Another ugly incident at 23rd and Union

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.

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 Forterraalso 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.”

17458269_340884242975940_7307421526308227566_nUPDATE 4/4/2017: Community group TheCollective Gathering is giving the 23rd and Union “Rally/Mini Block Party” another try this weekend:

“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!


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29 thoughts on “Another ugly incident at 23rd and Union

  1. It’s really a travesty that this small group–led by this Garrett guy–are stifling development in the 23rd & Union area.

    This intersection should be the center of redevelopment in the Central District, and is a natural extension of what’s happening on Capitol Hill (and, let’s face it, this part of the Hill is really “greater Capitol Hill” more than it is the CD).

    Yet, all we get are “battles” over “gentrification” that are futile beyond belief.


    The Midtown block, which is the center of the issue, is composed of single-family detached structures that are all nearing the end of their lifespans and a decrepit strip mall with parking along the sidewalk…this is not the type of housing Seattle needs.

    It is a severely underutilized block at present, and should be home to a multistory development with street-front retail and parking underground.

    That is the appropriate use of the parcel. Period.

    Can we just get moving on redeveloping the site?

    • Seems that development doesn’t have to be synonymous with Capitol Hill. If so, I’d call Capitol Hill “greater downtown” at this point.

    • Are we back on this “this is greater Capitol Hill” bullshit again? Sorry, no, it’s not. Anyone who’s driven around the Central District in the last 5 years knows differently– namely, that there’s a hell of a lot going on in the CD that has nothing to do with CH. We’re all real proud of some of you that you’ve finally ventured off the safe confines of Capitol Hill into the big, scary CD. To everyone for whom this is news: there’s plenty going on in the way of building and development in the CD, and there has been for
      quite a few YEARS. Seems like some are very late to this party.

  2. Wow, “does not represent” “in no way condones” “will not defend his statements” – pretty lukewarm response. Imagine the outrage if the roles were reversed.

  3. Ah the hypocrisy. Not surprising, I guess, but once you start threatening Jews to the gas chambers in 2017 you have destroyed any credibility you might have on the topic of social justice (I’m assuming one of the first SJ commandments is “I’m against genocide”?). The rebuke from Africatown and its allies should have been deafening, er, no, more like thundering lightning bolts from Zeus himself. Instead, it was rather tepid and forced. You suddenly realize how hollow their talk is regarding intersectionality, trigger words, and the like.

  4. I think that Capitol Hill Housing and Centerstone should be embarrassed that they still support Africatown after this. We should be protesting their locations for enabling an anti-Semitic community leader play a role in the future of the area.

  5. For years they have been trying to push blacks out of what is our community. Black Americans can’t have nothing it seems in Seattle. The laws of this country has been put in place to hold the Blacks down. The USA made laws that were place in because of white people being scared of us an all we did was help build this. It’s clearly in our history so i think we have every right to be mad hurt and upset. I care about the truth and everyday history tells me that someone was scared of blacks risen up. 1933 our so call government drop bombs over Black wall street in Tulsa. But see no one got in trouble an we was not allowed to rebuild so if we fight the Jewish that start this then we will finish with the truth. Our pain is deep and our country that we build not Europe we did. The first Presidents were Black an there were 7 of them. We have every right to be mad and upset cause we never got nothing in returnmbut pennies while the Jewish which (ish) mines fake got Dollars. We first gotta stand together since everyone stood against us Black Americans.

    • I agree that what developers are doing to the neighborhood is tragic and should be stopped (and I’m certainly no fan of Eisenberg), but using anti-semitism to fight gentrification isn’t exactly a great way to go about it.

      It’s entirely possible for both sides of an argument to be wrong for entirely different reasons.

    • You DO know that it was a Jewish neighborhood first, right? Take your anti-Semitic ass on out of here.

  6. As a person of color I must admit that the most stupefyingly ignorant racist rants I and my family have been subject to were from folks who “cannot be racist”

  7. 1. The majority of people in the U.S. are fools, frauds, and fascists to varying degrees.

    This has been studied and confirmed. Repeatedly. Go read “Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat” by J. Sakai and “Divided World, Divided Class” by Zak Cope for complete proof. Pay special attention to the end notes of both texts.

    2. Ian physically assaulted Omari during Uncle Ike’s first year on the block, during the UmojaFest Parade in front of dozens of witnesses. Where’s the outrage?

    3. Ian has real political and economic power locally, Omari does not. For you fools, frauds, and fascists (and rank opportunists) to glaze over that fact and fixate over what he may have said puts you firmly in the camp of “part of the problem”.

    Go ask the owners of Rukus Recreational on 15th Ave or Ponder on E.Union St. how and why Ian sued them for even trying to open, operate, and compete. What capitalist-imperialist in his right mind opposes the so-called ‘free market’? Answer: a fascist.

    Ian has legislators, some of the city council, and the police in his pocket (go watch Ian’s assault of a woman at a protest in his lot a week prior to this incident where the police ALLOWED it to happen, it’s all over facebook).

    4. Go study what Israel does to the Palestinians daily (with YOUR tax dollars) and compare and contrast their actions with that of Hitler’s regime (which, by the way, largely supported and funded by the U.S. until they declared war on the U.S. Hitler was Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ at one point). Now compare and on contrast that activity with Ian’s actions towards Black people in the Central Area. He can sell dope to us, but he cannot and will not respect us…until we seize power.

    Not all Jews are Zionists, and not all Zionists are Jews.

    Indeed, white Evangelical Christians send more money to Israel than anyone. The total number of Evangelical Christians in the U.S. is much larger than the entire Jewish population (of any political stripe) in the U.S. at this time. And, our tax dollars prop up Israel, so every taxpayer in the U.S. is effectively a Zionist!

    5. Palestinians are also Semitic peoples. For you to deny science and genealogy is anti-Semitic.

    They are also “people of the book” and “the blood of Abraham”. The religious folks who deny this are schmucks, hypocrites, and/or infidels (depending on which faith we are speaking of).

    • Pure deflection, every single word. We don’t give a pass to child abusers who were themselves abused, so we sure as hell shouldn’t forgive and forget victims who espouse genocide as a means for recompense. Getting crapped on isn’t a valid reason to crap on others…a good soul and trustworthy human would break that cycle.

    • Oh, and nice try with that “what he may of said” — it’s pretty out loud and proud on that video. He did say it, which basically puts him on the pro-genocide side of history.

      Also, you said that Omari doesn’t have any power. Really? In what universe? If that were true then none of us would have ever heard of him, he wouldn’t have lived rent free for years without a lease, he would have been penalized with heavier sanctions after breaking the mayor’s nose, and he wouldn’t have so such influence over a block he has no real legal authority over. You’re the fool if you think “power” can only be handed out by the state – populist power can be just as seductive and destructive.

    • “The majority of people in the U.S. are fools, frauds, and fascists to varying degrees. ”

      Always a good opener!

  8. Activists have a bad habit of embracing any and all fringe nut jobs. Africa Town has accomplished exactly what in the neighborhood? As I have said before, none of the community active, adult, responsible African Americans I know or have attended meetings with have voiced support for the group from Africa Town and Centerstone has fallen from grace. Media won’t touch any of that. As to the problem of gentrification, marching about it now is like complaining after everything has burned down already. Gentrification in the CD has happened and is almost complete. That train left the station quite a ways back.

    I don’t personally agree with there being any pot shops but the outrageous remarks about the owner of Ike’s are completely unacceptable. And…..don’t get me started on Sawant. The area of 23rd and Union is, sadly, one place that could actually be improved by development. Get on with it and I hope those involved choose to partner with a more sane, productive, and relevant community group that reflects the majority of the African American community rather than the usual vocal hard left fringe.

  9. [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.”]

    Africatown’s role is to siphon off development funds and stick them in their leader’s pockets.

  10. It’s sad to see that “SAFE” won’t actually denounce anti-semitism, but after a long statement, manages to “not condone it.”

    It’s also nice to see Capitol Hill Housing “not condoning” calls for anti-semetic violence, but it would be nice to see them condemning those statements.

  11. Sawant pretending to care about this makes me laugh. She was protesting on behalf of OMari just last week saying he is “a pillar of the community”. As if she didn’t know about his history for making anti-Semitic comments things like this. Then the phony part of her tweet somehow relating this anti-Semitic incident to Trump. LOL. As if Omari is a Trump guy. Whatever…this is all stupid.

    • Sawant isn’t even pretending to care. The tweet above is from March 10th when the synagogue got tagged with graffiti. Why Justin included it in this story is a mystery. Perhaps his upcoming “sabbatical” is really just a career change to a full-time PR flack for Sawant (rather than part-time as he does today).

      • Settle down. Settle down. I embedded the 701 Coffee tweet because it showed the Omari video. It happened to be in reply to a Sawant tweet from the previous incident. That’s how the Twitter embed works.

  12. I realize that as a 4th generation Jewish Seattle resident I can be openly treated with contempt that would never be accepted if it was directed towards a recent Somalian immigrant or Mexican national in this country illegally.
    I would never vote for Trump but I will never vote Democrat as long as they not only fail to condemn this but literally finance it. I remember a few Oklahoma State College Students who got filmed less than 2 years ago making similar rhetoric towards blacks. It made the front page of the New York Times, was condemned all the way to the White House, and they were expelled within 24 hours (despite it taking place off campus)

  13. Does anyone even remember how awful and deadly this intersection was before this Uncle Ike moved in? I lived there in the late 90’s, it was hell. The rent was cheap and the area was ok, but these enclaves along 23rd were an out of control regional drug market with regular stabbings, gunshots, and deaths. It was not safe to walk at night. Yes, it was also exclusively black, but none of those folks even lived in the area. Cars would park and people would get out and sell and buy drugs in exchange for money or sex.
    I can care less about pot, but this business finally brought stability to this intersection. It diversified it. I can hardly recognize it now. It’s hard to believe that anyone would want that craziness back… What I really don’t understand, is what Uncle Ike have to do with “gentrification”. It’s naive to even cry gentrification for an area that is within walking distance of such dense employment. This protest should be happening at employment centers that bring all the people to the city. Also go picket the city’s transportation department that makes it harder and more expensive for people to drive that they started buying and renting in the city. This is a city core area. It’s not some little hood on the outskirts.