Portland, OR – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler apologized to the sovereign citizens who have refused to leave the foreclosed home that protesters have turned into an “autonomous zone,” and agreed not to force them out of the residence while the city continues to work a tentative deal with them.
Protesters have been camping in the yard of a home in the 4400-block of North Mississippi Avenue in North Portland since September to try to keep the new owners of the property from taking possession of it, The Oregonian reported.
The residence, known as the “Red House on Mississippi,” was formerly owned by William Kinney, who is black, and his wife, Julie Metcalf Kinney, who is Native American, for over 23 years, according to The Oregonian.
They lost it to foreclosure over two years ago after they refused to pay the mortgage for nearly 18 months.
Julie Metcalf Kinney’s son, William Kinney – also known as William Nietzche – claimed multiple attorneys refused to work with his family, so he ended up representing them himself, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
According to court documents, William Kinney repeatedly wrote letters to the loan officer arguing that he is a sovereign citizen who rejects the authority of the U.S. government, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
He declared that he is an “Indigenous” man who is a “remnant of the divine individuals,” according to The Oregonian.
The career criminal further asserted the courts have no jurisdiction over him or his family because the law does not apply to them, The Oregonian reported.
According to multiple news outlets, the family’s home went into foreclosure due to a loan they took out against the residence to help pay legal expenses for William Kinney back in 2002, KPTV reported.
William Kinney was 17 years old in February of 2002, when he sped through a stop sign at approximately 60 miles per hour and slammed into another vehicle, killing 83-year-old Patrick Goetz.
Goetz’s wife was injured in the crash, as were two passengers in William Kinney’s vehicle, KPTV reported.
He was ultimately sentenced to 72 months in prison for manslaughter, but has racked up a slew of additional charges and at least one more prison stint in the decades that followed, according to The Oregonian.
The family blamed the nonpayment of their loan on the mortgage company, and claimed they were confused about changes in where their payments were supposed to be made, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The courts have not found any validity to the family’s claims of fraud and conspiracy, according to The Spokesman-Review.
The Kinneys also refused to participate in Oregon’s foreclosure avoidance program, which would have provided them with a mediator to help potentially find a way to let them keep their residence.
“If the homeowner doesn’t want to participate, they don’t have to, and the process ends,” Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Protection Attorney Kelly Harpster told The Spokesman-Review. “A certificate of compliance is then issued to the lender that they’ve met the statutory requirements and can move on … It’s like any mediation in the world, but at that point you have to be willing to engage in conversation.”
William Kinney sent multiple letters back and forth with the loan company, demanding that “all claims, petitions, suits, filings … regarding our ancestral estate be dismissed and expunged,” according to The Spokesman-Review.
The Kinney home was ultimately sold at auction on Oct. 23, 2018 for $260,000, but the family has refused to vacate for over two years.
They have also filed multiple federal and state lawsuits since the foreclosure, and have repeatedly lost, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting,
Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies served the eviction order in September that said the defendants were unlawfully occupying the premises, The Oregonian reported.
The sheriff’s department said it gave the Kinney family time to gather their things and offered several housing and shelter options.
“We understand evictions are challenging proceedings even in the best of circumstances,” Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese said in a statement. “I believe everyone should have access to appropriate housing.”
But protesters weren’t satisfied and set up a “24/7 eviction blockade” to keep the Kinneys in the home and law enforcement off the property, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
The Kinneys filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in November but in the meantime, deputies have to enforce the court’s order to evict the family who no longer own the home.
The Portland Police Bureau said its officers joined Multnomah County sheriff’s deputies at about 5 a.m. on Dec. 8 for a “property mission” to return private property and “re-secure a home in which the occupants were previously ordered removed by court order,” according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Officers were met by more than 100 protesters who smashed the windows of police cars and threw rocks at them.
Law enforcement retreated temporarily and protesters used that time to repurpose fencing and other construction supplies bought by the new owners for their own barricades.
They also created stack of rocks and other projectiles to have handy to throw at officers upon their return.
When the officers returned to remove the squatters, protesters threw rocks at them and one person sprayed a fire extinguisher at them, prompting an officer to deploy less-lethal munitions, The Oregonian reported.
Police appeared to have given up by 10:30 a.m. and demonstrators repurposed the new fence built by the new owners earlier in the day into a barricade to keep the authorities out.
“This was a devastating action that was taken,” Julie Metcalf Kinney told Oregon Public Broadcasting after the attempted eviction. “The sheriffs came in and devastated everything again. The tactics that are used to do this are beyond despicable.”
Michael Kinney touted the police retreat as a win.
“The community surrounded the land and the land was taken back,” he declared.
Portland police said they received more than 80 complaints from neighbors about the protesters camping in the yard between September and November, The Oregonian reported.
Officers have had to respond to the “Red House on Mississippi” for calls about fights, shots fired, noise complaints, and threats.
Wheeler released a series of tweets the night of Dec. 8, announcing that the new “autonomous zone” would not be permitted.
“I am authorizing the Portland Police to use all lawful means to end the illegal occupation on North Mississippi Avenue and to hold those violating our community’s laws accountable,” he declared. “There will be no autonomous zone in Portland.”
Wheeler noted that there must be “significant reform” to address the nation’s many “fundamentally racist” systems and structures, but said occupying private property is not an effective solution.
“Illegal trespassing, ignoring lawful orders from police, blocking sidewalks and streets, and intimidating neighbors inflame these crises and make them more difficult to solve,” he said. “That is what’s happening on North Mississippi Avenue right now.”
The mayor explained that the eviction was “a lawful judge’s order” resulting from a “lengthy, thorough judicial proceeding.”
“It’s time for the encampment and occupation to end,” he concluded. “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.”
According to Wheeler’s office, the city reached some sort of an agreement with the Kinneys and their supporters on Saturday, The Oregonian reported.
“The mayor has promised the Kinney family that they will not raid Red House as long as the barricades are taken down by Monday night,” Red House on Mississippi tweeted on Sunday afternoon.
Our work is not going unseen! The mayor has promised the Kinney family that they will not raid Red House as long as the barricades are taken down by Monday night. pic.twitter.com/12FmRdT0Bz
— Red House On Mississippi (@RHonMississippi) December 13, 2020
The mayor and Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Chief Chuck Lovell sent a letter to the family apologizing for the statements they had made earlier in the week, and said those statements had resulted in the Kinneys being subjected to threats.
“We apologize and understand that following our tweets earlier this week that your family received threats,” the document read, according to The Oregonian. “We did not intend to attract attention that results in threats of harm and violence to your family or that escalated tensions in our community.”
“Nobody should be subjected to this kind of stress and harm, and we apologize for the role our tweets played in this,” they wrote.
Wheeler and Chief Lovell further noted that the city will help support the family in finding legal representation and temporary housing, but they did not specify how the illegal occupation will be handled moving forward.
“I maintain measured optimism that we can accomplish this step and move toward the next steps to advance the safety and well-being of the family and the safety of the neighborhood,” Wheeler said in a statement to The Oregonian.
The protesters started dismantling the blockade around the Red House on Sunday.
Protester Mac Smiff said the fact they had gotten city leaders to back off the eviction was a “win,” The Oregonian reported.
“This is a whole new level of progress and the impacts are going to reverberate around the nation,” Smiff told the paper. “This isn’t like what we’ve seen before. It’s a negotiation and a win, and that’s something we’re just not used to.”
Donors have contributed over $308,000 to the Kinneys’ GoFundMe, which had an initial goal of $250,000.