The developer who bought the Red House in Portland which has been the focus of several days of protests this week has said he is actively looking for a solution and is even prepared to sell the home.
Roman Ozeruga, 33, purchased the home with Urban Housing Development LLC, and told Portland TV station KGW on Thursday that he is looking for a swift end to the crisis.
‘We appreciate the opportunity to listen to what people have to say,’ Ozeruga said. ‘We are very much open to listen to proposals that can de-escalate and prevent violence that would benefit the neighborhood & community.’
Barriers surround the Red House, whose residents are up for eviction. Protesters set up a barricade around
The developer who bought Portland ‘Red House’ at center of protests says he is ‘open to listening to proposals’ to end the conflict
Protesters have barricaded themselves in a property and laid booby traps for cops in Portland this week
Ozeruga told The Oregonian that he was ready to sell the home back to the family.
‘We are a small family business, we don’t seek to hurt anyone of course,’ he said.
‘We’re overwhelmed by the attention to this. We’ve already offered to sell back the property at cost because of course we’ve paid taxes, legal fees, bank fees, etc.’
Ozeruga said he fears for his own family’s well-being.
‘I myself am a father of little kids,’ he said. ‘I don’t have a publicity team or even a lawyer for this. I’m concerned for safety to be honest.’
The gentrification protest in Oregon’s largest city has blockaded several city blocks in Portland entered its third day on Thursday as demonstrators dressed in black and wearing ski masks shored up their makeshift barriers aimed at keeping police out for another night.
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the entry to the Red House on Mississippi Street
Activists and the Kinney family speak to the press about the city’s eviction of residents from the Red House
Roman Ozeruga, 33, bought the red house on North Mississippi Avenue in Portland through a foreclosure sale in 2018 for $260,000
The house had belonged to the Kinney family. Julie Kinney is pictured above. The Kinneys paid off their house but took out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers after a family member was arrested in 2002. The house went into foreclosure and was sold to a developer at a 2018 auction
The violence came after the removal of the Kinney family, who in 2002 were forced to take out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers for their son, William III, pictured
The fencing, lumber and other roadblocking material first went up on Tuesday after officers arrested about a dozen people in a clash over the eviction of a black and Indigenous family from a house.
The street behind the blockade in the neighborhood of homes, coffee shops and restaurants was laced with booby traps aimed at keeping officers out — including homemade spike strips, piles of rocks and thick bands of plastic wrap stretched at neck-height across the roadway.
It’s unclear exactly how many people were camped out at the site, and police have not said.
The standoff recalled more than four months of confrontations between police and protesters decrying racial injustice and police brutality that only stopped a few weeks ago.
Mayor Ted Wheeler said the city would not tolerate an ‘autonomous zone,’ a reference to a weeks-long protest in Seattle where protesters essentially took over a several-block area near downtown during racial injustice protests.
An overhead view of the house and the encampment that has now been set up around it
Protesters stand around a fire near the Red House on Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon, Wednesday night
‘Illegal trespassing, ignoring lawful orders from police, blocking sidewalks and streets, and intimidating neighbors inflame these crises and make them more difficult to solve,’ said Wheeler.
‘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.’
Jason Rantz told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Antifa activists had a ‘stockpile of weapons’.
Portland police chief Chuck Lovell also said there were ‘armed sentries’ keeping watch around the so-called Red House, condemning what he said were ‘attacks on journalists’ and ‘threats to kill officers’ written in graffiti.
‘I encourage those involved to reach out to our demonstration liaisons so we can discuss a peaceful outcome,’ said Lovell, who was appointed the city’s fourth black police chief amid the earlier protests in June.
An aerial view shows the area and road around the home cordoned off, graffiti scrawled on the road and tents pitched
Armed protesters have set up a new ‘autonomous zone’ in Portland to protest the eviction of a black family
‘Those present at the barricade should leave it behind, put down your weapons and allow the neighborhood to return to peace and order.’
Supporters of the Kinney family, the black and indigenous family that faced foreclosure, have said the home was unjustly taken through predatory lending practices that target people of color.
The property sold at auction for $260,000 in 2018, the family said, while private land next door is valued at more than $10 million. The small, maroon-painted property is known as the Red House on Mississippi for its location on North Mississippi Avenue.
On Thursday, the family’s supporters said in a statement that Wheeler’s office had reached out to the Kinney family late Wednesday and promised to ‘keep it Kinney’ in an initial conversation.
The statement implored the mayor to ‘call off’ the police and sheriff’s deputies who secured the home and made arrests on Tuesday.
Crime has spiked in the Portland neighborhood where armed activists have set up an ‘autonomous zone’ protected by booby-traps to protest the eviction of a black family
Plastic wrap was stretched across the street in order to create barriers around the house
‘We look forward to continuing that conversation as we move more towards our goal of securing the Red House for the Kinney family and their generations to come,’ the family’s statement said.
Wheeler’s office said in a statement that the city was ‘actively working across bureaus and with partners’ to resolve the standoff, but did not confirm having had contact with the family.
The house that the family was evicted from lies 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.
And the 124-year-old home was one of the few remaining black-owned residences in an area that has rapidly gentrified in the past 20 years.
The family bought the home outright for cash in 1955, but took out a loan against it in 2002 when a 17-year-old son was arrested on felony charges after a car crash. The family has said the loan had a ballooning interest rate, and they refinanced again to attempt to keep up with payments.
Anyone who can is being told to avoid the area as Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators on Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’
Masked protesters by an occupied home speak with a neighborhood resident opposed to their encampment
A bank finally foreclosed on the property in 2018, but the Kinneys refused to leave. The developer who bought the house at auction filed a lawsuit, and the Kinneys counter-sued, alleging they had been the victims of predatory loan practices.
They most recently requested an emergency court order to allow them to stay in the home, citing an eviction moratorium put in place in Oregon during the pandemic.
But the moratorium only applies to homeowners suffering pandemic-related financial woes, and a judge rejected the request in September.
Protesters then started camping out on the property. The occupation gained steam and national attention this week when officers responding to the new owner’s complaints conducted their dawn sweep and made about a dozen arrests, mostly on trespassing charges.
Between September 1 and November 30, there have been 81 calls to the property for fights, gunshots, burglary, vandalism and noise complaints, among other things, police have said.
Neighbors have complained that the sidewalks were blocked and they could not get to their homes, police said.
Along the railings, banners read ‘stop the eviction’ and ‘evictions hurt everyone’
Occupiers reinforce the barricades with corrugated iron, tires and chipboard Wednesday following clashes with ;police Tuesday
Protesters stand behind barricades at their encampment outside the home as they protest the eviction of the Kinney family
During the summer, Portland was one of the longest-running flashpoints in the racial injustice protests which erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
Cops repeatedly clashed with demonstrators outside the federal courthouse and police buildings, with 27 riots declared in the space of four months.
Some protesters threw bricks, rocks and other projectiles at officers, with police responding by firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds.
Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested, and Trump sparked anger by dispatching federal agents to the city in a bid to quell the violence.
The federal troops were withdrawn in late July but Trump subsequently warned that ‘we will go in and do it for them’ if city authorities do not subdue the protests.
Demonstrations and riots have been common sights throughout the second half of 2020
A demonstrator waves a U.S. flags in front of federal agents after tear gas is deployed during a riot in Portland in July
Portland has been the epicenter of protests in 2020 with at least 200 nights of demonstrations, 30 nights of rioting and around 1,000 arrests. (File photo from July)