Clash over homeless camp sweep near Burke Gillman trail

SEATTLE — There were tense moments Tuesday as the city's Navigation Team worked to clear out a homeless encampment at Ravenna Woods, one month after a convicted felon was found there with illegal weapons.

Activists opposed to the sweep blocked the road to prevent a garbage truck from going into the area to pick up waste and debris.

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​There is a power cord going from a homeowner's house to the campers. Seattle police thought the campers were siphoning off his electricity.

"That's actually not true," said Alex Joo. "They were there for the winter. They were cold and just needed help with electricity."

Joo may be the embodiment of what Seattle and its citizens are wrestling with: what to do with an illegal encampment, in this case one that leads to a secluded greenbelt donated to the city so that it would stay green.

Joo's solution? To share his power with campers.

"My take on that is this," said Joo. "Whatever we try to do with the situation, it doesn't seem like, like the population of homeless entirely goes away. If the encampment goes away, then we have an increase in transients. Between the two I prefer to have an encampment that is more stable. Because they don't mess with our lives whereas the transient population do."

City officials say this sweep was sparked by an arrest Seattle police made a month ago. A felon living here was caught with 30 rounds of assault rifle ammunition, brass knuckles and several large knives.

A notice was posted five days ago that the camp would be shut down. Those living here reached out to these activists for help. They arrived today to try to block the camp's removal.

"We're saying enough is enough," said Dae Shik Kim Hawkins Jr., a homeless advocate. "And we're trying to say that you have every right to stay here."

City officials say they have shelter for the eight people who were living here.

The activists were able to slow down the work. So the workers have packed up for the day. But they say they will be back Wednesday to finish the cleanup.

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