neighborhood and huddling around campfires in the street. 

The activists occupying the neighborhood were hostile to outsiders. When a local news crew brought their cameras past the barricades, they were assaulted. The entire neighborhood was burdened by the occupation. Multiple small businesses were vandalized with graffiti, while neighbors became frustrated with the protestors, whose actions they deemed nonsensical.

The protestors had a different view. For them, the plight of the Kinney family was not a story of a man who became invested in an irrational ideology. Rather, they saw it as a case of systemic racism and predatory lending burdening a minority family. Through posts on social media, the public was called to join the occupation and prevent “land theft.” Portland activists answered the call.

Within a day, the barricaded area became a safety concern for local leaders. Police released images of what they believed was a stockpile of weapons near the Red House. In a statement, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell expressed concern about the protestors’ “threats to the community.” Chief Lovell asked demonstrators to end the occupation, threatening to “use force if necessary, to restore order to the neighborhood.” Mayor Ted Wheeler had a similar message for the occupation.

Although city leaders were talking tough, their ultimatum was inherently countered by the strength of the occupation. Portland Police certainly had enough might to clear the barricades and the encampment. The question was whether the Mayor had the political will to forcefully restore order. Considering the increasing public concern about police use of force, Wheeler chose not to confront the demonstrators. 

On December 11, Wheeler backpedaled, indicating that he was interested in negotiating to pursue an agreeable solution for both the Kinneys and the developers. By the 13th, Wheeler announced that the parties had reached an agreement. Wheeler and Lovell also apologized for their previous statements. Supporters of the Kinneys referred to the negotiations as “successful” and celebrated the Mayor’s concession.

Since the Mayor had capitulated to the demands of the demonstrators, the barricades came down. However, an encampment around the Red House remained. It is unclear how long the camp will endure and whether the activists who assaulted law enforcement officers and journalists will be held accountable. 

Since September, things had changed for the Kinney family. They have been rewarded for their resistance. $300,000 has been raised for the family and the developers are likely to sell the Red House back to the Kinneys. 

This is a story unique to this city. Only in Portland can a conspiracy theorist rally dozens of activists to hold a neighborhood hostage for a week and only in Portland will those activists earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for their workalong with the capitulation of city leadership.

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Ben Snead

Ben Snead lives in Portland, Oregon, and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Oregon.

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