Protest pushes city to retreat

October 29, 2012

Jamie Partridge reports on Alicia Jackson's struggle to remain in her Portland home.

FOLLOWING A rally of over 100 supporters on her front lawn, the city of Portland has backtracked on its order for Alicia Jackson to leave her home.

According to journalist Alejandro Juarez, Jackson was a target of "a predatory loan, and her home was foreclosed upon in a proceeding that relied on the Mortgage Electronic Registration System, whose legality in Oregon is under question."

Jackson moved back into her foreclosed home May 1, with the assistance of 500 Occupy Portland supporters, but the city has refused to turn her water on.

The Water Bureau was expected to board up Jackson's home on October 25, claiming that by living without water service, she was in violation of the city's health and sanitation codes. Supporters set up tents in her front and back yard. Facing a mobilized community, the city changed its order.

A "vacate" order is different from an eviction, said Mike Liefeld, manager of Neighborhood Inspections and Compliance Services. Jackson's case will take a few weeks to resolve, he said.

Protesters camped in front of Alicia Jackson's home
Protesters camped in front of Alicia Jackson's home (Jamie Partridge | SW)

Jackson will be given notice that the city can force her to leave her property before a warrant can move through the court and be signed. After that, the city will have to coordinate the schedules of a contractor to board up the property, a locksmith and Portland police, Liefield said.

DESPITE REPEATED rallies at City Hall, demonstrations at the Water Bureau, and phone-ins to city commissioners, authorities have taken the side of a developer, Fox Capital, which doesn't want to turn the water on. Jackson is in the process of contesting the legality of her foreclosure, and the city's position is that Fox Capital is the owner of the home.

According to Juarez, however, "City code also defines 'owner' to include persons with an equitable interest in a property. The city could recognize Alicia's claim in the dispute as sufficient to justify remedying the lack of water and preventing the house becoming a blight property."

As Wesley Bucholz, a Water Bureau worker and officer of the municipal union Laborers 483, told the crowd at the early morning rally: "The city turns on water all the time for renters and others who do not have their name on the title."

"We feel it would be better to have someone in this house than have it vacant and boarded up, but the city's answer is to have the house empty," said Ahjamu Umi, of Occupy NE, the Black Working Group.

"I am one of the last African American homeowners living in this neighborhood," said Jackson. "We have to stop the home-poaching and gentrification."

As Rev. Cecil Prescod said, "To refuse Ms. Jackson's service, the city is taking sides with the banks. This is a deeply moral issue to all those who believe we are called to be our sister's keeper, and our brother's keeper. We must take a stand house by house, homeowner by homeowner, and say 'No more!'"

Portland's foreclosure opposition movement continues to grow, with nearly a dozen homeowners facing eviction refusing to move and going public with substantial neighborhood support in the form of delegations, rallies and marches, banners and yard signs.

Thus far, the banks, county sheriff and city police have been unwilling or unable to remove the resisters.

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