SEATTLE — A homeless camp that had taken over Cal Anderson Park on Seattle’s Capitol Hill is being dismantled after police and city cleanup crews moved in Friday morning.
Seattle police said 10 people were arrested Friday morning. Shortly before 1 p.m., police said 11 more people were arrested and just before 5 p.m., three additional people were arrested, bringing the total to 24 people arrested for misdemeanor trespass, failure to disperse, resisting arrest, obstructing arrest and property damage.
Loudspeakers ordering people to vacate the park sounded off around 7:15 a.m., but people did not appear to take the announcement seriously. That’s when police and Seattle Parks Department vehicles moved in, and it appeared people were moved out of the camp.
Some demonstrators confronted officers, and there were skirmishes.
Neighbors said this is the third time an encampment has been cleared from the park, and they hope it stays that way this time.
A couple of neighbors who watched didn’t want to give their names, but they have concerns now that the encampment has been dismantled.
“If you notice, there are a lot of police officers out here,” one neighbor said. “There’s a lot of city workers out here. And I don’t see any social workers. I don’t see any mental health workers.”
There are possible ripple effects on the surrounding streets.
“I do worry,” said another neighbor, “because if they don’t have a place here, they’re going to join adjoining neighbors. And it’s frustrating to know that there’s nothing we can do ... to stop that.”
Crews are now working to clean up the park so that it can be reopened to the public. The park has been technically closed, but became a meeting place for many marches and protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A group calling themselves homeless advocates supporting an encampment at the park dug in and took over a nearby abandoned house. They issued demands to the city, wanting permanent housing for all.
On Thursday, the group stood before the abandoned house and said they had taken it over in protest. That house is only steps away from the park where the city is sweeping a six-month-old homeless encampment that was barricaded behind a makeshift wall of pallets, fencing and chains.
A SWAT vehicle was seen outside the house Friday morning, and Seattle police blocked off part of 11th Ave. near Pine Street, where officers were in a standoff with homeless campers who were told to leave.
Seattle police said those inside were told to leave, and the property owner was notified so the house could be secured.
The city said the people at the park have all been offered places to stay, but the group pushed back and said there is no shelter available. They said there is a real shortage of beds because of the pandemic, and the most anyone has been offered is very temporary shelter, which they said is unacceptable.
“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 Allie, a homeless advocate.
On Friday, video from Chopper 7 showed crews tearing down the makeshift wall and throwing wood and debris into a garbage truck.
Judge Richard A. Jones denied a request to stop the sweep, which was based on a lawsuit filed on behalf of a woman who has lived in Cal Anderson Park since June.
The Seattle Parks Department said it has offered shelter and services to everyone living in the park, adding:
“The City has created a plan to remove the extensive barricades, repair city facilities on site, and conduct a multiday intensive maintenance effort including removing garbage, debris, and needles.”
The cleanup of the park, which the city said would last several days, is a welcome relief to the interim pastor of nearby Central Lutheran Church.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Rev. Maynard Atik. His church has long served meals to homeless people.
“This is a hopeful sign that the park can be renovated and used by people,” said Atik.
On Saturday, the city plans to focus its attention on maintenance, removing graffiti and repairing and cleaning play equipment.
The city said that in the coming days, its Human Services Department Hope Team will coordinate with outreach service providers and connect those experiencing homelessness to shelter and services.
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