Seattle Police say they have made arrests and are searching the building as groups occupying the Horace Mann school are being cleared from the Seattle Public Schools property on E Cherry near 23rd, Central District News reports:
The arrests come after months of talks between the school district and groups occupying the building dragged on. Schools has sent the Africa Town and More for Mann groups multiple letters notifying them they would need to clear the building to make way for planned renovations so the school can re-open next fall. The groups continued to occupy the building despite those demands.
“We want to continue to show the unified community of African-American parents, educators and students working together to take responsibility for the education of our children,” the More for Mann group said in a statement earlier this year. “Now is the time to rectify the past inequities and ineffective methods to educate our children.”
UPDATE: Police say Tuesday’s raid began around 1 PM and has been in planning for “a while” as SPD had heard threats of a sniper and explosives at the barricaded facility. An SPD spokesperson said the SWAT raid was planned for a time when intelligence gathered by the department indicated there would be no children at the site. SPD says only four men were found in the building in the raid — three were arrested immediately and a fourth was found after about 30 minutes of searching, hiding in an attic space. All four will likely be cited for criminal trespass. SPD said its arson and bomb squad was searching the building for any weapons or explosives.
UPDATE x2: Wyking Garrett, founding director of the Umoja Peace Center and a member of the Africa Town Center for Education and Innovation, said an Africa Town task force that had been formed to work with schools last talked to the district at a presentation at the last school board meeting and that the Mann groups did not know this was going to happen today.
“We were all shocked and surprised,” Garrett said.
Garrett said that talk of a gun in the school was a “distraction.” “It’s a tragedy,” he said of the way things ending up unfolding.
Garrett said the More for Mann movement isn’t over. “We’re going to continue to say the same things,” he said.
“They talk about parent engagement, this is parent led movement.”
Garrett said the group will continue to push to use the building.
“We’re still committed to honoring the legacy of African Americans in that building,” Garrett said. “It’s an ideal location. Of course the community is going to move forward.”
Garrett said the larger issues behind the Africa Town effort are far from over saying the real issue is black students of in Seattle schools are being excluded from the curriculum and funding they deserve.
“The issues did not go away today, the police can not make those issues go away,” Garrett said.
UPDATE Wednesday, November 20, 11:15 AM: Police are on hand at the school building Wednesday as crews are preparing to begin work on the Horace Mann overhaul. The NOVA alternative high school will move back into the building in 2014.