Standoff at 24th and Spring in eviction of longtime Central District activist

A longtime Central District resident whose activism for Black rights has often put him at odds with law enforcement and the legal system sparked a protest and a standoff Wednesday morning at 24th and Spring as the King County Sheriff, Seattle Police, and a work crew arrived to evict him and his UMOJA Peace Center from the Midtown Center block.

Omari Tahir-Garrett, who is in his 70s, was reportedly barricaded inside the house where he has lived for around a decade while working as a caretaker for the property owned by the Bangasser family who is now trying to sell the land for long-awaited redevelopment. UPDATE 2:15 PM: Authorities have determined that Tahir-Garrett is not inside the house. A protest organizer says Tahir-Garrett is “safe” and not in custody.

UPDATE 3/16/2017 8:53 AM: Police say they responded to the corner Thursday morning to help “a man trapped inside a boarded house.” We’re checking to find out more. According to police radio dispatches, SPD officers entered the house around 8 AM after being called to the scene to a report of somebody trapped inside. The person was “removed from the property” around 15 minutes later.

DSC01265UPDATE 3/16/17 2:15 PM: In an appearance outside his boarded house and flanked by City Council member Kshama SawantOmari Tahir-Garrett and organizers of the two days of protests against his eviction at 24th and Spring said they will rally again on Saturday for inclusive development with a march starting at 23rd and Union.

“We contend that this Omari’s block,” organizer Cliff Cawthon said. “Yesterday, we had dozens of people come out with only a few minutes later to defend this place because of what this means.”

Tahir-Garrett described the moment police arrived Thursday morning as a surprise show of force to remove him from the house.

“Get your hands off me. I’m old enough to be your granddad. You don’t have respect for your elders”

“That made me so sick. I just vomited down there,” Tahir-Garrett said.

DSC01325

The 70-year-old said he was able to hide inside the house as it was boarded up Wednesday thanks to his military training when a Sheriff K-9 unit searched the house. He also announced his plans to again run for city council — but he said he didn’t want to challenge Sawant in his home District 3.

Tom Bangasser, who was removed as head of the family partnership that owns the Midtown Center block and is embroiled in a battle with family members over the planned sale of the property, spoke of his long friendship and respect for Tahir-Garrett’s role in the neighborhood. He said the future of Midtown Center must involve change and development but with Africatown as an owner. “It doesn’t mean we put a big grocery store in here because somebody else wants a grocery store,” Bangasser said. “We put in what the community wants. The neighborhood is going to change but the ownership needs to remain with this community.”

“Yesterday, they showed the brutality of what gentrification really is. And even as I stand here today, it’s heartbreaking, it is disgusting, but also it is inspiring to see Omari stand strong,” Cawthon said.

WEDNESDAY COVERAGE: 

UPDATE 3:45 PM: There was one arrest and a series of tussles between police and protesters as both the protest and the work effort to clear the property dragged into the afternoon. East Precinct commander Capt. Paul McDonagh was at the scene and told CHS the King County Sheriff’s eviction was complete and SPD units were at the property to “ensure the peace.” In the arrest, a protester who had been at the house since crowds first formed Wednesday morning and who had been moved by officers multiple times through the day was taken into custody after police cleared 24th Ave to make way for a truck to drop a large bin on the property for workers to fill with trash and materials. Following the arrest, a backhoe began tearing into the house to remove elements around the windows to allow workers to board up the structure and block access after possessions were removed from inside. Some of Tahir-Garrett’s things were piled into a car on the property that police allowed a protest organizer to drive from the scene, diffusing one of a series of standoffs with the crowd through the day. UPDATE 9:00 PM: Only a small group of protesters remained on the block around 8:30 PM. One person said police had left around an hour earlier. The house’s windows and doors have been boarded shut and the property is mostly surrounded by chain-link fence. Organizers had not publicly announced any further actions planned in coming days at the property as of Wednesday night.

UPDATE 3/16/17 11:34 AM: Photographer Noah Lubin monitored Wednesday’s protests and shared these pictures from a clash between protesters and police later in the day:

District 3 representative Kshama Sawant called for a halt to the eviction. She cast the eviction in the light of Seattle’s stance as a sanctuary city. “In order to truly turn Seattle into a sanctuary, politicians need to actively work to fulfill the housing, education, health care, and cultural rights of our communities,” Sawant said. Her full statement is below.

Earlier this month, eviction papers were served at the house after a long running legal fight over the property he has lived in at 24th and Spring on the backside of the Midtown Center block. Tahir-Garrett and his UMOJA Peace Center were ordered by a King County Superior Court judge to leave the property in eviction proceedings that included Tahir-Garrett being jailed after repeated courtroom outbursts. A March 4th Black Lives Matter protest march included a stop in front of the 24th and Spring house to rally support.

Cliff Cawthon, an activist helping to organize a protest of a few dozen people outside the property Wednesday morning said he had not been able to speak to Tahir-Garrett but that he was inside the house despite the arrival of the Sheriff and a department K-9 unit that searched the residence.

Work crews were on hand to install large wire fencing around the property while a crew of contractors, Bangasser family members, and people who told CHS they were friends of the family worked to clean the property of piles of possessions and refuse that had collected on the lot that has also served as a homeless encampment. Work on the clean-up proceeded briskly but the project to erect a fence was taking a little longer as protesters placed themselves in the way of workers until police officers on scene would move in and clear the small crowd back. The activists and protesters chanted against the police activities and the county’s effort to evict Tahir-Garrett from his longtime home despite the court ruling that he must vacate the property.

The eviction comes as Tahir-Garrett’s son K. Wyking Garrett is also facing the eviction of the Black Dot work space and business incubator that is supported by his Africatown community organization. Wednesday, Wyking Garrett sent a message to media saying the locks have been changed at the facility in the middle of the 23rd and Union Midtown Center just around the block from the 24th and Spring protest. The dispute clouds efforts for Africatown and conservation investor Forterra to partner on a bid to purchase the Midtown Center block for a mixed-use project based in what the groups call inclusive development principles. People familiar with the situation say the lease for Black Dot was ended last month when another partner organization that held the contract decided not to remain as a tenant.

Black Dot dispute clouds future of Africatown ‘inclusive development’ at 23rd and Union

For Omari Tahir-Garrett, the standoff follows months of legal disputes with the Bangassers after his role with the family partnership changed with the removal of Tom Bangasser as director of the company managing Midtown. It also is part of a lifetime of activism for Tahir-Garrett that has frequently put him in conflict with law enforcement including when the  activist and slavery reparations advocate assaulted former Mayor Paul Schell with a bullhorn in response to the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man. We talked with him about his activism in 2015 as he launched a campaign for City Council. In 1985, Tahir-Garrett was part of a group that occupied a Seattle school to advocate for an African-focused museum in the Central District. His efforts eventually lead to the creation of the Northwest African American Museum. It wouldn’t be the last time Tahir-Garrett made headlines through occupying a school building. In 2013, Tahir-Garrett was part of a group that occupied the Horace Mann building in hopes of establishing a permanent home for the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation, an organization founded by Tahir-Garrett’s son Wyking. Both men also help found the Umoja P.E.A.C.E. Center at 23rd and Spring. More recently, Tahir-Garrett lead an unsuccessful fight to preserve the the Liberty Bank building at 24th and Union. He also opposed the opening of Uncle Ike’s pot shop in the neighborhood. “If you want to have peace in a community, you need to have a community center,” he told CHS in 2015.

UPDATE: Here is the judge’s order in the case against Omari Tahir-Garrett:

 

 

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68 thoughts on “Standoff at 24th and Spring in eviction of longtime Central District activist

  1. Why is omari being referred to as an activist and caretaker. He’s a belligerent kook who is a proven violent racist who’s been illegally squatting in that trashpile for years.

    • I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Tom Bangasser has been letting him live there. But if Tom B. doesn’t have control over the house anymore, and Garret has been legally served eviction papers, I’m not understanding why he (and those other community members) think he’s entitled to stay there now against the wishes of the property owners? Pretty much irrelevant whether he’s an “activist”, a caretaker, or a kook.

    • Yes Jim, I believe you’re correct. I don’t believe Omari was technically “squatting”. He was invited and that invitation has simply expired. I sat next to him and Tom B at the early design review for the (now cancelled) Midtown Center redevelopment and they are clearly friendly with each other. Given that there is no new developer/plan for this block, it’s also hard to see Omari’s presence as interfering and/or impeding construction.

    • He’s remembered most for attacking Paul Schell, but that’s only the beginning of that guy’s mayhem. Omari and his associates have a well-established history of using threats and violence to get their way. Urban League president James Kelly stopped answering the door at night and started carrying a gun because of Omari’s threats. City Councilmember Richard McIver got threats from Omari too.

      He may get some credit for the establishment of the NAAM but he was directly responsible for its close call to dissolution. When Omari got kicked off the board for (you guessed it) threatening other board members, he formed his own rival “board” and threw the whole project into chaos.

      I’ve personally seen him losing his shit at a housing committee meeting, though at least that time he didn’t slide all the way over into explicitly threatening anyone; he kept it implicit. He was one scary, creepy guy.

      http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20020531&slug=kelly31m

    • I agree. He’s dangerous, too. And his son enables and eggs him on when he needs someone to be bullied and scared away, then hides his hand and plays the charismatic preacher role. Top notch. They have Murray in some mindlock of guilt and face-saving/breaking because he’s afraid of them. Its all to shake down whoever has something they want. The evictions(s!): I count 4 or 5, following a very reliable formula lol that works on white folks like blue magic), the mess, the harassment, the bullying, the health hazards, the use of buzz words to drum up blind support without collective input or critical considerations. While its true more than ever that the CD needs to preserve its African American history and culture in real, solid ways that last, I’m not sure Africatown is the one, or the only one, to entrust the community’s will. They aren’t sustainable on their own. Time for a fresh look at the many other black orgs that are less flashy and hold fewer ‘press conferences’, but are more ethical and inclusive of ALL black people, are effective, and not just their friends. Who else benefits, really sees a physical, economic impact from their ‘work’? Feelings and feel-good events are not enough to stake MILLIONS on. There are SO many small black organizations in the area doing grassroots work without all the drama and bs. They should be included in any decisions effecting the area and the black community as a whole. They are not the black spokes-group, they are God Father II. They’ve been around for HOW many years (20 or more?) with the same tired lines, but nothing definitive on record but their anger if you don’t give them their way, or if you get in their way. This works on white libs and hyper-disenfranchised black people desperate for solutions. We’ve all seen this movie before. Meanwhile, what has the black community actually gotten in return? A lame music festival every year. Oh, and Blackdot wasn’t Garret’s idea. They’re opportunists. They say they hate corporatism, but that’s who they always snuggle up under to prop up their failing initiatives. They’re business people who want everyone else to fund their ‘enterprises’ and ‘innovation’ as ‘inclusive’. Has this son of Omari even held a real job? Like, ever? They WILL rake up the white-guilt cash, for sure, but then its gone with nothing to show for it but another hand held out in ‘gimme’ mode, and the other hand threatening defamation and slander if you don’t comply. BTW, hookers lived in those abandoned cars! I live in the area. Was NOT a homeless encampment; the encampment was a beard to validate them as ‘caring’, to plaster over bad press; the conditions were deplorable. gave Tent Cities a bad name. Time to go ol’ geezer. Maybe back to jail. Or to the mental ward. You hear a lot from their blind acolytes, but you don’t hear from the folks they’ve damaged, because now those folks are now … damaged … If you want real community development, don’t have ONE troubled organization that can’t pay its own rent (ever) as the gatekeeper for every black person in Seattle who hails from the CD. Please, Forterra or who ever is stupid enough to sign a contract with them. The crazy is off the charts, and you will find that out once you’re locked in lol, and there’s no guarantee they will honor everyone who needs help. The housing must happen, the biz dev must happen, and it must be inclusive of black people specifically as equal partners, but do not allow a group that has actually harmed other black people to broker our future in the CD.

    • I agree with everything you said Penny except “The housing must happen, the biz dev must happen, and it must be inclusive of black people specifically as equal partners,”

      Excuse me but the neighborhood is less than 20% black. It has a long history as a Native American neighborhood, Jewish neighborhood, and Japanese neighborhood. It was when the Japanese went hauled off to internment camps that blacks bought the property cheap off the government. Somehow these black activists are never interested in dwelling off of the willingness of how they profited off of that injustice.
      Sorry but blacks have less of a claim on it than Natives, Jews or Japanese. This is another shakedown. Blacks make up 6% of the city pop and get almost 75% of the services directed towards them and then a dozen more that are specifically earmarked for blacks. There are 3 times as many Asians and they don’t get nearly as much. It is racist for the constant demand for blacks to get more and more directed to them when they already get more than others. These black activists have been more than happy to erase the historical contributions in that neighborhoodd of all other ethnic groups so their motives are nothing but selfish, greedy, and racist.

    • Count yourself lucky. He’s always been pleasant to me too, but I personally know people he’s targeted with his anti semitic and anti interracial marriage attacks, among other things. Or, maybe ask former Mayor Paul Schell what he thinks, since he was assaulted by Omari back in 2001. He’s a squatter gaming the system and he should be ashamed of himself.

    • Naw, he’s nuts. You’re not challenging them on their logic, you’re pandering. You’re not asking serious questions, following the money, and maybe its a matter of whether he got his meds that day, or whether he’s on an agenda for his son (?). You caught him on a good day. You’re lucky. And you don’t have to be a racist to have a problem with him. Too assume that, means you assume all black people use the same playbook, or that we are not allowed to be wrong or fail. Black people are human, so among us also dwells a-holes. Because ass-holery is a human thing, not just a racist thing. There are other groups with no such trolls haunting the neighborhood. Dig deeper for the gold; quit responding to the squeaky loud wheels and low-hanging fruit dude.

    • Yes, deadrose. He’s only racist to racist. That is if you define “racist” as anyone who doesn’t give in to his extortion. If he makes racist slurs to people they must deserve it. Whereas if someone calls him the “n” word it’s just because of the color of his skin.

    • He was a regular poster on the Central District News – which i miss terribly – always screaming (ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME).
      I once posted about being threatened with a hand gun ( I never mentioned race), and he screamed that I was a HONKY WHITE BITCH,
      He is an asshole and a racist,

    • Probably something like because he thinks he’s entitled to be there, because so far they’ve let him? Or he has nowhere else to go.

    • Likely there’s very little basis, other than “this is where I am living…something, something reasons.”

      Look, I do not feel that a 70 year old should be put out on the streets, full stop.

      That said, this house was not Garrett’s to begin with, and the Bengasser family has been trying to redevelop this area for years.

      And redevelopment is necessary! Seattle is a growing city with huge housing needs and sites like the Midtown Center block are not an infinite resource.

      The site needs to be redeveloped, and that means density. That means multi-story housing and street front retail and housing for the growing population of this city.

      More than this, neighborhoods CHANGE. And this area centered on 23rd and Union is rapidly becoming part of the greater Capitol Hill neighborhood–as it should!

    • Paul Lau – you will likely get a lot of push-back on that comment, as you should. The 23rd and Union neighborhood does not want to be a part of the “greater Capitol Hill neighborhood.” We are a separate neighborhood and always have been, and while there may be some new residents who agree with you, those of us who have lived here 20+ years never wanted to live on Capitol Hill, and still do not. Please explain your comment.

    • TMG:

      Are you joking? It makes no difference if anyone in the 23rd and Union area doesn’t want to be part of greater Capitol Hill. It’s already happening, and in many ways has already happened.

      Neighborhoods change. Their names and boundaries change. And Seattle is changing rapidly…and there is no stopping it, there is only managing the change in a way where everyone is not screwed over.

      The entire 23rd and Union area needs redevelopment, and it’s getting it slowly…which is great. But the idea that everything should stay the same, which is what Garrett is actually advocating here with his incoherent “nonprofit” and opposition to the Liberty Bank redevelopment, is a losing non-strategy that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

      I mean, first of all the Midtown Center block is composed right now of an aging strip mall and decrepit houses…all of which should be bulldozed. And the Liberty Bank property is exactly the same situation–useless structure that needs to be replaced.

      The opposition to development here in Seattle is so ridiculously incoherent and often self-serving it’s hilarious.

    • KOMO4 11 o’clock news just had a segment on this and guess what, they called it Capitol Hill. WTF? Hilarious since the fact it is the CD is the central facet of the story.

      I think the only time that Omari leaves the CD is to go to court.

      I have great respect for his son Wyking, but Omari is pretty much an unhinged race-baiter. Sure, he has momentary lucid moments… but so does Trump. I look forward to the day the cops take Trump out of his house.

      To those protesters out there harassing the cops, lets see one of you take Omari in to live in your house… not your rental, but the home you own. You’ll probably have the sheriff there in a few months.

  2. @ThatMGuy speak for yourself. There are plenty of neighbors in the area who would like to see change which includes up-zoning. I would imagine residents over a certain age are less inclined to be as welcoming to change as the younger ones.

    Creating more housing will lower the overall cost of living in the city and provide more services that only can be supported in dense areas. But, that’s neither here nor there, this guy has been served an eviction notice, so there isn’t really much else to discuss.

    • Exactly.

      What’s hilarious about the opposition to change is that it would be more successful if the existing neighborhood has some sort of history or architectural value.

      If, for example, the Midtown block was architecturally significant then the “we want zero change” crew would likely be able to prevent redevelopment based on that. While their base motives might be the usual self-serving NIMBY nonsense you see everywhere, they could–legitimately–hide their NIMBYism behind a facade of wanting to “preserve” things.

      That, both with the Midtown block and Liberty Bank property, isn’t a viable option here given that the Midtown property is pure garbage architecturally. The Liberty Bank building has a bit more merit, but not much.

      So these NIMBYs end up casting about for reasons and their true motivations–incoherent as they are–become clear.

    • Okay, let me clarify. Yes, neighborhoods change, and density happens, and I am not opposed to that. It is what happens and this neighborhood needs change and the development that has passed it by for decades. But please don’t call it “greater Capitol Hill” – it does deserve to keep an identity, regardless of the development that happens.

      However, saying that “creating more housing will lower the overall cost of living in the city” doesn’t seem to be the proven case so far in Seattle. One thing that area residents (at least my neighbors in the immediate 23rd and Union area) are very concerned with is that such rapid growth quickly destroys any affordable housing nearby. Sure, there are some methods in place to try to ensure that a percentage of new developments are “affordable”, but do you really think that the anyone developing these properties are focused on that ideal? Property development, anywhere, is focused on one thing – money.

    • You guys are reading a LOT into his comment, that ThatMGuy didn’t say. I’m a resident of the greater Central District too, and that “becoming a part of greater Capitol Hill” comment rubbed me the wrong way, too. No, we are NOT the ‘greater Capitol Hill area’, nor do we need to be. That doesn’t mean anything negative about Capitol Hill, but we moved off C.H. for a reason– to be somewhere else. That also doesn’t mean we’re NIMBYs, or that we want no change, or any of those other silly inferences you made or conclusions you jumped to when T.M.G. pushed back on “greater Capitol Hill”. Our CD neighborhoods have our own unique personalities, that are definitely different from Capitol Hill. When you say things like that it just makes you sound like you never leave C.H. and have no idea what’s out there in the great unknown of the CD. We don’t need to expand Capitol Hill to “save us”, thanks.

    • TMG:

      Development follows the money, and will happen regardless of whether the neighbors want it or not.

      At present, the name “Capitol Hill” carries a premium in the rental and housing markets, thus there is an incentive to enlarge the footprint of the neighborhood as much as possible to maximize rents and housing prices. That’s likely the main reason you’re seeing the area re-named.

      And that’s fine.

      “Africatown,” after all, is an idiotic and largely inappropriate name given the current make up of the area…and as I understand it the neighborhood has only the most tenuous ability to define itself as a historically African American area…wasn’t it a Jewish area prior to WWII?

    • Some things that seems to be missed in these arguments:
      years
      A.) Those “decrepit” houses are/were people’s homes.

      B.) New development makes an area more desirable for new development. Property values go up. Home prices and rent take years, if not decades, to go down.

      C.) People, like actual human people, are displaced by developments that they probably will never be able to afford. Even if right of first refusal exists, they have to find a place to live in the meantime. Plus they probably have to earn a higher wage.

      D.) Our current MHA only requires 11% maximum affordable housing. To top it off, that can (and probably will) be built in a completely different part of the city.

      E.) According the city, a massive percentage of our homeless population used to have a Seattle/King County address. We’ve been having a boom in development for what 5-7 years? You know, the largest in the country. Meanwhile rents have gone up 60% for a 1-bedroom unit citywide. It’s not as simple as supply and demand, especially with things like real estate speculation influencing the market.

      F.) Just to reiterate, and this is what I don’t get about a lot of folks. People are being forced out of their homes. People are losing their tangible lives. Why? Because developers have told us that we need to build more to make prices drop. Why would they want prices to drop anyway? Housing, to them, is a money-making venture. Dunno why they care about prices dropping, but I guess they’re being good samaritans by pushing out low and middle income folks, right?

    • Devin:

      Your argument is absolutely ridiculous.

      A renter has no property rights over a property they are renting, nor should they.

      A renter has a contract whereby they have a right of residence at a property, provided the rent is paid, the contract is valid, and no other provisions are being violated.

      That is all.

      Are you arguing that this Garrett guy, and presumably many of his neighbors, have some sort of right to rent and what is undoubtedly below-market rates for the neighborhood? Are you arguing that the property rights of the property owner are somehow abrogated, and this city or some government agency should say, “Sorry, Bengasser family, but your renter paying below-market rent doesn’t want to leave your property, so you will never be able to develop, or sell, or otherwise change the property you own because Omari Garrett likes his sweet, below-market rental deal and he is the final decision maker in all this. So, again, sorry!”

      That is what you’re saying.

      Keep in mind also: a redeveloped Midtown block would house many more people than the decrepit buildings that current occupy the area…so the city of Seattle is just to forgo all this because somehow people like this Garrett person have a right to not be disturbed in the slightest. Right?

      Wrong.

    • Paul Lau,

      I think you are being overly sensitive and dismissive of residents that live in our neighborhood. I know you SO badly want to call the Central District Capitol Hill but it it’s not and it never will be. Deal with it. Here’s a map of the Central District boundaries since you are so incredibly misinformed.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhoods_in_Seattle#/media/File:Seattle_-_Central_Area_map.jpg
      My neighbors are proud to live in the Central District and call it our home. We embrace change and development while respecting it’s history simultaneously.

      I’m betting big that your a real estate agent.

    • @Paul Lau

      And that argument is exactly what’s wrong with Seattle now. Responses to peoples’ worries about displacement are cherry picked and based on very libertarian (i.e. privileged conservative) ideologies of “property rights.” There’s no humanity, no compassion, no empathy.

      Also, there’s no attempt to address the rise in rents or property values caused by luxury and market-rate development or the fact that the people standing to make millions are the ones telling us that displacement of (usually low/middle income) people is a good thing. Meanwhile, we’re meant to believe that Seattle is no longer an affordable place because, even though we’re building more than any other city, it’s not enough. Even though, according to the American Community Survey 40% of Seattleites can’t afford to rent a 1 bedroom apartment, 89%+ construction of market-rate and luxury housing will save the day. It’s funny to hear that and to think that the Hill was still a really affordable neighborhood as recently as 5 years ago.

      Do you remember when apartments full of people like the Undre Arms and others on the Hill were torn down to make new luxury housing? There have been lots of multi-family dwellings torn down (or condo converted. Lookin’ at you 2007) all over Seattle. Developers will tell you that tearing down “run-down” or “old” or “decrepit” buildings is a community service, but again that’s because housing isn’t a human right in the eyes of people who say things like that. It’s a commodity.

      You got one thing right. The Midtown block will be redeveloped and a lot more people will live there, but people who have called the CD home will cede their lives for people with more means ($$) than them. The CD does have something in common with the Hill and it’s that a lot of longtime residents won’t be able to live there anymore, be it because they are physically displaced or because they are soon to be priced out.

      Neighborhoods do change and, but your argument lacks humanity. Not to mention that it’s basically manifest destiny.

      It’s just sad and funny. Most of us agree that housing for more people is a good thing, but we’ll probably always disagree on the process.

    • The only way any of this makes any sense at all is if you just don’t believe in property rights, which is a different discussion altogether.

      Omari was a tenant. The owners chose to end that tenancy, something they’re well within their legal rights to do.

      So what exactly is unlawful about this?

      It’s sad, sure, but the situation he’s in is entirely of his own making. He’s had more than a year to relocate and has done nothing but throw tantrums instead.

      You don’t get to have something just because you want it, a fact of life most of us manage to learn in grade school.

  3. Nobody owns a neighborhood or has a claim to a certain color. If anything this area has Jewish roots before there were African American homeowners. So any Jew moving there for work or housing has a “Right” of historical return or some sort of moral authority? Of course not. But neither do AA’s. And creating a stupid name of Africatown is clearly an effort to redefine reality; that this area has been and is diverse and belongs to anyone who can rent or buy, attends school or shops there. And let’s remember the obvious – AA homeowners who left, sold their homes, hopefully without discrimination, to people who would pay their price.

    As to Garrett, he is a low-life who plays the race card and apparently the PTSD/Mental Illness card, poorly. He should be dismissed for the trivial has-been blowhard that he is.

    • Except that until the 1960s people of color were barred from living in most neighborhoods in Seattle except the Central District and the International District. Even after it became illegal to ban them from mostly white neighborhoods, they were still kept out of other Seattle neighborhoods by realtors, mortgage lenders, and landlords who refused to end their discriminatory practices.

      Below are some of Seattle’s restrictive housing covenants which can be found at
      http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/segregated.htm

      “Greenlake neighborhood

      “No person or persons of Asiatic, African, or Negro blood, lineage or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property or any building thereon except a domestic servant or servants who may actually and in good faith be employed by white occupants of such premises.”

      Lake City neighborhood

      “No person of African, Japanese, Chinese, or of any other Mongolian descent shall be allowed to purchase, own or lease said real property or any part thereof.”

      Queen Ann neighborhood

      “No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property”

  4. PS: It sure looks like there is major family drama in the Bengasser family, with internal divisions and strife that have been in play on this real-estate deal. That would be an interesting story if not already covered somewhere.

  5. Earlier comments about the Liberty Bank site are confusing since it is already being developed by Capitol Hill Housing with Centerstone helping Africatown have the right of first refusal (or something like that) in 10 years.

  6. But if we let one person live there and don’t develop it, then the hundreds that would live there can compete for housing elsewhere!! Less housing for all! That is what the protesters must want.

    @devin, all your points basically re-iterate why building more helps lower the cost of affordable housing. Rents go up because the demand is so high for housing. Without more supply how do you make the competition go down? Also having rent control housing just jacks up the rates for free market housing, especially for those who fall right out of the rent control income range — it hurts them the worst.

    • The argument these people always make is something along the lines that renters have some sort of property rights over the property they are renting (they don’t), and that long-time renters especially have some sort of right to not have the neighborhood change at all (which is both wrong and insane).

      It’s a weird, and completely incoherent, argument. But it gets trotted out every time some kook or old person is being asked to leave a rental.

  7. Devin’s points are reasonable. Check out if the new market rate units in Yesler Terrace are rented or what portion of them is still available. The housing crisis exists only for those who find the new buildings too pricey. I am very weary of the them against us mentality, which is very destructive to building a good solid, livable community. Just a little curiosity will make room for many nuanced discussions regarding density.

    • Thanks. It’s a confusing speed bump in a story like this and I wasn’t really thinking about grammar. But diffuse really is more appropriate. Nothing defused just pushed around. Still, I’ll probably change :)

  8. This man assaulted Paul Schell, then the Mayor of Seattle, with a bullhorn, breaking bones in his face that required surgery to repair. Why do some people treat him as a wise elder deserving of respect? Moreover, why is one of those people a sitting Seattle Councilmember?

    • Because it’s a PERFECT fit for her usual propensity to grandstand and yammer about anything and everything that gets her attention.

  9. I met Omari in the dynamic part of the 60s. It is remarkable that he has been able to sustain the resistance to white racist power for over 50 years. May Allah continue to bless him with good health and success.

    • Nah, what success has he had? Convictions and evictions and creating a huge pile of trash is considered success? Omari is a neighborhood menace and his removal is long overdue.

    • Omari wanted desperately to be Roberto Maestas, and failed miserably. That’s all you really need to know about him.

    • That was ages ago; as a matter of fact, they’re just filling a vacuum because of the wont of real innovative leadership. Its sort of ironic they toss that phrase around a lot. Every move they make is regressive operationally; they just talk a good game and know a lot of Seattle libs are suckers for a black-power fist. Well, the REAL black leadership and power are in hard, ethical work all around the city and they are summarily ignored because they don’t fit the media narrative of a ‘black activist’. Seattle is good for tropes while ignoring reality. Since Africatown’s misty days, things have changed. Omari has since gone completely Mad Hatter/Orange President fn nuts, and his son is one step away from becoming a poverty pimp. He’s mentally ill or has dementia and if you’re wise you’ll not get too close if he’s ‘on one’; very crafty–like something out of a scary folk tale–and can fool a lot of [desperate black people and clueless white] people. They think they’re the smartest guys i the room, but they’re actually extremely racist, sexist, and homophobic. And Omari just sounds schizophrenic, actually.

      Sawant is on the wrong side of this one! What is her deal? I am thinking less of her these days; while I applaud her for (stealing?) giving Block the Bunker a higher profile with her position and speaking alongside their anti-juvenile efforts, now she’s just ambulance chasing. She seems to like drama and the cameras as much as Garrett & Son. She has no idea what dynamic black leadership looks like, and therefore is lost on what she is fn with here. She cut too many deal with slick, greasy Wyking and now she has to defend them I think. And it doesn’t stop there; Africatown’s coalition partners enable their shit on a regular basis. Have to be picky, folks. There are badass leaders out there who can’t even get 5 minutes with Murray or Sawant. Why these clowns? More than ever, Black Lives Matter.

    • “as a matter of fact, they’re just filling a vacuum because of the wont of real innovative leadership.”

      That’s my point. Roberto occupied the old Beacon School and made something out of it because he was committed, intelligent, and had a vision. Omari occupied the old Coleman School and the city just let him stay there until he finally left and the adults in the community took over. The only thing they had in common was charisma and the ability to say provocative things. Omari could never move beyond those basics

      And I’m glad that people are finally starting to figure Sawant out. She’s mostly about attention, and she doesn’t bother to learn about the topics she uses to get that attention. I discovered that when I asked her about a rates issue at City Light, and she responded with some gibberish about how much it costs to run a refrigerator at Boeing versus at home. When I politely told her that didn’t answer my question (I wanted to know about the rate setting process), she literally walked away from me. The Great Socialist apparently has no idea how the biggest Socialist enterprise the city operates sets its rates (and she’s the CM in charge of oversight of it)

  10. The land in question arguably is due for something that offers more to the community that it is part of but development is a money game only that benefits developers and sometimes local politicians. What has happened in Seattle city wide is luxury housing built for short term tech workers, displacing middle class and working poor residents with no regard. I know gainfully employed people who are terrified they will be priced out of Seattle and access to their workplaces. We are in a housing crisis that some continue to try to window dress. The CD has been ransacked for the profit of developers.

  11. According to an article in today’s SeattleTimes, Omari has been in court for months trying to stop his eviction. Now, a judge has ruled that the eviction is lawful. That is all we need to know. Omari lost and it is entirely OK that he has been moved out. What about this do the activists not understand?

  12. It seems I have been away from this city (and CH and the CD) for long enough to have missed some of the fundamental shifts so they still seem a bit shocking and out of the blue when I see them. Crazy to read this story, written this way with these comment in THIS neighborhood. I guess im old. Latent racism in Seattle? Of course! It’s how we do. Always been like that. And I imagine if neighborhoods always had blogs and comment sections lots of Seattle neighborhoods would be quite blatant with their racism, bias and general lack of understanding of how racism operates in the US and in Seattle in particular. But not cap hill. But I guess, yes cap hill.

    • Dana wrote: “Crazy to read this story…”
      Trying to parse your post makes me think crazy, too. Stating an opinion would help.

  13. These protesters need to face reality they do not own that property so they have zero rights to it and are breaking the law by trying to prevent the owners from doing as they want with it. Instead of protesting maybe they should be doing something that might earn them money to buy their own property so they can do as they wish with it. Just cause you rented a house at some point or squatted there does not make it yours. Get real.

  14. On a slightly different topic, what happened to the Liberty Bank project? It looks like it has been abandoned, All of the heavy equipment is gone.

  15. I lived in those 3 trees from July to September.
    I was stalked by a serial killer. I married the granddaughter of the first man to buy Omaris house. I saw a man hide from The Company. I taught 3 crows to gift me.
    I learned about the cameras on the poles and the NSA and the secret police that controls midtown. I got my haircut at Earls..Mama made my coffee.. I knew Omari as he truly is..
    I document it all in an multimedia art project called WEIRDWOOD.. https://youtu.be/tcnUYzg772I

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