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Friday, July 13, 2012

Housing Activists Fear Imminent Police Raid

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Jul 13, 2012 at 5:40 PM

It's been a couple of days since Seattle SWAT officers busted into an apartment in the wee hours in search of "paperwork—anarchists," and less than a day since riot cops in Los Angeles surged against a group of sidewalk-chalking protesters, and worry is pretty high in Portland right now (at least according to a cursory survey of social media) that something similar is about to happen.

Which leads to this. I just received a worrisome press release from the well-organized group of housing-justice activists who helped, on May Day, to return a woman to her foreclosed home. They say they got word, from someone who overheard officers talking outside an Occupy trial this week, that one of their members had been mentioned as the target of a raid. The information is fairly specific, including the name of an officer, which caught my attention.

On Tuesday, July 10, housing justice organizers working in NE Portland received information that the Portland Police Bureau is planning a raid targeting Dirk Zizka, an organizer with the Blazing Arrow Organization (BAO) and We Are Oregon. This information was received from a person who overheard a conversation between PPB Officer Susan L. Billard and another officer at the Multnomah County Courthouse, earlier that same day.

Dirk and other BAO members have been active housing justice organizers in Portland since October. We are all core organizers of the community reclamation of Alicia Jackson’s home on beginning on May 1st. The PPB has named Dirk as their target, however this is an attempt to destablize the ongoing defense of Alicia Jackson's home, and attack the growing movement in these neighborhoods for economic justice and human dignity. This is not the first instance of repression against members of BAO. On March 17, in the weeks leading up to the May 1 home reclamation, Ahjamu Umi was detained and harassed by three unidentified, armed men wearing suits.

Furthermore, this is emblematic of coordinated police violence against poor, working class, and people of color in North and NE Portland, where the BAO is based. There are more than 200 arrests per month on N Killingsworth St between N Interstate and NE MLK alone.

It is apparent that this police attention is in response to effective organizing for community control over housing and resources, and is part of an escalating trend of repression against an emerging grassroots movement for economic justice. Only two days before we received word of these plans, organizers in the Seattle Red Spark Collective were targeted by an early morning SWAT team raid. Seattle police smashed in the door to their apartment, before throwing in a concussion grenade and detaining Red Spark members at gunpoint while they confiscated political literature.

"The BAO will continue to organize in the face of this repression. We’ve demonstrated our effectiveness through our work with Alicia Jackson to reclaim her home, and will continue to unite with our neighbors to defend our communities from eviction, displacement, and police violence. We are working class, queer, and people of color, committed to creating a society that both meets our basic needs and respects our human dignity. We are prepared to defend ourselves and the work we are doing, and invite others to stand with us."

I asked the Portland Police Bureau for comment. And this reply came back from Sergeant Pete Simpson, a bureau spokesman:

[I have] no idea what they are talking about here and even if I did, we would never share information about an ongoing investigation, upcoming search warrants, etc. I have never heard of this guy or organization.

Of course, it's a big police bureau. So we'll see.

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