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‘Community defense’ and activists — but not police — fill Cal Anderson as sweep deadline arrives — UPDATE: Restraining order ruling expected Thursday

Police circled Cal Anderson Wednesday morning but did not — immediately — move in (Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

Activists and community defense volunteers filled Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Wednesday morning as an announced city and police sweep of the park appeared to be paused — if only temporarily.

Police did not immediately enter the park and made a few shows of cruisers and lights while a mix of law enforcement and media helicopters buzzed the area around the 7:30 AM deadline for the announced clearance of “personal property” from the homeless encampments and mutual aid activities inside the 7.4 acre park in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

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. The city says outreach workers have been in contact with campers including 40 in the past week with 10 being referred to shelter facilities.


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A message posted at Bakery Nouveau across from Williams Place. Thanks to a CHS reader for the picture.

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. The encampments were untouched as of Wednesday morning, however, at another area on Capitol Hill that has become busy with campers at Miller Community Center.

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.

UPDATE: A lawsuit has been filed in US District Court seeking a temporary restraining order on the sweep on behalf of “an unhoused resident of Seattle,” Ada Yeager.

According to the filings, Yeager 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.'”

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.”

It’s not clear what effect if any the suit has had on the city’s plans to clear the park. SPD is referring media to Seattle Parks and a department representative said that the clearance effort is under the parks department’s direction.

Police have reportedly told businesses and property owners in the area that there will probably not be a clearance effort Wednesday.

The city has, of course, not confirmed that decision:

UPDATE 5:21 PM: In a telephone conference on the request for a temporary restraining order to halt the sweep,Judge Richard A. Jones refused to rush an order in the federal civil rights case and said he would issue a written ruling by Thursday.

The legal decision throws the city’s efforts to clear the park into a temporary limbo. In the hearing, lawyers for the City Attorney said that there had been “a postponement of the action” to clear the park Wednesday due to the litigation. Any city action overnight would come in the shadow of a possible ruling by Judge Jones on Thursday that could halt any ongoing operations related to the park.

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 said he was only blocks away from Cal Anderson during the teleconference and could hear sirens from the unfolding situation at the park as he argued for the restraining order. Pence argued that 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.”

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, the lawyers said. The City Attorney’s office said it could not agree.

After reconvening, Judge Jones did not reveal his hand in choosing to delay a decision for a matter of hours saying the court would not be “rushed.” Jones chastised Pence after the Durkan comment for veering into “speculation” from the facts of the case and 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.

Jones promised his ruling on the restraining order by Thursday morning but said he would attempt to file it overnight “if we can get it done.

 

(Image: CHS)

Activists and a few hundred community defense volunteers spread out across the area of the grassy meadow near the park’s southern edge next to the Bobby Morris sports field, surrounding as best they could the central core of the park’s tents and encampment set-up. Some campers in the hours before the 7:30 AM deadline were packing up their belongings and leaving the camps.

Protesters also blocked off portions of 11th Ave and a few street corners around the park with caution tape, garbage cans, and dumpsters.

At one point after 7:30 AM came and went without a raid, protesters set fire to an empty tent as the occasional firework also popped off in the park. More fires were reported set to debris near the circle of fences and barriers organizers have tried to string together in the center of the park.

Construction crews at nearby work sites watched from the top of the multistory, multimillion dollar developments quickly taking shape near the Capitol Hill Station light rail facility north of the park. Meanwhile, dog owners and athletic trainers spread out across the sports field turf south of the park

There were no reported contacts with police at the camps overnight and into the first minutes after the 7:30 AM notice. Meanwhile, the media presence grew and also spread through the area around the park.

(Image: Matt Mitgang)

UPDATE 4:45 PM: As a federal judge considers a possible restraining order to halt any clearance of the park, activists have begun an occupation of a vacant house near Cal Anderson Park.

The house appears to be a single family-style home lined up for demolition to make way for a planned five-story apartment building with 10 “small efficiency dwelling units” and 8 apartment units. Developer Build Urban purchased the property in 2017 for $1.3 million according to King County records. The house faced foreclosure and is now the property of Ascent Capital Fund.

UPDATE 4:55 PM: SPD has objected to CHS’s characterization of the planned sweep.

“Any action in any city park is done by the Parks department, not the police department,” a spokesperson tells CHS. “Seattle PD is always available to assist parks department personnel, but they, and not the police department, are the agency responsible for the parks. We would only be present in a support role to the Parks department.”


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stan
stan
6 months ago

“Activists and organizers, meanwhile, point to CDC guidelines against sweeps during the COVID-19 crisis…”

Yes because throwing garbage around the park that the homeless call home, including an abandoned refrigerator, and setting fires is incredibly conducive to the safety and well-being of people without shelter. Seems like this action by the “activists” is more about them showing their asses to provoke a fight with the police than it is about the homeless. Way to use people like pawns. Such compassion!

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  stan

Producers of packaged goods produce the “garbage” you’re referring too without offering any recourse for what to do with it upon consumption of those goods. It’s left to consumers to pay for city funded garbage removal to take away this packaging produced through our process of consumption. It should be the producers of such “garbage” offering solutions for what to do it with after consumption, not sticking the bill to consumers.

Apotheosis
Apotheosis
6 months ago

You’re in deep…

stan
stan
6 months ago

WTF are you talking about?

Those sofas and the fridge weren’t left blocking the entrance by producers of consumer packaged goods; they were dragged there by consumers (“activists”) who turned those things into garbage with their actions. They could have easily been kept by the consumers (“activists”) instead of tossing them out for the latest styles. But, you know, gotta show those homeless folk what they are missing in the ‘burbs; which where this morning’s crew will surely return to know that it’s raining again.

But you go ahead and head back to your dream world where you think these actions make you righteous.

CD Rez
CD Rez
6 months ago

so you want companies to clean up after you?

Mimi
Mimi
6 months ago

Here’s a question for the activists and the folks who want the encampment to remain, why is it OK that the campers are bad neighbors to the community? They leave tons of trash all over, grafitti, drug paraphernalia, feces, play loud music at all hours, burn illegal fires that are negatively impacting peoples health etc. If my next door neighbor behaved this way everyone on the block would be upset and rightfully so. The city would fine them right, left and center. If the homeless people want to live here with us, why do they get a pass? Why are they allowed to ignore all standards of health, safety, law and civility? If they want to live here with us how about making an effort to be good neighbors? Why is this behavior coddled and enabled by the activists? Why do the rest of us have to follow the laws but they don’t?

Dani
Dani
6 months ago
Reply to  Mimi

Because we are worse neighbors towards them. We let neoliberal politicians like Jenny Durkan spend tons of taxpayer money pushing them from neighborhood to neighborhood instead of housing them.

stan
stan
6 months ago
Reply to  Dani

Homelessness didn’t just happen when Durkan was elected; it’s been a problem for years under several administrations. This includes the rule, I mean, watchful eye of Comrade Sawant. We’ve invested BILLIONS toward a homeless emergency for years now and our entire city government has been inept at solving the issue. What have any of our past mayors or city council done for the homeless other than: A) push them from site to site; or B) allow them to rot in tents and under tarps on public lands?

But tell me, what’s your solution to the person living on the street, that’s offered shelter, but refuses because they just want to hang out with friends and do drugs? That’s not every homeless person but there are quite a few with addiction problems that have no desire for shelter; there are interviews where some have admitted this. What’s your answer to where they live? Is in the middle of the park still okay? Is that safe for ALL?

You seem to think that there’s some magic solution just around the corner if only we elected the right person or, at minimum, got rid of all cops and let it all burn down. Unfortunately it’s more complicated than any of our comments on a local blog post can solve. But your rhetoric, devoid of facts, doesn’t help anyone.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
6 months ago
Reply to  stan

Well, we were told that decades of tax cuts on the wealthy would trickle something down. The homeless problems are one of the many super awesome things that trickled down on Americans.

To place the entire blame of the current homeless problem on the Seattle Council is disingenuous and flat out lazy. Any other country has safety nets in place to treat mental illness, cure drug addiction and house the homeless. In the end, Americans voted in the politicians that destroyed our safety net to allow for more billionaires.

Meanwhile, we’ve dehumanized the homeless and treat them with utter contempt and then act surprised that they can’t pull themselves out of homelessness. We really only have ourselves to blame, but it’s cute to see you try to only blame the politicians that you don’t like.

Dan
Dan
6 months ago
Reply to  Mimi

Exactly. A common talking point among activists is that giving people rights does not take away the rights of others, but then they promote policies which do just that.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  Mimi

There’s no “wanting to live here with us”. We all live together. There is no way out.

Walks dogs
Walks dogs
6 months ago
Reply to  Mimi

Mimi – I totally agree. I support the efforts to help the homeless and others in need. But to allow this lawlessness to continue is counter productive. As of 1 pm nothing had been done to clear the park other than the police driving around the boundry with their lights flashing. What message does this send?

caphiller
caphiller
6 months ago

So, is the park cleared yet? Here’s hoping next time I walk by there will be no tents, fires, bbqs, furniture, or piles of trash… is that too much to ask?

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

In this society in the year 2020, yes, it is too much to ask for our tsunami or poverty and homelessness to not be visible to other citizens.

Apotheosis
Apotheosis
6 months ago

Your sanctimonious attitude is insufferable. This city spends 100s of millions a year on services and support for the homeless. For those who accept help, it is available. Those who can’t or won’t because of drug addiction shouldn’t be allowed to illegally seize our parks and other public spaces.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
6 months ago
Reply to  Apotheosis

I challenge you to spend one single night on the streets of Seattle and then come back and tell us how there’s help available for those that want it.

This myth that the homeless are only there because they choose to be homeless needs to stop. It’s perpetuated by dangerous groups that try to dehumanize the homeless, like Safe Seattle. All it does is prevents solutions from being implemented that will actually solve the homeless crisis.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  Apotheosis

Ok, so what horrible fate are you wishing upon them?

Kiddo
Kiddo
6 months ago

You want people to live outside to be a testament to your own ideology. You say so yourself that they need to display themselves for you. These people are nothing but tools to you. The city offered the homeless shelter, a few accepted. I’ll bet that most wish they had accepted given the windstorm that swept through here last night. It must have been miserable out there. But no, they have people like you telling them that this will all be better if they stay out there, that their utopia will come…

csy
csy
6 months ago

So, is visibility > housing? Because if every single homeless person in CA park were somehow housed tomorrow at the Renton Red Lion Inn, they would no longer be visible.

But methinks that’s not what activists want. They want *visibility* because political *theater* (not *solutions*) craves it.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  csy

No no.. I’m simply saying LOOK at the reality in front of all of us.. Take it all in. This is the world we’ve inherited. It’s very visible at the moment. This is an opportunity for us to process this as it is all out in the open and SEE how our society effects other people in such a profound way they end up bottomed out living a park during a global pandemic overwhelmed with poverty and a million other problems.

I don’t want people to be suffering from drug addiction and poverty but they very visibly are.. That sucks, I feel terrible this is happening in my society. (end statement do not move to “get them out, club them and take them away.. it doesn’t have to be that way.. but that seems to be the only imaginative solution I see in these comments)

csy
csy
6 months ago

Fair enough. I’ve seen a lot already, long before encampments, having spent years in the social work field, here and abroad. So what do you envision is the best way to get them out of drug addiction, tents, etc? I envision mandatory Schick-Schadel treatment + mandatory jobs program doing community/highway cleanup (with pay, benefits, and housing in trailers near cleanup sites) for everyone currently camping at CA Park — I’d gladly have my tax dollars go to *that*. But methinks the activists would have a problem with the “mandatory” part, which IMO keeps things quagmired in the dead end we now have at CA Park.

Fairly Obvious
Fairly Obvious
6 months ago
Reply to  csy

If you provide ample transitional housing, with full, in building access to drug and mental health treatment, you will have solved the homeless problem. Yes, its that simple. How do I know? It’s what almost every other first world country does. These people don’t want to be homeless, but their options to escape it are very slim. Yes it’s not cheap, but our country has plenty of money. We just choose to prioritize our money in other ways, like massive military spending or massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Providing jobs and job training as well in these facilities would do a lot to ensure that people don’t slip back into homelessness. Of course, some people are homeless because getting a job with a criminal record is very difficult. That would need to be addressed with massive justice reform at the national and state level by sealing criminal records of non-violent offenders that have served their time (yes I know it’s not that straightforward).

As of now, we are doing almost nothing. Continually dislodging the homeless from parks is just a continued exercise in futility. Only an extremely dimwitted person would think that actually does anything to solve the homeless problem, it just moves the problem around like a child pushing their vegetables around their plate to make it look like they’ve eaten some.

In the end, it all comes down to carrot vs stick. The stick method has never worked and never will. These are human beings that have hit rock bottom (whether by their own doing matters not) who need our compassion, not our contempt. And no, allowing encampments in parks is not compassion, it’s just a slightly lesser form of contempt than continually dislodging them.

Nick W
Nick W
6 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

It’s 10x worse today. Protesters walking around carrying baseball bats, lighting bonfires, and setting up massive trash barricades protecting their turf. I’m not sure it’s even realistically possible to clear the park anytime soon – they may have won.

G.Marie
G.Marie
6 months ago
Reply to  caphiller

As of this writing, the park has not been cleared. Once again, Seattle has shown itself to be toothless when it comes to follow through and removal.

caphiller
caphiller
6 months ago
Reply to  G.Marie

Wow, that’s really disappointing. I was hoping today we would turn a corner and the neighborhood would be on the road to recovery.

Ben
Ben
6 months ago

“Construction crews at nearby work sites watched from the top of the multistory, multimillion dollar developments quickly taking shape … north of the park.”

Let’s be fully transparent here with this narrative: much of that housing was developed to be affordable housing and is a model solution between gov’t and NGO partnership to address the homelessness crisis and income divide in the city.

Indeed, you have reported on this in the past:

https://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2020/01/more-than-1300-apply-for-110-affordable-apartments-above-capitol-hill-station/

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-29/seattle-s-new-light-rail-comes-with-affordable-homes 

C Doom
C Doom
6 months ago

The campers are violating park policy and law. They have no right to remain.

David
David
6 months ago

Disgusting. This is NOT Black Lives Matter…this is just drunks and drug addicts and criminals damaging the park. You are FREE to “meet” there, you are FREE to protest, walk up and down the sidewalk chanting whatever you want! Heck, just 2 weekends ago someone with a megaphone was yelling about accepting Jesus in front of Pike Place Market. That’s OK!!! But camping, tossing garbage, threatening CITIZENS trying to USE the park, damaging the park, spray painting and gang tagging the park IS NOT F**KING COOL. This horrible people need to be kicked out now! Families have the SAME F**KING right to use that park and should not be scared out by criminals. CLEAN UP THAT PARK! ENFORCE THE LAWS!
You CAN and SHOULD be able to protest for/against whatever you want! But you don’t GET TO damage OTHERS property or take over public land cause you ‘wanna’.

Edward
Edward
6 months ago

As of 2:00PM Williams place is a mess again. The fecal matter is overwhelming

Phil Mocek
6 months ago

If I remember correctly, around 5am, generally on a Monday, is the traditional time for this sort if police action in Seattle. They’ll likely make their move sometime when physical presence of supporters is low.

Nick W
Nick W
6 months ago
Reply to  Phil Mocek

What are the laws/rules on notice, though? They clearly have to give notice, but doing so like they just did increases protester presence. Is the notice they gave 2 days ago still good for next week?

stan
stan
6 months ago

What I find interesting is that some “activist” bought a tent and fireworks only to intentionally set it on fire.

Wouldn’t it have been more useful to give the tent to the homeless people versus burning it? Or, how about giving them the money you spent on the tent and fireworks so they could buy food and/or clothes? Kind of seems like more of the hypocrisy of
“activists” who claim to be so caring and compassionate about the plight of the homeless. Yet, their actions reflect only their white (likely suburban dwelling), privileged entitlement to commit destruction (for the lulz?) in an attempt to get attention.

But I guess showing the less fortunate that you are white, in charge, with money to burn is super compassionate. Bra-vo.

RWK
RWK
6 months ago

“The city says outreach workers have been in contact with campers including 40 in the past week with 10 being referred to shelter facilities.”

In other words, 75% of campers have refused shelter, even when it’s available. Par for the course, for years now. As for the 25% who were referred to shelter, what does that mean? Did they actually get to a shelter, or were they just given a name/address by outreach workers who just hoped they would get there?

It’s hard to empathize with homeless people who show no interest at all in helping themselves.

CapHillEscapee
CapHillEscapee
6 months ago

It really is terrible to see the neighborhood go downhill like this, but anyone with discernment could tell that the signs for this current situation were present around 2017-18, if not before, but didn’t care to act then. And now everyone is surprised and doesn’t know what to do.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago

The people in the park can stay as long as they need to. Economic refugee’s are welcome to use the public land they’ve paid taxes on many times in their lives. Nimby’s stand back and stand by.

rac
rac
6 months ago

Keep it up. Don’t be reasonable. Don’t be thoughtful. Just keeping pounding your myopic agenda. Because the backlash is coming. And the less reasonable you are, the faster and harder it’s coming. Law and order is going to make a comeback. Think NYC’s broken window’s policy and stop and frisk. It’s all coming back. Because you are quickly exhuasting any remaining support you have among the folks who ultimately pay the bills here. History is cyclical.

The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
The Ghostt Of Capitol Hill
6 months ago
Reply to  rac

Cool. Thanks. Very threatening. Definitely don’t just accept the reality you live in and have compassion for those that live around you. We all pay the bills. I go to work like every american schmo and so do many homeless people. People who want a lily white world of dominance over all others are throwing a fit because our economic system can’t provide for us all and people have had enough (think other inadequate economic systems, but this one). People rising up and demanding to reinvent society; culturally and economically, is certainly where we’re at in the cycle of history you’re referring to.

States Obvious
States Obvious
6 months ago

“….”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.” ”

So 90% of the current drama and debris has little to do with the homeless.
It’s appearing more like the homeless are being used to set up another physical battle with SPD for the defund police agenda.
It’s not about the homeless. It’s not about BLM. Let’s be clear.

Yes I’m an old lady who is in recovery and has been homeless. I would have snatched a voucher for a motel room in a heartbeat and taken my party indoors.
Everytime I read these articles I’m left wondering why aren’t they talking more with addicts/homeless who have been successful in recovery? Why do politicians keep throwing money at shit that has proven not to work?

Emily
Emily
6 months ago
Reply to  States Obvious

I’ve wondered that too. It seems like when I do (rarely) get to hear some analysis from formerly homeless, often formerly addicted people — people who lived outside, not just couch-surfing — they usually say, “this shit doesn’t work,” yet what I hear from homeless advocates is “give generously for that same ol’ shit.”

What would you say if they did talk with you?

Everything is complicated
Everything is complicated
6 months ago
Reply to  States Obvious

It’s such a relief when you scroll through so much arguing/virtue signaling (looking at you “Ghostt of Capitol Hill”) to read a sensible comment. I’ve come to know a couple of Cal Anderson’s new residents over the last couple of months as it’s part of my daily COVID/unemployed walking route…this morning I met one of them as he was leaving with his cart. He said he was on his way to Denny Park as “these kids are just looking for a fight” I gave him 20 bucks knowing he’s going to spend it on drugs…just like I will come Friday night. I’m sorry but “community defense volunteers” and a food truck called “Riot Kitchen”??? Talk to you in 20 years when you’re wondering who are these kids in my back yard.