Portland’s ‘autonomous zone’ protesters are ‘there for the long haul’ and equipped with weapons, armed guards and even a kitchen, a radio host claims, after they barricaded themselves in a property and set booby traps for cops in a racially-charged eviction row.
Jason Rantz told Fox News host Tucker Carlson that Antifa activists had a ‘stockpile of weapons’ after confronting police and occupying a house where a black and indigenous family was evicted earlier this year.
Portland police chief Chuck Lovell 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.
On Tuesday, officers swooped on the 124-year-old house and arrested around a dozen people, but were met by protesters who barricaded several city blocks and set up homemade spike strips to deter the cops.
It marked the biggest flashpoint in an eviction protest which has been running since September, in a city which was plagued by months of violence during the summer race protests, and where Mayor Ted Wheeler has vowed to stop protesters from securing a new ‘autonomous zone’.
‘They’ve got a stockpile of weapons, they’ve got armed guards, they’ve got a kitchen ready so they’re there for the long haul as the Portland police department are trying to figure out what exactly they’re going to do,’ said Rantz, a Seattle-based, Trump-supporting KTTH radio presenter.
He added that police were ‘amplifying the urgency of the messaging, saying you guys do have to leave peacefully, we’re not going to put up with this, so we could potentially see action from the police in the next 24 hours’.
Protesters stand around a fire near the Red House on Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon, Wednesday night
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
Several city blocks were still closed off Wednesday by blockades fabricated with wood, metal and wire fencing. Protesters dressed in black and wearing ski masks stood watch from atop a nearby wall.
The street behind the blockadewas laced with booby traps aimed at keeping officers out, including spikes piles of rocks and thick bands of plastic wrap stretched at neck-height across the roadway.
Police chief Lovell on Wednesday called for a ‘peaceful and safe resolution’ to the ‘occupation of public space’ on Mississippi Avenue, but said his officers were ‘greatly concerned’ about the armed protesters.
‘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.
‘Those present at the barricade should leave it behind, put down your weapons and allow the neighborhood to peace and order.’
The summer protests had angered President Donald Trump, who sent federal agents to protect a US courthouse in the city which was targeted by demonstrators.
Mayor Wheeler has vowed that ‘there will be no autonomous zone in Portland’, evoking the ‘Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone’ which sprang up in Seattle over the summer.
‘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.’
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the North entry to the Red House on Wednesday night as people occupy the area
Layers of chainlink fence and wood block the entry to the Red House on Mississippi Street
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
Occupiers have been stockpiling weapons and ‘threats’ have been made to community members, the media and police in the zone taken over by demonstrators outside the property, dubbed the Red House on the Mississippi, police said Wednesday
The house is in a historically black part of Portland, which was long one of the few areas where black residents could own homes because of racist zoning laws. But it has rapidly gentrified in the last two decades.
The clash comes amid a tense debate in Oregon about whether state lawmakers should extend a pandemic-era moratorium on evictions which is set to expire within weeks.
Federal rental protections are also set to expire on December 31, and housing advocates are worried that an end to those policies could lead to a huge wave of the newly homeless.
The house in question went into foreclosure before the pandemic – meaning it is not covered by the moratorium – and was sold to a developer at a 2018 auction.
Supporters of the Kinney family, the black and indigenous family facing eviction, say the home was unjustly taken through predatory lending practices that target people of color.
According to a history posted online by the group protesting the eviction, the property was initially purchased in full with cash.
But the Kinneys took out a new mortgage to pay defense lawyers after a 17-year-old son was arrested in 2002 after a traffic crash. He pleaded guilty to assault in a plea deal, according to court records.
Activists and the Kinney family speak about the attempted eviction outside the Red House Wednesday
Anyone who can is being told to avoid the area as Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’
Protesters stand behind barricades at their encampment outside the home as they protest the eviction of the Kinney family
Occupiers reinforce the barricades with corrugated iron, tires and chipboard Wednesday following clashes with ;police Tuesday
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, family matriarch Julie Metcalf Kinney said.
The occupation of the property began in September after a judge rejected the family’s request for an emergency stay of eviction at the house they have owned since the 1950s.
Police say that between September 1 and November 30, there were 81 calls to the property for fights, gunshots, burglary, vandalism and noise complaints, among other things.
There were also complaints about thefts, trespassing, threats and illegally blocking traffic, sidewalks and access to homes, police said.
After weeks of tensions, the protest 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.
One of the people at the property had a gun and was taken into custody and officers also found more firearms on the property, a statement said.
A resident stands on their porch on the far side of the barricade as police say neighbors are ‘suffering’
Masked protesters by an occupied home speak with a neighborhood resident opposed to their encampment
Along the railings, banners read ‘stop the eviction’ and ‘evictions hurt everyone’
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.
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
Protesters who have camped for months to prevent a Black and Indigenous family from being forced to leave a home took the property back on Tuesday after morning clashes with police
Protesters who have camped for months to prevent a black and indigenous family from being forced to leave their longtime North Mississippi Avenue home took the property back Tuesday
Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell issued a plea to demonstrators Wednesday to ‘put down your weapons’ and warned officers will use force if necessary
The Red House on the Mississippi group say the family, pictured, were evicted from their home at gunpoint three months ago