A protest against displacement and in support of Africatown’s efforts at 23rd and Union devolved into a fight between activists and security at an area business Saturday — and a video from an ugly exchange in the midst of the confrontation has drawn sharp rebuke.
Police were called to the intersection Saturday afternoon after activists who had been part of an anti-displacement “Mini Block Party” at Midtown Center crossed the street and challenged security seeking to keep protesters off the frequently targeted property at Uncle Ike’s, the legal pot shop that has been a regular target of those opposed to both what they say is the I-502 cannabis industry’s non-inclusive system and concerns about gentrification in the rapidly developing neighborhood.
One protester was reportedly treated for facial injuries by Seattle Fire after the fight. Police said that the groups were separated around 4 PM.
— 701 Coffee (@701Coffee) April 2, 2017
But an exchange in the aftermath of the fight recorded by Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg in which activist and recently evicted block resident Omari Garrett tells the Jewish business owner to “go back to Germany” and “let those Nazis get on you again” has outraged many and forced developers working in the neighborhood and partnering with Africatown — run by Garrett’s son K. Wyking Garrett — to try to distance themselves from the situation.
Capitol Hill Housing, the nonprofit developer of affordable housing working to create the Liberty Bank Building at 24th and Union, released the following statement and reminded CHS that the elder Garrett whose words were captured on the video “is not involved in the Liberty Bank partnership.”
“The video does not represent the views of any parties involved in the partnership and CHH in no way condones the language used in the video,” the CHH statement reads. The full statement is below:
Capitol Hill Housing signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with three community partners in the Central District to help guide the redevelopment of the site of the historic Liberty Bank: Centerstone, the Black Community Impact Alliance and Africatown Preservation and Development Association.
The goal of the MOU is to use the redevelopment of the site to honor the important history of Liberty Bank and empower the African American community in the Central District. When completed, Liberty Bank Building will provide 115 homes affordable to any individuals or families that meet our standard income and screening requirements.
The video does not represent the views of any parties involved in the partnership and CHH in no way condones the language used in the video.
Centerstone, the Black Community Impact Alliance and Africatown Preservation and Development Association have been invaluable in our work to develop Liberty Bank Building in partnership with the community, and we look forward to breaking ground on this important project this summer.
Uncle Ike’s is a longtime CHS advertiser.
Cliff Cawthon of SAFE In Seattle who helped organize Saturday’s event sent CHS the following statement on Saturday’s incidents and said his group “absolutely doesn’t condone Omari Garrett’s comments” —
Our organization is committed to fight for low-income homeowners and tenants and those who are most directly affected by the foreclosure, now, affordability crisis. In Seattle the housing crisis has most acutely effected households of color, particularly, in the Black community remaining in the Central District.
We first came to Mr. Garrett’s aid when we learned of his eviction. It became known to us at the time, Mr. Garrett has PTSD, is a veteran and has had a history of service and criticism in the community. S.A.F.E. is re-orienting its intentionally focusing it’s resources to fighting displacement and gentrification and the Umojafest Peace Center, then Omari Garrett’s home, was a prime example of that.
At the moment, we are standing with Africatown and members of the Neighborhood Action Coalition to push for inclusive development as a way to prevent future evictions and further displacement. Moreover, we want to highlight predatory development and business practices, such as, those by Ian Eisenberg who has personally attacked and/ or facilitated attacks, intimidation and harassment on our allies and myself.
S.A.F.E. is an organization that denounces antisemitism, racism, sexism, homophobia and oppression in its myriad forms. Moreover, we recognize the attacks on our elders, like Omari. We absolutely will not defend his statements, yet we will defend his right to housing.
Cawthorn said a separate statement from Africatown is being prepared.
Cawthorn and protesters tried unsuccessfully in February to halt the eviction of 70-year-old Omari Garrett from his longtime home at 24th and Spring where the activist and reparations advocate has headquartered his Umoja Peace Center effort as well as hosting the occasional homeless encampment on the block that has long been lined up for redevelopment. According to court records, Garrett did not have a lease for the property.
With a series of deals and development plans falling through, yet another plan to rebuild the block — this time partnering Africatown with sustainability-focused real state investment nonprofit Forterra — also appears to be off the table as the Bangasser family partnership that owns Midtown Center works to also remove the Africatown-related Black Dot work space and business incubator. With tensions high in the shopping center and following another clash outside the pot shop caught on video the previous weekend, the latest violence and police activity along with the troubling video marks a new low in the recent situation on the block.
The CHH statement, meanwhile, confirms the developer will continue to work with Africatown and community partners Centerstone and The Black Community Impact Alliance on the Liberty Bank Building project. CHH says the project is a model for inclusive development that encourages Black identity, Black residents, and, possibly, Black ownership. The project set to rise on the site of Seattle’s first Black-owned bank is expected to break ground later this year.
Eisenberg tells CHS he has not reported Saturday’s exchange with Omari Garrett as a bias incident. “I am 100% supportive of Capitol Hill Housing and their Liberty Bank affordable project,” he writes. “I just don’t really understand the Africatown role.”
“WE WANT IN” #DisplacementStopsHere #Rally
Due to the Gentrification in the Central District it is imperative that we hold a presence on 23rd and Union as a Community! Saturday 2-6 Corner of 23rd&Union We are hosting a Rally/Mini Block Party on the corner of 23rd&Union this Saturday April 8th. Rally and performances celebrating the talent in the community and informing the public on how to get involved and take ownership in the quickly gentrified central district! The Black community has been present in the Central District for years. We were forced to live in the neighborhood due to redlining and in response, we have created a vibrant, dynamic and strong culture and we’ve made numerous contributions to Seattle, King County and the State of Washington. Now we are being pushed out daily due to predatory development, and Gentrification. We are saying #WEWANTIN . Black communities arent the only communities being pushed out of the quickly gentrifying Seattle. Native communites, Asian communities, Latino communities and more many more are being pushed out and around. #WEWANTIN Join us 2-6 on the corner of 23rd&union to be entertained and informed by members of our community and the many displaced communities of color around Seattle. Community will be waiting your arrival!