Remember Alicia Jackson, the woman who—with the help of Occupy offshoot, Portland Liberation Organizing Council (PLOC)—reclaimed her foreclosed house in North Portland? She's still holding down the fort in a semi-functional home—for now. PLOC volunteers have committed themselves to being her support net, ready to attack if the bank steps in to take back her home or the police try to arrest her for occupying property that is no longer hers.
The most recent battle PLOC and Jackson took on involved the city's Water Bureau. On Thursday, the group rallied outside its downtown headquarters, insisting that the bureau turned Jackson's water back on. To set things straight, City Commissioner Randy Leonard, bureau head, came down to talk to the group face-to-face.
Leonard says he explained to the group that, according to city code, he could not turn the water back on at the house unless the person on record who owns the property requested so. "So I contacted the owner, who isn't Mrs. Jackson, and they prohibited me from doing so," says Leonard, adding that the owner said they had intentions to evict and arrest Jackson if she continued to stay.
"Randy Leonard would not cooperate with us," says PLOC's Taran Connelly. "He's only concerned about the banks. We wanted to give the city a chance to do something right, and they missed it."
Leonard said his meeting with the group was "unpleasant" due to the "confrontational and crude" nature of the crowd. He says he is personally concerned for Johnson's well-being and offered her a card, telling the woman to call him if she wanted to be placed in temporary housing through the city's Housing Bureau. "The whole scenario troubled me. I felt that they were using Mrs. Jackson as a pawn in their protest. While they get to go home after their rallies, she has to go back to this house she's unsafe in."
Connelly says that for now, Jackson is getting water from her neighbors, and that the group has no intentions of pursuing the issue further. As for the future? "In two weeks, we will go public with another person reclaiming their home. This is just the start," says Connelly.
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