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: