Activists’ occupation of a blocks-long stretch of North Portland continued for the fourth day Friday morning, enduring in the wake of news that the owner of the house at the center of the controversy has offered to sell the property.

The real estate investor who bought the “Red House on Mississippi” for $260,000 through a foreclosure sale in 2018 has offered to sell the property back to the former owners — a Black and Indigenous family who had lived there for decades — at cost.

An online crowdfunding effort has raised nearly that sum, surpassing its $250,000 goal. Some 5,000 people have donated to the GoFundMe, titled “Save The Kinney Family Home.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, meanwhile, has said that he hopes to negotiate a settlement to end the demonstrations at the site, which protesters have occupied since the summer in an attempt to block efforts to remove the Kinney family.

The occupation ramped up Tuesday after Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies and Portland police officers arrived to “re-secure” the home for its owner.

But police, hoping to avoid further inflaming the situation, left the scene quickly after intense clashes with protesters. That gave activists the opportunity to take over the house and surrounding area.

Now the occupation zone is nearly three blocks long.

Activists have stacked wooden boards, corrugated metal sheets, nail-studded spike strips, tires, fences and accumulated an arsenal ranging from glass bottles to rocks in the tightly-packed residential neighborhood.

Law enforcement officers have not intervened since officers left Tuesday. And experts say a peaceful resolution demands intense negotiations between the city, the new owner of the house and the family, with help from any community leaders who might hold sway.

City officials have been in talks with the Kinney family who used to own the house, as well as the new owner who has offered to sell the house back at cost and the separate owner of adjacent land.

“To try to have a negotiated settlement is critically important,” said Frank Straub, a former Spokane police chief and now director of the National Police Foundation’s Center for Mass Violence Response Studies. “But they also have to recognize that the situation over time becomes dangerous from a public health and public safety aspect.”

If a resolution is reached, the family must urge the activists to leave, Straub and others said.

If a resolution isn’t forthcoming, city officials must speak publicly about what they’ve done to try to end the conflict and explain the need to clear the unlawful blockade of public streets, the outside experts said.

In the event police are told to remove the blockade, they may seek an element of surprise to minimize the potential confrontation.

Experts said what’s occurred on the avenue is not a crowd control matter, but is a barricaded occupation, which could activate Portland’s Special Emergency Reaction Team.

They likely would issue dispersal orders and possibly carve out an exit path allowing people to leave safely, the observers said.

If others refuse to leave, then police could start a coordinated attempt to remove barricades, and tactical officers, seeking protection behind heavy vehicles, could move up and “slowly, surgically … dissemble the blockade,” Straub said.

— Jeff Manning, Maxine Bernstein and Jim Ryan


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