Portland: Status of Woodlawn duplex social center

From LiberatePDX. Aug 6:

Newly founded community center targeted by police

Community members respond with overwhelming support for the center

Contact: Lobo, (925)609-4815

Portland, OR – Sunday night, August 5th, at approximately 11pm, six officers from the Portland Police forced their way into a newly created community center inside of a duplex owned by Alicia Jackson, and arrested one person inside. The duplex was reclaimed earlier in the day by approximately 250 people from the surrounding community during a neighborhood block party. The duplex was built on land that belongs to Ms. Jackson, which had been illegally foreclosed on by the banks in 2011.

“The neighbors have shown that they support this community center and are opposed to this duplex contributing to the gentrification of this neighborhood. The police came in tonight protecting the banks and the developers that are selling out our community and profiting out of the pockets of working people,” says Alicia Jackson. “Developers should not be allowed to profit from stolen land.”

Ms. Jackson had self-evicted from her home, adjacent to the duplex, in late 2011 after a long period of intimidation from the banks and financial institutions. After her illegal foreclosure, the bank sold her home and land, which was then divided and sold to a developer who then built the duplex. The community reclaimed Ms. Jackson’s home on May 1st, 2012. She has been living in the home with the support of her neighbors since then. Ms. Jackson is a member of the Black Working Group and has been organizing with her neighbors to stop the gentrification in NE Portland. The Black Working Group and Blazing Arrow Organization supported Annette Steele in defending her home against eviction on Friday, July 27th.

During the day on Sunday, August 5th, Alicia Jackson hosted a block party on her street in NE Portland where the community and neighbors helped to reclaim and liberate the duplex built on her land. The duplex was intended by the neighbors to be transformed into a community center for people, specifically youth of color, that would house an edible food garden, community fitness center, and meeting space for organizing against gentrification and violence in the neighborhood. These home and community center liberations are part of a broader movement to fight foreclosure and defend the historic people of color communities in north and northeast Portland. The duplex had not been inhabited since construction.

When the police arrived and forced their way into the duplex, a network of community support was activated and within the hour approximately 100 people came out to the homes to offer defense, witness, and assistance to the people living in those homes.

The police arrested one person who was a part of the liberation of that space earlier in the day and is a part of the Blazing Arrow Organization. The police went through the house with a police dog and a forensics unit, and left the homes at approximately 1:40am on Monday morning. The press release written by PPB at the time of arrest contains false information, including a false photo of the person arrested.

To get updates about urgent community support needs for foreclosed homes and evictions, join the rapid response network by texting @ploc-openrrn to 23359.

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Portland Mercury. Aug. 6:

Police Squelch Plans to “Liberate” NE Portland Property

Anti-foreclosure activists report that Portland police made at least one arrest late tonight after a group attempted to “liberate” an empty NE Portland duplex for use as a community space.

Supporters of the Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC) met today for a party and direct action at the Woodlawn home of Alicia Jackson. The group and Jackson are celebrating three months since Jackson moved back into her foreclosed home on May Day. Jackson’s double-wide property fell into foreclosure last year and was bought by investment group Fox Capital. The company kept Jackson’s home empty, but built a new duplex on the lot, which Jackson’s supporters say was also empty for months. After the apparent success of moving Jackson back into her house on May Day, the Occupy-offshoot PLOC returned this afternoon and somehow gained access to the empty duplex.

PLOC organizer Taran Connelly says the group planned to use the duplex for community meetings and were hoping to plant a community garden in its backyard. According to Connelly, about six people were in the house at 11:30 tonight when police arrived and came into the house, making one arrest. Currently, there are several police cars at the site and there has been a call-out for Occupy activists to come to the scene.

Connelly isn’t sure what the group will do next, but says it’s too soon to give up on the empty-space-conversion plan. “This is the bank making their second move,” says Connelly. “What we’re going to do is work in the community to assert our right to use community space.”

Updates as I have them!

Update 12:50am: The group has also put out a statement on the action tonight.

Update 8:45am: The police just sent out their press release on this. It bears the headline, “Police arrest man squatting in residence.”

The owner of the property told police that he arrived to find signs of a burglary and believed people may still be inside.The house immediately west of the duplex is associated with squatters from the Occupy Portland movement, evidenced by the signs in the front yard and large group of Occupiers standing in the front yard.

As officers approached the duplex they observed a large banner (approximately 15′) hanging in from the front porch of the duplex which read, “Together we are unevictable.”

Officers discovered that the lockbox had been removed from the front door and another lockbox had been removed from the gas meter. Officers looking through the front door could clearly see that furniture had been moved and there was a grocery bag on the kitchen floor.

Officers and the homeowner entered the backyard to find that all the fencing between the duplex and the house to the west (Occupy Portland) had been removed and was piled up in the backyard of the residence being squatted in by Occupy Portland supporters.

The homeowner was able to allow police entry to the duplex after breaching a window. Once inside officers arrested 24-year-old Derek John Charles Zika, who was crouched down by the front door. Zika had personal belongings in an upstairs bedroom and it appeared he had just taken a shower in the upstairs bathroom. The grocery bag in the kitchen contained 2 new sets of door locks that did not belong to the homeowner.

Zika was arrested and charged with Burglary in the First Degree and Criminal Trespass in the First Degree.

I guess you could also spin it this way:

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