Gonzalez condemns domestic terrorism at campsite

City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez and District Attorney Mike Schmidt have condemned an alleged politically-motivated arson attack on a planned RV campsite for homeless people at 10505 N. Portland Rd. near the Columbia Slough. The site is intended to house up to 200 people in RVs and tents. According to Gonzalez the arson has “all the markings of domestic terrorism.”

Burned heavy equipment at St. Johns RV site
Burned heavy equipment at St. Johns RV site
Heavy equip damaged by two arsonists at RV campsite in St. Johns
Heavy equip damaged by two arsonists at RV campsite in St. Johns

The Portland Police Bureau reported that on Jan. 7, two arsonists set fire to city-owned heavy equipment that were clearing the site. They said the fire caused thousands of dollars in damages to a forklift, bulldozer and excavator. Portland Fire & Rescue and Police are investigating the incident.

An anonymous post on the self-described anarchist website, Rose City Counter-Info, claimed, “We burned bulldozers and excavators being used to build another Urban Alchemy site in North Portland…” The post accused the city of “pushing the most visible poor out of sight” and concluded, “We answer with fire.” Another post on the same website claimed responsibility for setting fire to a family car outside Gonzalez’s home on Jan. 12. In response, County DA Schmidt proclaimed that, “Acts of political violence and acts of political vandalism are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” 

Arsonist photographed at RV campsite in St. Johns
Arsonist on video at RV campsite in St. Johns.

Cody Bowman, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s communications director, said that the arson won’t deter the project. The city had intended to begin initial onboarding of camp residents at the end of March. Hank Smith, the mayor’s Policy and Communications lead, plans to initiate a Good Neighbor Agreement (GNA) process with the St. Johns Neighborhood Association in order to build a relationship with neighbors for exchanging important information. He also hopes the GNA advisory group can allocate funds for livability improvements. 

Anyone with information about the arson is asked to contact Detective Meredith Hopper at meredith.hopper@police.portlandoregon.gov.