Africatown members arrested at Horace Mann released



SEATTLE - Four men arrested for squatting in the Horace Mann School were released hours later, vowing their battle is not over.

The men are part of a group called Africatown that occupied the Horace Mann School since the beginning of summer. 

Henry Rosoff is digging into what is taught at Africatown and what kind of oversight the Seattle School District would have over it. Watch his full report during our 5 p.m. newscast Wednesday on KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.

Seattle Public Schools plans to remodel it and turn it into an alternative high school. The folks from Africatown wanted it devoted to a school with a culturally-based curriculum for African-American students. 

Most of the group reached an agreement with SPS to find another facility for their programs, but four men decided that wasn't enough. They remained in the Horace Mann building.

Early Tuesday afternoon, SWAT teams from Seattle Police moved in. 

The school district notified police last week that they were at an impasse with the remaining Africatown members, and they wanted them removed. 

Detective Renee Witt said police chose to move in "when there would be no children and the least amount of people." 

Officers swarmed the school.  Chopper 7 even saw some officers on the roof. Police say they had "received intelligence" that the remaining squatters might have firearms or might booby trap the building with explosives. 

A thorough search turned up nothing but the men themselves.

All four were arrested without incident and will face criminal trespass charges.  They were released this afternoon at the East Precinct on Capitol Hill to a small crowd of supporters.

Many in the small crowd were recognizable to those who are familiar with various protests around the city.  They immediately targeted KIRO 7's photographer, blocking her lens and trying to force her to stop filming, even while each one of the four men arrested said they wanted to talk to KIRO 7.

The leader of the group, Omari Tahir-Garrett said he thought the occupation of Horace Mann --and the arrests -- were worth it. 

"Since we've occupied this building, now all of a sudden, this issue of the black achievement gap is back on the table," he said. 

He added that he plans to keep pressing the school district for changes, "The curriculum needs to be so everyone feels good about their culture and themselves."

Meanwhile, Seattle Public Schools says now it can move ahead with the remodeling of Horace Mann.  The project was significantly delayed because of the squatters, but they're unsure whether they will have to pay any fees to the contractor for the delay.

Previous stories:

Future of historic Seattle school in question (11/6/13)

Community group occupation blocking school renovation (11/7/13)

Seattle school squatters warn of 'itchy trigger finger' (11/10/13)

KIRO 7 enters occupied school (11/11/13)

Want to talk about the news of the day? Watch free streaming video on the KIRO 7 mobile app and iPad app, and join us here on Facebook.