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Protest against displacement at 23rd and Union targets landowner’s Madrona home, sparks scuffle at Uncle Ike’s

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

Protesters said they were targeting the home of the family member who heads the Midtown Center partnership as Madrona got an unusual influx of activists Saturday night

A protest against gentrification and displacement in the Central District that followed the eviction of a longtime neighborhood activist from his 24th and Spring home showed just how personal the tumult around change can be as the Madrona home of a 23rd and Union property owner was targeted — and the owner of a controversial marijuana store momentarily lost his cool Saturday night.

Protesters Saturday night gathered at 23rd and Union outside the office space where the Black business incubator Black Dot is being booted from the teed-up-for-redevelopment Midtown Center. The protest was a planned response after the eviction of Omari Tahir-Garret from the block earlier in the week. The rally and march eventually traveled all the way to Madrona where protesters said they were targeting the home of Hugh Bangasser, head of the family partnership that owns the Midtown Center and is planning to sell the property for redevelopment.

But the sparks flew late in the night after the march returned to 23rd and Union and organizer Cliff Cawthon brought the group to the parking lot of “gentrifier” Uncle Ike’s where the I-502 pot shop was once again surrounded by a mix of protesters, Seattle Police, and Ike’s security employees.

After one speaker’s long bullhorn diatribe targeting Ike’s and a gamut of targets, the last straw was apparently criticism of Hillary Clinton. It was at that point that video showed Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg, a longtime Central District real estate investor and entrepreneur, rush at the speaker and apparently try to grab the bullhorn setting off a small melee in the parking lot. “No one was touched,” Eisenberg responded in the comments on the video broadcast live and available on Facebook. “How am I big busines? (sic) Let’s get real. Bullies cannot be tolerated. I hate bullies.”

There were no reported arrests and no injuries in the set of brief scuffles that followed.

Uncle Ike’s is a CHS advertiser.

Earlier in the night, the focus was on Black Dot and Africatown’s presence at Midtown Center.

“Today, March 18th, we are supposed to be having a business development boot camp with entrepreneurs aspiring to use their talents to create self-sustainable enterprises for themselves, to control their own destinies,” K. Wyking Garrett, Black Dot co-founder and head of the Africatown nonprofit said. “But instead we’re responding to this unprovoked, arbitrary attack and attempt to lock us out of our space and stop and disrupt us providing important, valuable, critical knowledge, information, resources, networking to entrepreneurs of small businesses of this neighborhood who are getting pushed out of this neighborhood one by one.”

Saturday’s action follows days of protest around 24th and Spring over the eviction of Tahir-Garrett. The property owners said that the longtime activist for African American reparations never held a formal lease for the house he lived in at 24th and Spring, according to court records. The Black Dot group, organized by Tahir-Garrett’s son K. Wyking Garrett, is also facing removal from the block as the family partnership continues to find a buyer for the $20 million+ land. People familiar with the situation told CHS the lease for Black Dot ended in February when another partner organization that held the contract decided not to remain as a tenant.

Organizers announced Saturday during the protest that Tahir-Garrett had been jailed following his eviction and chants of “Free Omari” echoed through the night but the 70-year-old’s name and other names he has been arrested and charged with crimes under in the past did not appear in the King County Jail registry this weekend. Organizers later in the night said Tahir-Garrett had been released but subsequently hospitalized.

What will come next at 23rd and Union appears to include the meltdown of any potential deal between K. Wyking Garrett, his Africatown organization, and the Bangasser family partnership. 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 said it had planned as inclusive development principles. The meltdown follows the failure of another deal to sell the land to for-profit developers Regency Centers and Lennar Multifamily Communities that would have also given Africatown a small opportunity to purchase and develop about 20% of the 2.4-acre property. In the meantime, Africatown remains part of the partnership in the memorandum of understanding around nonprofit affordable developer Capitol Hill Housing’s project to build the Liberty Bank building at 24th and Union in a model of what CHH says will be inclusive development that encourages Black identity, Black residents, and, possibly, Black ownership.

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52 thoughts on “Protest against displacement at 23rd and Union targets landowner’s Madrona home, sparks scuffle at Uncle Ike’s

  1. I’m glad they targeted Bangasser as I hope it will make him realize these people are fanatics and should be avoided at all costs. Hopefully CHHIP and Forterra will also pull out. That neighborhood is less than 20% black. For 30 years it was predominately black. For the rest it was not. Why is the long history of it as a Native American, Jewish and Japanese neighborhood being erased? Why isn’t it being honored? This is intentional history revisionism. From their narrative you would never know of the long historical contributions of other groups. Africatown claims this is to them what the ID is to Asians. This is BS. The ID is predominately Asian and has been for a long time. It is not an artificially created Asian homeland. The CD was never a huge destination for immigrants from Africa the way the ID was for Asians. I have seen the Africatown propaganda and it is clear that these people are African nationalist racists in the same way of white nationalists who want to make a white homeland in Montana. They make it clear that blacks from Somalia or Nigeria who have been in this country for an hour are more welcome then whites, Jews and Japanese who are 4th generation residents of that neighborhood. If that’s not racism nothing is.

    • I think you’re overthinking a lot of this.

      The whole “Africatown” movement was/is spearheaded by this Garrett guy and his son.

      It’s their baby.

      And the whole re-branding of this area as an African American neighborhood is very idiosyncratic in that it is a “Garrett and son” project…while it can be legitimately argued that the AA history of the area is questionable at best, the current branding is coming from one very specific source. Let’s remember that.

      Sad, as well, as it’s inhibiting development in an area that badly needs it.

  2. As a side note, the protesters keep yelping that black men have been routinely imprisoned for selling pot on that very corner. These people have been screaming it as though it was their own brother or father. If this is so then why have they refused to give any names or details of these cases? Because they don’t exist? If they don’t exist, what does that say about those screaming this false narrative? What are they really trying to do? Extortion and anti-Jewish racism seem to be the real motives. How many times does this have to happen before people see these people for what they are?

    • I was relieved to see how unorganized uninformed and contradictory the group was. One minute they were saying go shop at ponder because they are cool then the next minute we’re saying how legal weed is terrible for the community. The lady screaming her head off on the microphone sounded like a lunatic and it was kind of hilarious to watch. +1 for the pro development group, if that did t motivate the owners to sell, I don’t know what would.

    • The drug war has been particularly severe on black people. They’re four times as likely as white people to be arrested for marijuana. possession. If you need proof of this, just use Google. You’ll find thousands of studies and news articles confirming it. It’s been one of the leading arguments for legalization.

    • That’s great, but hardly my point or theirs, the group one moment was soliciting to buy weed at Ponder, then the next moment rattling off how immoral the legalization process was, all pointing a finger at Uncle Ikes. The speakers weren’t making a lot of sense.

    • JC- your point is off topic. They claim over and over that black men have been arrested for doing the same thing (dealing weed) on that very corner. They are very specific about this claim. If this is true why are they unable to give any thing specific in detail about this? Because it’s a lie.

    • It is not a lie, if you had lived here in the 90’s and early 2000’s you would have seen all of the dealing and busts. It got shut down at 23rd & Union for a little while, but then Deano’s was shut down on Madison and the dealing moved back to Union for a couple of years.

    • It’s not a lie about people, especially people of color at that corner, getting in trouble with the law for marijuana offenses. The part that doesn’t connect for me is how this is the fault of those who now sell marijuana legally. If Ponder is promoted it doesn’t seem connected to selling pot. If it’s new gentrifiers, I believe Mr. Eisenburg has been invested in this community for a long time. Didn’t he donate money to local businesses during the 23rd Ave. closure? How much did the developers behind “the Central” donate? I don’t know Mr. Eisenburg so am not defending him on a personal level. Just don’t understand why he’s being targeted. Has anyone spoken impartially with the people he employs? Seems like at least some of them are from the neighborhood and could offer some good insight. As a bystander, in the neighborhood for decades, it seems Mr. Eisenburg is being scapegoated for a lot of overlapping and complex local and societal issues.

  3. “The meltdown follows the failure of another deal to sell the land …that would have also given Africatown a small opportunity to purchase and develop about 20% of the 2.4-acre property.”

    Every time I see this I laugh at the prospect. Look at the behavior of this bunch. Does it look like they can back anything up? The elder Garret squawks because he’s been evicted from squatting. You’d think he was homeless from the sound of it (is he?). The younger Garret’s Black Dot group seems like it has nowhere to go either, after their lease ended. Does anyone seriously believe the Africatown group could come up with $2million or $5million or however many $million it would take to purchase 20% of this project? Yeah, right. It was nothing but PR for the developers and nothing but talk on the other side. Probably why some of the parties pulled out– way too much drama here. Plenty of other parts of Seattle are red-hot now too, without all this telenovela.

    • Exactly.

      I’m sure Forterra looked at the situation and said “pass” until such a time and these Garrett people–father and son, and their group of whatever they are–are gone.

      There is no way this disorganized Africatown group could pull together the capital for 20% of whatever is developed at the site.

      And even if they could, then what? It’s clearly going to be a block dominated by multistory housing and street-front retail. How would Africatown fit into any of this? What would the outcome look like? At best you’d see some sort of “collective” occupying some of the retail space…producing nothing at all, and closing down when funds run low or grants dry up.

      My feeling is that Forterra and some of the development partners (A) wanted to neutralize resistance and build good PR by involving this group and, (B) seriously over-estimated how professional the Africatown group was…which is a mistake I’m sure they realized they’d made approximately .0001 seconds after getting involved.

      In any case, it’s clear that the Bengassers will be well served to evict all the current tenants on the block, let passions calm down, and then begin developing the block the way it should be: as multistory housing, retail on the street fronts, and underground parking.

      Looking forward to the day when that happens.

  4. I always think protesting outside of SCCC or marching to downtown has little effect. It is easy enough to find out where these people live. Do it in their neighborhoods and outside of their homes, when they are home. Be persistent. Do it every night if the cause is that important.

    • Protesting at peoples’ homes won’t accomplish anything either. If this bunch has so much free time they can stand outside somebody’s house every night screaming, maybe they should try doing something actually useful– like volunteering to tutor struggling at-risk kids to help them with their education, and develop real-world job skills. But that’s not nearly as much “fun” as marching and screaming, I guess, is it?

    • That’s true. We know what’s in store we will bring it to your door. Time out for this hunky doorie mess. Be change agents. If they were real people it would not have gone down like that. It is very draining to protest. The organizers must get results.

  5. In the video, the second person with the megaphone, the self important jack-hole with the hat, is obviously is not from the CD and knows nothing of history of the corner… he said with shock that Ezell’s was displaced from the corner. Yeah… right.

    Thanks for posting the video showing that you are angry, incoherent, and simply want to label villains and place blame… a winning combination (well it worked for Trump). You guys are as rational as hard core Trump supporters… just the other side of the coin. Good work.

    And apparently if a black person disagrees with them they are an Uncle Tom… nice.

  6. The “protest” at Uncle Ikes was a total sideshow and truly displays just how much of a joke that entire “movement” really is.

    The concerning thing to me is that we now have protesters showing up at the home of someone who just wants to sell a piece of property. That is going way too far in my opinion and I couldn’t imagine being in the shoes of the Bangasser family. You know it’s only a matter of time before one of these crazies trashes their home or assaults a family member.

  7. This is the corner where there were at least two murders at the fast food places where the glass goods shop now sits. The Shell station was owned by a long-standing Jewish family I believe, that now is being developed. The other corner is also redeveloped. These folks are so misguided and blatantly racist, as well as anti Semitic. And targeting the owners home is a cheap shot. Likewise calling the security guard an Uncle Tom. All were trespassing on a private lot.

    Do tell what was displaced by Ikes other thaN a very dangerous corner that most avoided? will make a point of shopping at this Ike’s though I live on north Cap Hill.

    • MedMix was displaced and one could argue the bakery before MedMix was also – the building was literally falling apart- looked like a hazard to even enter. While MedMix was residing there, 502 was passed, the intersection became an acceptable spot for a pot shop, the building was suddenly vandalized repeatedly and then set on fire. Repairs were never done forcing Medmix to lose lots of money as their move to this location was very much appreciated by the neighborhood and very well supported. The MedMix owners were an immigrant family with three small children working hard to achieve the American dream, they didn’t inherit their money from say a family phone sex operation like others. These protestors may have unfairly targeted Eisenberg but please don’t confuse him for a victim. That said, he is a long term neighborhood resident and has been masterful with his pot shop operation there.

    • @BK there was an arsonist in the CD that summer. There were several arson attempts… including the Madrona library.

      Even remotely implying that with the acceptance of 23rd & Union as a 502 retail area that Med Mix was targeted to force them out is insane. Where the other arson attempt in the CD just cover for pushing Med Mix out?

      I have no idea what the story with the honey bakery was, but business close all the time… the most likely outcome of any new business is failure. Just because the bakery failed, moved, or they just decided they didn’t want to do it anymore does not mean it was “displaced”.

  8. Uncle Ike’s actual Pot Shop is a brand new building where previously there was nothing; it was purpose built for Uncle Ike’s.

    Uncle Ike’s Glass Goods shop was previously occupied by Med Mix which ended its tenure when it became the target of an arsonist. Med Mix leased the building from Eisenberg after he purchased the vacant property and fixed it up.

    Eisenberg purchased the property after the building sat vacant for quite a while… it had been vacant since the previous business, the Philly Cheese Steak shop, was “displaced” when the owner was shot and murdered in the shop. Interestingly enough the Philly shop’s owner previous to that murdered owner was also murdered… albeit not in the shop, but elsewhere in the CD.

    The only things that Eisenberg has displaced from that vacant property is pigeons and loiterers… and for this he is a favored “villain” of this angry circus.

    Makes you wonder if the pot shop owner or investor was African American what these protester would do… trespass, intimidate, and scream Uncle Tom’s Pot Shop?

    Did any of these protesters enter the lottery of legal recreational marijuana licences? Wyking Garrett or some such person probably should have, or tried to partner with someone who did win a lottery licence. They could have turn this whole thing on its head… but that is hard a risky where as getting angry and blathering incoherently is much easy.

  9. 1) Uncle Ike had zero to do with making 23/Union safer. Years of work by community members, the city, and the police are what made the area safer. It had been a sketchy zone for years with regular criminality that was not immune to violence.Selling legal pot at 23/Union just makes it a drug corner once again. 2) It is absolutely true that African Americans went to jail for selling pot on that corner and are not benefiting financially from “legal” pot, 3) The history of African American community in the area has been grossly eroded to house tech workers, 4) A group of SCCC “protesters” showing up at someone’s house is going too far.

    • 1) Total nonsense. The corner never got safe, community activists or not, until Ike’s developed the rest of the lot, installed lighting, and brought people, business and security. I don’t know what you think you’ve seen, but I’ve been in the neighborhood 20+ years and it’s never been as well-lit, trafficked, and safe as it is now.

    • @Sean, yes there were a lot of factors in making that intersection safer, but to say the Ike’s/Eisenberg had nothing to do with it is completely wrong. Eisenberg also owns SeaSuds and the Neighbor Lady building. All these buildings are clean, bright, well lit, have cameras, and nooks and carnies for nefarious activities eliminated. They also have brought a tons of foot traffic.

    • Um. Sean, you were saying….?

      “Community meeting called after more 23/Union gunfire” posted on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – 10:19 am by jseattle

      I can pretty much guarandamntee you that Ike’s was not responsible for the gunfire.

  10. This is just confusing.

    Why are they protesting Ike’s? Seems totally unrelated…

    I also don’t understand why these groups are being evicted so quickly if there isn’t even a plan for redevelopment in place…

    Lots of community and arts centers are losing their space around Seattle right now. It’s really sad.

    I think rather than engage in protests, there should some plan to raise funds for a wide variety of community groups in order to buy permanent space.

    • Ike’s also employs lots of people from the neighborhood – young people of color/black/African-American. On the occasions that I have been to Ike’s, at least half of the staff and customers were black/persons of color. I’m curious how the protestors (mostly white, judging by the photos) reconcile this with their claims that the same business bears some responsibility for historical injustices.

      Also, let’s be honest. It wasn’t pot that was the focus of the illicit drug trade all those years at 23rd and Madison. It was crack. Sold by people with guns. Who weren’t afraid to shoot them at one another. Out in public. That’s somewhat different than a legal, legitimate business operating in the same neighborhood.

      Now, if Ian had been out behind the Midtown Center post office dealing crack all those years, never got busted because of his skin color, and then years later opened up a legal crack business while all of his former opponents were rotting in prison, then yes, the protestors might have a point.

  11. 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

  12. I just want to point out that the person who runs up and starts shoving people around at around 7:41 in the video was one of Uncle Ike’s goons.

    The protesters were not out there to start a fight. It wasn’t even a particularly militant protest. They were out to make a statement. It was Uncle Ike and his people who started the violence and it was the protesters who worked to de-escalate the situation after it happened.

    • These are the same protesters who were shoving elderly people last 4/20 when they tried to get around their blockade. The protesters like to pretend they are innocent freedom fighters, but they are not above physical and verbal intimidation. The racial shit they called the black security guards (people actually from the CD) was venomous.

      Holy shit, an owner wanted people ON HIS PROPERTY ILLEGALLY to get off. News at 11!

    • Watch the video. 7:41. It was Clifford, a professional agitator from New York. Having different opinions is one thing but your lying is just BS. I walked up to the speaker and Clifford jumped in and started pushing people around. Shameful.

    • 1) No, this is not the same group who organized a protest on 4/20.

      2) Watch the video. None of the protesters were being physically or verbally intimidating at all. It was Ian Eisenberg and his goons that started shoving people

      3) It’s a public space. You can be on a public space and make a political statement. Eisenberg was well within his rights to ask them to leave, but he wasn’t doing that. He and his goons were trying to get violent with people and start a riot.

    • Ian, it was you who escalated the situation by running up on her and he was getting between you two. Then, it was your goon who ran up on Cliff and shoved him. Cliff didn’t shove anybody.

    • “The protesters were not out there to start a fight. It wasn’t even a particularly militant protest. They were out to make a statement.

      They were out there to harass and intimidate.
      It was private property and they refused to leave. They should have been arrested.

  13. This whole thing is theater of the absurd. How does this solve any social justice issues? There are real issues, but yet here the protesters are complaining about weed. Also, anti-Semitism is a poor antidote to racism.

    • “anti-Semitism is a poor antidote to racism.”
      Since the left hasn’t figured that out in the last 50 years I have little hope they will figure this out soon. They won’t even admit the left is drenched in anti-Jewish bias and hostility.

  14. From a practical standpoint, Africatown (whatever it is) probably did themselves no favors by going into this guy’s home turf. Now his entire neighborhood will be pressuring him to resolve it, and the inclination will probably be to leave Africatown out of it.

    If it were up to me, I’d demolish the “peace house” (it’s been without utilities for a year, so it is probably irredeemable anyway) and put up a fence around the lot until this whole this is resolved. And I’d just sell to the highest bidder who could close as soon as possible. Time to end this nonsense.

  15. They could be wearing Nazi uniforms and doing heil Hitler salutes while screaming anti-Jewish epithets and these people would not see the anti-Semitism in it since this mob is being done in the name of defending blacks. It is things like this that make me shrug over the last years when liberals show Trump supporters being belligerent and insensitive to minorities. It’s no different than the open hostility the left shows to Jews. This harassment is the same old dog whistle anti-Semitism, racial code phrases and false mantras that have been used for a long time against Jews. Shame on blacks and their white liberal apologists for shamelessly doing the same.
    I am amazed at the comments I see on social media supporting this. When someone asks hard questions as to why they are targeting Ike’s their answers are easily proven to be lies. One woman said if he just donated to black organizations this wouldn’t have happened. It is amazing that people are unaware that they are admitting this is mob intimidation for extortionists purposes even while stating that it’s his fault for not giving them money. Asian businesses have long been targeted by the same harassment. Al Sharpton’s anti-Korean boycott in infamous for inflaming the anti-Asian hatred and violence that is still felt today. These people want to incite hatred and violence. And they want free stuff.

  16. If this was white right wingers targeting a business owned by a Somalian immigrant they would have been arrested for malicious harassment and extortion a long time ago.
    This is obviously fueled by racist animosity.

  17. So it sounds like this guy has been squatting in that house for over a year and he finally got evicted. I’m failing to see how there was injustice towards him. It sounds like the only injustice was that he deprived the owner of the property their due property (rent and or the rights to their property). It sounds like Africa town was doing the same thing.

    I enjoy all the different cultures here in our neighborhood, but I am making a conscious decision to support businesses and people that stand for personal responsibility, are law abiding and offer good service. I could care less what your ethnicity is.

    On a side note, I can’t wait for that corner to be redeveloped! Just think about how those developments will enhance our neighborhood. More people to shop at our shops. More property tax revenue for our schools. More neighbors to get to know. More people using mass transit (and helping bring farebox recovering rates up). More supply of housing to lessen the demand for housing (providing for a housing at lower costs than it would have been). And hopefully more and stronger businesses within a short walk that the rest of us can enjoy! Too bad we haven’t upzones more of our neighborhood to allow dense urban housing!

  18. “The term woke is problematic”

    That is so woke!

    By the way what is a girl from south King County doing up in Seattle lecturing the white guy raised in the CD about the CD?

  19. Since it needs to be said, Ian has posted a video of Omari Tahir-Garrett’s brazen anti-Semitic outburst outside of Ike’s, wherein Tahir-Garrett repeatedly tells Ian to “go back to Germany” and to “let the Nazis get on you again”. Seriously.

    Anyone still sticking up for Tahir-Garrett needs to do some serious and very deep self-analysis. Ask yourself why you would ally yourself and defend such a person.