Seattle police arrest 24 as crews clear homeless camp at Cal Anderson Park

The city has started a multi-day cleaning operation to remove a homeless camp in Cal Anderson Park. Seattle police made several arrests at the camp Friday.

SEATTLE — The first day of a “multi-day maintenance” and cleaning operation to remove a homeless camp in Cal Anderson Park has come to a close. Seattle police began clearing the camp Friday morning to allow the parks department to clean up the area.

The police department said 24 people were arrested as of 5 p.m. for various charges, including felony harassment, trespass, failure to disperse and resisting or obstructing arrest. 

City spokesperson, Rachel Schulkin, said in a press release Friday that a house near the park that was occupied by activists on Thursday has been “secured” by Seattle police without incident at the request of a homeowner. 

Schulkin also said anyone experiencing homelessness should call 211 for assistance. Belongings, such as IDs and personal items, still within the park will be stored in accordance with city policy, and individuals have been given information on how to retrieve their belongings.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denied a request for a temporary restraining order aimed at stopping city crews from clearing out the camp in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

According to court documents, the plaintiff, Ada Yeager, did not provide a strong enough argument to warrant stopping the clean up of the camp.

Yeager, who has lived in Cal Anderson Park since June 2020 along with 50 other people, filed the motion Wednesday[1] to stop the city from following through with its plans.

Mazzone Law Firm, the firm representing Yeager, said in a statement Thursday, “Ada did not file this suit believing she needs a court to validate her human rights. She filed this suit because she will not disappear.” 

The statement continued, “While Ada is disappointed in today’s ruling, she is thrilled with the community’s widespread resistance to the City’s raid of her home and community.” 

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department gave the people living in Cal Anderson Park notice on Monday to remove their belongings from the park by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. However, when city crews showed up to clean up the camp Wednesday morning, they were met by protesters who barricaded parts of the park and intentionally set fire to a tent, Seattle Parks said.

The park closed in late June after it became the center of protests in the “Capitol Hill Organized Protest[2]” zone known as CHOP. Since then, people have continued to occupy it, setting up illegal shelters.

According to Seattle Parks, recent maintenance efforts “have been met with threats of physical violence.” This has required Seattle Parks to request police assistance.

According to statement from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s Office Thursday evening, the city has “created a plan to remove the extensive barricades and prepare for a multi-day intensive maintenance, cleaning of garbage, debris, and needles, and repair to City facilities.” 

The mayor’s office said city contracted outreach workers are continuing to offer shelter services to those living in the park. As of Thursday, the city identified 50 shelter spaces, both for youths and adults. Since last Wednesday, outreach crews have reported 20 individuals have been referred to shelters, hotels and tiny homes, eight people have been relocated, and one person was returned to Olympia, according to the city’s statement. 

“Mayor Durkan believes our City can have mutually shared values: individuals experiencing homelessness should be in safer shelters and spaces, and our parks should not be places with illegal fires, barricades, and individuals who are threatening city workers,” said the city’s statement. 

A group of homeless activists “occupied” a house at 1106 E Denny Way, near the NE corner of the park, and said they would not leave until the city met a list of demands, including stopping homeless camp sweeps and providing permanent housing to anyone who needs it.

“If the city doesn’t choose to give people housing first and housing now before providing other services, this type of occupation, this type of demonstration, is going to continue to happen,” said Ali, one of the organizers, who would not provide her last name.

The activists would not answer questions about the legal consequences of trespassing on a property they do not own.

“Ok, next question,” Ali said when asked about it during a press conference.

Property records show that a Bellevue-based private lending company bought the house for $1.2 million. 

KING 5 was unable to reach the company for comment, Thursday.

Some who live on the block support their new neighbors and said they had been respectful.

“The homeless population needs assistance, they need compassion, they need help, they need services,” said a man who lives next door to the occupied house, nicknamed the “yellow house.”

A woman who said she lives nearby interrupted the activists’ press conference to share her thoughts about the park and the people camping there.

“I am not going to go take over somebody’s property that is not mine because it’s owed to me,” she said, “Yes, we need to help the homeless, we need to help the mentally ill, but this is not the way to go.”

“Get the hell out of our park and let us live in it and let us bring our children without setting fires and destroying our neighborhood,” the woman shouted.

References

  1. ^ filed the motion Wednesday (www.king5.com)
  2. ^ Capitol Hill Organized Protest (www.king5.com)

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