Occupy activists go to bat for woman

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PORTLAND (AP) — Activists gathered in northeast Portland Thursday to prevent the city from removing a woman from the foreclosed home she has been occupying for six months.

Alicia Jackson, 45, lost the house to foreclosure last year after she stopped making payments. With help from Occupy Portland, she returned during a May Day protest.

The city plans to remove her because the house lacks water service and is unfit for habitation.

Jackson has offered to pay the overdue bill, but the city won’t take her money because she doesn’t own the building. Portland Water Bureau administrator David Shaff said the company that owns it, Fox Capital, doesn’t want water service restored.

Jackson, a flagger for a road construction crew, said she has been showering at her father’s place. A portable bathroom was installed at the edge of the front yard on May Day and supporters bring drinking water to the house. “I don’t plan to move. That’ why all these people are here, to support me,” Jackson said, referring to the 100 or so activists in her yard. “And this not about me. This is about community.”

Campers have turned her front yard into a mini-Occupy Portland site. Tents have been pitched in front yard and signs adorning the house read: “No More Empty Homes” and “Turn The Water On.” Activists rallied and later debated ways to achieve their citywide goal of moving people into vacant homes.

“Banks should not be able to come in steal your house,” said Stacey Phillips. “These people are criminals; they need to be incarcerated and removed from society. And ill-gotten gains they have achieved need to be forfeited directly to the people who are affected.”

Fox Capital officials could not be reached for comment. A lawyer for the company told KGW-TV he could not comment on the matter.

The city, following a hearing last month, had the right to vacate the property for health reasons as early as Thursday.

Mike Liefeld, manager of the city’s Neighborhood Inspections & Compliance Services Section, said action likely won’t be taken until next week. Jackson, he said, will be given advance notice so she can make other living arrangements.

“Our goal is to try to get people out of there peaceably and make sure they have time to remove their belongings,” he said.

Ahjamu Umi, who helped organize the effort to put Jackson in the home, said the activists on hand plus reinforcements from a “rapid response network” will defend the house when city officials arrive.

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