protester portland
© Reuters / Lucy NicholsonFILE PHOTO.
Activists in Portland forced armor-clad riot police to withdraw during a heated protest to halt a home eviction, seeing an ongoing foreclosure dispute erupt into clashes as demonstrators reinforced the property with barricades.

As Multnomah County sheriff's deputies and Portland police attempted to execute an eviction early on Tuesday morning, officers were met by a crowd of some 100 protesters, seeing a tense standoff and ultimately scuffles as they moved to "re-secure" the home.

Local reporters on the scene captured the ensuing confrontation, in which activists were seen shouting down a line of riot police, some unleashing fire extinguishers on officers as the tension gave way to clashes.

Throughout the day, protesters erected makeshift barricades around the foreclosure site - dubbed the "Red House" by local activists - using fences, wooden pallets and other debris to bar entry to police vehicles. Portland Tribune reporter Zane Sparling described the area as the city's newest "autonomous zone," mirroring similar encampments set up in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and several other cities over the summer.

At several points during the eviction attempt, police were made to retreat under pressure from an angry crowd of protesters. While they returned at least once, they were ultimately forced off the site with "tires deflated" and "windows smashed," according to freelance photographer Alex Milan Tracy, who documented the clashes. While Tracy said it appears the eviction was held off for now, demonstrators were seen stacking rocks into piles, presumably in preparation for further scuffles with police.

The Multnomah sheriff's office said officers made "several arrests" at the Red House and "recovered weapons," adding in a statement that the home's occupants "were previously ordered removed by court order." The statement also noted that police were responding to complaints from neighbors regarding "significant livability, public safety and public health concerns" at the property.

Though federal and statewide eviction moratoriums were passed earlier this year amid the coronavirus outbreak and remain in effect, the Red House does not qualify for the exemptions, as they "do not apply to evictions based on post-nonjudicial foreclosures," the sheriff's office said. Nonjudicial foreclosures typically occur when a mortgage agreement contains a "power of sale" clause, allowing a lender to repossess a property without taking the borrower to court.

The Red House has been a focal point for housing activists since a county judge authorized the eviction of its occupants, the Kinney family, in September. Aiming to ward off repossession of the home, protesters have established a "24/7 eviction blockade," some camping on the property for months on end. A legal battle over the home rages on, with the Kinney family filing a petition with the US Supreme Court in November. The home's legal owner, Urban Housing Development, has until December 23 to respond, according to court records.