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City of Seattle’s plan to sweep homeless encampments and protesters at Cal Anderson waits on judge’s decision — UPDATE: DENIED

Some of the hastily arranged barricades around encampments at Cal Anderson Park

UPDATE 4:30 PM: A federal court Thursday denied a motion to request a temporary restraining order to halt the planned sweep. More details and the full decision are below.

Original report: A Washington district federal court judge will decide the immediate future of Cal Anderson Park Thursday morning.

Is it soon to be cleared and swept of campers or will “community defense” volunteers mark a victory — however brief — in holding back City Hall?

The decision from Judge Richard Jones expected Thursday morning could open the way for Seattle Parks to move forward with its announced plan to clear Cal Anderson of tents and belongings.

Activists and black bloc protesters did their best to fill the park Wednesday, the city’s deadline for clearing the area after what it says has been an intensive outreach effort to offer homeless campers shelter across the city. The Seattle Police Department circled and patrolled the area of the occupied protest but did not enter the park to engage with protesters Wednesday and overnight into Thursday when Judge Jones was expected to announce his decision on a requested temporary restraining order to halt any sweep.

The federal civil rights lawsuit brought on behalf of “an unhoused resident of Seattle” put a daylong pause to any clearance plans Wednesday but lawyers for the Seattle City Attorney said further action to clear the park would be “imminent” if the request for the restraining order were denied.

The lawsuit been filed in U.S. District Court seek a stop to the sweep on behalf of Ada Yeager whose lawyer say has been living in Cal Anderson since early June and has been subjected to “repeated harassment from the City of Seattle by way of ‘sweeps.’”

UPDATE 3:36 PM: While the judge has yet to announce his ruling, the case has taken a few twists and turns through the day.

In a declaration filed Thursday morning, the city’s legal representation told the court that the plaintiff in the case may not be part of the encampment much longer.

“This morning, the undersigned counsel was advised that the Plaintiff was given a referral for shelter at a tiny home community and was completing intake paperwork as of this morning,” the declaration reads. Meanwhile, the city’s legal team says there were additional referrals for shelter made at the park, upping the number of individuals they say have agreed to move out of the park into shelter facilities.

The lawyer for the plaintiff meanwhile, tried to strengthen his case’s position as a possible issue of free speech, documenting the appearance of Mayor Durkan on KUOW this morning and her description of the camp as a “political occupation.”

The declaration also cites an email from a parks official describing a city moratorium on “encampment removal” at all other city parks besides Cal Anderson.

“These statements individually and taken together are further evidence of Plaintiff’s contention that Defendant City has singled out Plaintiff’s encampment for enforcement and that the threatened raid is anything but content-neutral regulation of political activity,” the declaration reads.

UPDATE 4:30 PM: Judge Jones has denied the motion meaning the city will not be legally barred from moving on with the clearance.

“Based on the evidence presented, the Court determines that Ms. Yeager has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits that previous police sweeps or the intended police sweep has resulted or will result in an unreasonable seizures in violation of her Fourth Amendment rights,” Judge Jones writes in his decision.

Jones also asked both parties to submit a joint statement to the court regarding the larger case beyond the denied restraining order with a deadline of December 28th. By then, any legal process will likely be more about the consequences of any sweep than preventing one.

The judge’s full decision is below:

The civil rights lawsuit is seeking for the clearance of Cal Anderson to be called off and “general and special damages” including “pain and suffering and compensation for wrongful incarceration.”

In a telephone conference late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Jones refused to rush an order in case and said he would issue a written ruling by Thursday.

In the session, lawyers for the city argued that outreach efforts have been successful but that “a number of individuals are refusing to leave” for “extremely complicated political issues.”

Ghazal Sharifi of the Seattle City Attorney’s office said workers have been threatened in the park and cited a roster of public safety concerns. Sharifi also said outreach has been successful for “17 people” with shelter or hotel referrals as of Wednesday morning. An additional eight people declined assistance but left the park, the city says. Sharifi estimated approximately 10% of people currently in park are “unhoused.”

Braden Pence of Mazzone Law argued for the restraining order saying the situation in Cal Anderson is not unique and there are “encampments across the city” and not enough resources to help. The sweep threat, Pence said, was about the political ambitions of “Jennifer Durkan” in Washington D.C.

At one point, the judge stopped the proceedings and asked the sides to take a 20 minute call to discuss a “temporary cessation” that would delay any sweep. During the call, the plaintiffs asked for two weeks when state restrictions limiting possible services for homeless people could be lifted along with other COVID-19 lockdown elements, the lawyers said. The City Attorney’s office said it could not agree.

After reconvening, Judge Jones drilled Sharifi on how the city treats seized property collected during sweeps. There is a “full plan in place” around storing property, Sharifi attempted to assure the court.

The city, meanwhile, is telling residents, businesses, and property owners to hang in there as it continues to make the public case for sweeping the park despite CDC guidelines.

“Today, there were a series of additional concerning incidents on site including intentional fires, additional barriers brought to the park, and rocks and bricks thrown at Human Service Department employees who had opened a resource tent to offer services,” a message sent by a representative for the mayor’s office reads. “The City will continue to closely monitor the situation to deploy the appropriate resources to keep the streets open for access and protect the safety of neighborhood residents and businesses.”

The mayor’s office is also ramping up its efforts to make the case that its outreach efforts around the park’s homeless population have been more than adequate.

“It is the priority of the City to connect those individuals to shelter or short term assistance. For almost a week, outreach providers have made contact with virtually every individual experiencing homelessness at the park,” the latest email update reads.

Mayor Durkan’s office now says city-contracted outreach workers have been conducting “needs assessments, identifying potential service connections, making referrals for those interested in shelter, and offering support to help individuals voluntarily relocate from the park” and that there were “more than 60 shelters beds available, which included youth shelter (basic and enhanced), tiny homes, and adult shelter (basic and enhanced)” on Wednesday.

The city also says organizations including LEAD, LIHI, and the Urban League have been at the park “offering resources including hotel rooms and tiny homes.”

CHS reported here on the city’s order posted Monday morning to clear the park after months of closure, protests, and camping in the wake of the CHOP occupied protest and Black Lives Matter rallies and marches. Police say one person was arrested after pushing an officer during Monday’s attempts to post notice of the order.

We do not have any reports of arrests at the park related to Wednesday’s “community defense” actions.

Meanwhile, another park camp on Capitol Hill has been reduced to a few tents after outreach, and trash and discarded belongings were cleared at Williams Place Park at 15th and John.

Seattle Parks says “a multi-day intensive maintenance and cleaning project” at Cal Anderson will follow the clearance.

The action comes as the city says property owners, community groups, and businesses have called for Seattle Parks to reopen Cal Anderson and bring an end to its months as a center of unrest.

Activists and organizers, meanwhile, point to CDC guidelines against sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis and the city’s lack of adequate shelter space. Others say sweeping in the middle of winter only days before Christmas is especially cruel.

City Council citywide representative Teresa Mosqueda, who faces reelection next year and many hope could challenge for the upcoming vacancy in the mayor’s office, has spoken out on the planned sweep saying she remains “concerned with the planned removal and urge first placement in non-congregate shelter options in order to be in compliance with current public health CDC guidance.”

But Mosqueda stopped short of calling for a stop to the efforts to sweep the park.

“We must have a shared goal going forward – to provide safe alternative places to live that is not in the streets or our community parks, and this requires ensuring appropriate housing and non-congregate shelter first. For months, Council and the Executive Branch have worked to realize a shared understanding of how to address unauthorized homeless encampments during the COVID pandemic, focusing first and foremost on the public safety and health of all Seattle residents, and I’m hopeful we can return to that strategy,” Mosqueda writes. “There may be appropriate reasons for removals such as blocking sidewalks or when people’s safety is at risk, however, adequate housing and non-congregate shelter options must be secured first through extensive outreach, especially during the time of a pandemic.”

Capitol Hill and Central District representative Kshama Sawant has not made a public statement on the situation. Thursday, Sawant called on Mayor Durkan to enact a “one-year eviction moratorium extension for renters and struggling small businesses.”

Overnight as the judge’s ruling was awaited was mostly quiet at the park. CHS received reports of new tents being set up outside the park near apartment buildings in the area and activists claimed a successful “occupation” of a foreclosed single family-style home on E Denny Way slated for demolition to make way for new apartment development. Seattle Fire was also called to the park for a major medical emergency in the early hours of Thursday morning for a patient in their 20s found unconscious and unresponsive on pavement at the park. According to Seattle Fire radio updates, crews were performing CPR on the patient and administered Narcan for a possible overdose. The patient was transported in critical condition to Harborview, SFD says.

Looking forward, it’s not clear how Seattle Parks and SPD will keep Cal Anderson clear of tents and mutual aid efforts after any sweep. In recent clearances, activists and campers quickly returned — sometimes within hours. Parks says it plans a three-day clean-up in Cal Anderson once the park is cleared and is beginning plans for neighborhood and community-led work sessions after New Year’s to try to reactivate the park once it is officially reopened.

 

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32 Comments
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Brad
Brad
10 months ago

Looking forward to 2 groups that don’t live in Seattle battling it out in the main gay safe space in our city. Someone needs to tell the police to do real work and to tell the gen z’ers to get a job or a hobby.

CH Resident
CH Resident
10 months ago
Reply to  Brad

I agree with the sentiment, but “a good talking to” isn’t going to solve this one. I’m at a loss as to how to stop this entrenched battle but I can recognize that “get a job or a hobby” isn’t helpful to people right now who literally… can’t.

BelezaSea
BelezaSea
10 months ago
Reply to  CH Resident

I became apathetic after the protesters and the homeless pillaged and trashed Neighbors. Let’s not start with the number of attempts the they made trying to vandalize Gaybucks.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 months ago

Declare all public land safe to camp! People need refuge and we will allow it!

Jacob
Jacob
10 months ago

Sure – as soon as the campers commit to the leave no trace principle people follow when camping in state/national parks.

Molly
Molly
10 months ago
Reply to  Jacob

There is no such thing as leaving “no trace”… people just reallocate the trace. If you are camping in a state park, you have the means and resources to remove your garbage and belongings. You do indeed leave a trace on the environment, you just move it from the park to a landfill (which is still making an impact on the environment). Your apartment or home would look exactly like Cal Anderson, if you did not have access to refuse disposal. While Cal Anderson has been “closed,” the Seattle Parks has not been picking up garbage. Volunteers have been emptying garbage cans often filled with dog poop and coffee cups, which are not left by those seeking refuge in the park, but by gentrifiers.

  • I say all of this as a resident living a couple blocks for Cal Anderson.
stan
stan
10 months ago
Reply to  Molly

“While Cal Anderson has been “closed,” the Seattle Parks has not been picking up garbage.”

You clearly have difficulty reading and/or comprehension of what you’ve read. Several articles here and on the Seattle Times have stated that Parks workers have been threatened while tying to carry out clean up and maintenance to the park. It’s hard to do your job when being threatened with violence.

Jacob
Jacob
10 months ago
Reply to  Molly

Leave no trace is different than create no trace which is what you’re writing about. Also – holy crap – the means and resources to remove trash – that statement is the perfect caricature of the mental gymnastics that the extreme left in Seattle are pushing right now. There are places to dispose of trash everywhere in Capitol Hill even if not directly in the park. Why are these people who are abusing the park relieved of any ounce of decency to their “neighbors”? Are your expectations for these people that low? How do you expect them to get help when you think of them that way.

I say all of this as a progressive that has been tear gassed in the protests against police brutality. I wasn’t protesting for accountability for one group in order to completely remove it for another.

Mimi
Mimi
10 months ago
Reply to  Molly

Let’s unpack this a little. Do you really believe that it is just too hard for the people living in the park to carry their garbage to the garbage cans that are all over the park or to the dumpsters in all the buildings that surround the park? Even if the cans are full, they could leave the garbage next to them which would be a huge improvement over the current situation where huge piles of trash are just left everywhere. Do you think it is beyond the capabilities of the mutual aid folks to provide garbage bags? I’ve seen them cart in bags of food, bottled water etc. Surely garbage bags could have been procured. I would have been happy to donate them if I thought for one minute they would have been used.

As far as Seattle Parks emptying the garbage cans, they tried to clean up the park many times but were met with aggression by people in the park. The were afraid to come in the park and didn’t feel safe. It is not their fault that they couldn’t do their jobs and empty the garbage cans.

The length people go to with these mental gymnastics to excuse ALL negative and even criminal behavior of people in the park is astounding It’s enabling to the extreme and paints the homeless people as helpless and powerless while absolving them of any accountability. This is not caring behavior.

When you truly have compassion and recognize the humanity in another person, you know that they have agency, even when they are struggling. You don’t infantilize them.

Michael E Stein
Michael E Stein
10 months ago
Reply to  Molly

As a home owner I have to pay for access to waste water and sewer as well as electricity and gas, there is no free lunch!

Moving On
Moving On
10 months ago

How about we give people refuge inside instead? Letting folks set up a tent in a park is hardly some brave act of compassion and justice.

We should be making a full court press for motel vouchers right now, as the expanded federal assistance for it is about to expire. Maybe channel your energy toward that? It’s easier on the neighborhood and our homeless neighbors don’t risk dying of exposure or losing limbs to hypothermia.

Bruce
Bruce
10 months ago
Reply to  Moving On

What people don’t read or understand is everyone in the park is offered free shelter inside. they are not forced to camp outside elsewhere.
A public park is not the place to claim for themselves, it is for all to use in a safe clean environment.

Steve
Steve
10 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Thank you for the voice of reason.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 months ago
Reply to  Moving On

Letting people stay in the park is the easiest and least invasive way to just let people breathe when they’re obviously struggling. We DO get them out when those opportunities arise and we get a lot of people into shelter.

Those people being kicked out today will just be roaming broadway and other parts of capitol hill for a few days until likely going back to the park.. SO a minumum of a few a days where people are forced to roam around for WHAT!? So the nimbys can “strike back” with their police force and show em what-for for a brief disgusting moment? and it’s going to cost $500,000 in taxes for a few hours of sweep? What is the POINT!

CH Resident
CH Resident
10 months ago

Stop calling the people who don’t want to live with this level of violence / garbage / lack of safety / conflict / suffering NIMBYs. It is not helping.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 months ago
Reply to  CH Resident

The people who are suffering are homeless people living in a park.

I would encourage anyone wanting to clear the park to at this very moment walk outside and wander around for the next few days with no where to go, sleeping on the ground in the cold rain.. This is the fate they’re wishing upon other humans.

Faint commenters “Let em go to your house”, “they should be doing xyz”, “I’m not homeless how could I understand homelessness” .. exactly.

CapHillZz2020
CapHillZz2020
10 months ago

In your house Ghostt. Come up with better than empty platitudes and virtue signaling. Get out of my parks..

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 months ago
Reply to  CapHillZz2020

“my parks”… wow..

DEO
DEO
10 months ago

No.

caphiller
caphiller
10 months ago

So the CDC says sweeps are “unsafe”… I wonder what the CDC has to say about human poop, used needles, and trash all over a public park?

Carrie
Carrie
10 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

The CDC guidelines state: “If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are.”

From the reporting, it sounds like individual housing options are available and have been offered to these campers. Is that not correct? The reporting has been really unclear about this.

stan
stan
10 months ago
Reply to  Carrie

No, the reporting has been very clear – campers have been offered shelter.

Last I read more than half have accepted the offer. There were 50 beds available for ~40 campers. This included standard and enhanced shelters for minors and the same for adults plus a tiny home (which, it sounds like Ada is completing the paperwork for). These have all been on offer from outreach workers since Monday.

But why just take the offer of shelter when “activists” can use the homeless and their situation for political gain? All the homeless need to do is stay put behind the barriers and not accept the outreach offer.

Come on right now
Come on right now
10 months ago

Is there not a vacant island somewhere in the San Juans that we could make available to our homeless brethren (the ones who opt out of the shelter offers)?

Set it up with some honey buckets, etc. and let them abuse drugs, etc. just as they’re doing in our parks and neighborhoods? They can light fires, yell/scream, throw rocks at each other (or passing Orcas) as much as they please.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
10 months ago

Go back to germany

dre
dre
10 months ago

“Sharifi estimated approximately 10% of people currently in park are ‘unhoused.’”

So does that mean 90% are some type of protestor or activist?

Jibbs
10 months ago

They should try this at the governors mansion.

Crow
Crow
10 months ago

Please SPD do the sweep and jail and prosecute the Black Block criminals (Prosecutor will need to help). I am tired of this.

BelezaSea
BelezaSea
10 months ago

Black bloc, antifa and the the encampment at Cal Anderson have worn out their welcome and it’s time to go. After BLM and the black community disavowed any association and denied any support to them, the city and SPD should’ve swept in to clear the place. As a long time resident of color of both Seattle and Cap Hill, it’s sad to see how quickly the city let things get out of control.

stan
stan
10 months ago
Reply to  BelezaSea

Even the homeless are disavowing the “activists” with several being quoted as saying the action of protesters brings the wrong kind of attention on them. That they feel less safe with the presence of the “activists.” The problem comes down to the “activists” being mostly entitled, privileged white kids from the suburbs who don’t really care about the causes they say they’re supporting. They only care about starting a fight with SPD.

If they truly cared about the issues of sweeping the homeless they’d be in Renton right now protesting this tragedy – https://mynorthwest.com/2370193/renton-city-council-homeless-red-lion/. But of course, that’s not Capitol Hill where they have a relatively safe space to act out. The Renton police would likely act much different to the destructive protest actions than SPD. Plus, mommy and daddy might find out and they’d get their allowance cut.

Malheur
Malheur
10 months ago

Maybe Ammon Bundy can come help the protesters?

RWK
RWK
10 months ago

It’s laughable that the “activists” (aka far-left criminals) are framing their occupation as a “free speech” issue. The First Amendment, like most laws, has limits on what it allows, and this blatant takeover/trashing of a public park is certainly one of them.

DEO
DEO
10 months ago

ANTIFA has no sense of balance or gravity. They all fall over really easily, and build stuff like this that falls over with a touch.