Seattle Police And Protesters Locked In Stalemate

Above photo: A tent catches on fire in Cal Anderson Park.

UPDATE: Here are some tweets from today:

Seattle Police did not start a sweep today as activists reinforce their position at Cal Anderson Park.

December 16, 2020 – Seattle Police appeared to be a no-show for a planned homeless encampment sweep at Cal Anderson Park, as the rain started to fall on a cold December afternoon. Activists built an elaborate series of barricades around the central part of Cal Anderson Park, encompassing the Shelter House and blocking sections of 11th Ave and Nagle Place. Protesters took inspiration from Red House on Mississippi in Portland with their ongoing action to prevent the homeless sweep.

As dawn rose over Seattle, spirits were high as mutual aid fed the unhomed and activists. Someone set off a firework in the early morning hours, creating tension in the encampment. At 7:35 AM, Seattle Police arrived at the northeast corner of the park, and another column of vehicles drove on the south side. Activists have caches of rocks, broken bricks staged in several areas, and shields ready at entry and exit points.

As some of the unhomed started to pack, the occupants awaited the siege, which never came. Around 8:30 AM, a tent burst into flames outside of the barricades. One individual told Malcontent News the tent caught on fire by accident due to a firework. In contrast, another individual said the tent was lit on fire on purpose by its owner because they didn’t want Seattle Police taking their belongings. Within minutes all that remained was a smoldering pile, as activists brought buckets of water to extinguish the flames.

By late morning there was an air of boredom, as many started to say aloud they did not think that the sweep would happen. A group of people dressed in black bloc threw rocks at a couple of individuals filming from Broadway Ave. In another area in Cal Anderson Park, activists continued to reinforce the barricades, while people brought clothing, food, and hot coffee to mutual aid. With this backdrop, people that live in the neighborhood worked out, walked dogs, and met each other as if nothing was happening just 100 feet away.

Protesters also broke into the Shelter House, using a battering ram to break through welded steel plates and, in one case, through the wall of the building itself. Seattle Parks had welded the doors shut and surrounded the Shelter House with fencing earlier this year to keep the homeless and activists serving the community out. The closing of the Shelter House has been a contention point with homeless advocates, mutual aid, and people in the neighborhood. After access was blocked and water and electricity turned off, two doors were ripped off of bathrooms and the fence cut. Seattle Parks replaced one door and welded steel plating over the other opening. We interviewed three different people who lived on Capitol Hill, and all of them stated that the closing of the Shelter House and blocking of mutual aid made no sense.

 

Raw video feed from Cal Anderson Park, Dec. 15, 2020.

As the activity at the Shelter House continued, news helicopters hovered overhead. A single-engine aircraft also buzzed Cal Anderson Park at a very low altitude, and moments later, the King County Sheriff helicopter hovered low doing tight circles.

The fortifications are on a similar scale to what activists built around Red House on Mississippi. There was speculation by many that Seattle Police and Seattle Parks are reevaluating the situations and weighing their options. The homeless crisis has gotten steadily worse in Seattle over the last decade despite an estimated $1 billion a year spent addressing the problem. Many government officials and homeless advocates are concerned that the situation will worsen if Congress does not act to extend the CARES Act or create a new stimulus package before the end of the year.