Olympia, WA – Red Lion Hotel employees and guests ran for cover as a mob of Antifa armed with knives, axes, and batons stormed into the building and began taking it over on Sunday.
Hotel guests in approximately 40 rooms ended up sheltering in place as the group seized the facility wearing goggles, helmets, and gas masks, the City of Olympia said in a press release.
Oly Housing Now organizer Emma Deitz, a self-proclaimed member of Olympia Anarchist Mutual Aid, said her group obtained 17 rooms at the Red Lion Hotel on Capitol Way South for a single night on Saturday afternoon and brought 33 homeless residents into them, The Olympian reported.
It is unclear whether the rooms were paid for by the group or if they were provided by vouchers from a local nonprofit, Family Support Center.
Family Support Center Executive Director Trish Gregory told The Olympian that the nonprofit was covering hotel stays for 27 families over the weekend, to include some who were staying at the Red Lion.
“Family Support Center is currently spending approximately $80,000 per month to provide hotel rooms to families with children who otherwise would be forced to sleep outdoors,” Gregory said.
Deitz said Oly Housing Now planned to have those they brought in off of the streets occupy the hotel rooms indefinitely for free as a homeless shelter until city and county leaders agreed to a list of demands.
Join us for a Housing Justice Rally this Sunday at 11am at Sylvester Park!
Stand as a community in support of housing for our houseless neighbors! pic.twitter.com/dzqtevfxdA
— Oly Housing Now (@OlyHousingNow) January 28, 2021
In addition to ordering Thurston County to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to open up money for those especially at risk for illness complications, the group also demanded the city set up better restrooms and resources than the port-a-potties and dumpsters they have already provided to various homeless encampments throughout the city, The Olympian reported.
They said the city must create encampment overflow sites and spaces where those with the novel coronavirus can be isolated, and that they need to provide various hygiene and sanitation materials, according to KIRO.
The group also demanded the city use hotel vouchers intended for first responders and public safety emergency housing to shelter the homeless, and ordered the city to increase fees on commercial and luxury properties situated in the downtown area.
Oly Housing Now further called on the city to establish permanent housing for “extremely low-income” people who make les than $26,200 annually, according to The Olympian.
BREAKING: @OlyHousingNow Takes Motel for Emergency Pandemic Housing
Group Calls on Thurston County to Pay for the Rooms with FEMA Funding That Covers Non-Congregate Shelter at 100% pic.twitter.com/btGQ9rgOqX
— Rebecca Parson (@RebeccaforWA) January 31, 2021
Thurston County Homeless Coordinator Keyelle Marineau said she went to the hotel and spoke with leaders of the group to let them know they were looking into how to apply for FEMA funding.
“We’re just ready to stand our ground. We don’t mean any harm. We actually want this hotel to get business,” Emma Veite told KIRO. “So, they’re going to get the FEMA funds. And the rooms are going to be occupied by people who need them. So, it’s a win-win. The funds are there; the county just has to apply for it.”
But chaos erupted at approximately 11 a.m. on Sunday, when the group refused to leave the hotel at the conclusion of the one-night stay they booked, KING reported.
— Tacoma Housing Now (@TacHousing) January 31, 2021
More people stormed the lobby and demanded additional free rooms, according to KIRO.
Oly Housing Now sent out a release claiming to have “taken the hotel” in order to help homeless people because of the cold temperatures outside and the continuing pandemic, KING reported.
The Olympia Police Department (OPD) then began receiving 911 calls reporting that a group armed with hatchets, knives, and batons was “attempting to forcibly take over the hotel,” the department said in a press release.
Employees said they felt threatened by the group, and that one worker was assaulted by a member of the antifa mob.
The hotel staff told police “that some members of the activist group inside the hotel were armed with items such as hatchets, batons, knives and had gasmasks, helmets and goggles apparently in preparation for a confrontation,” according to the OPD.
Police said some of the rioters were trying to “take over the front desk,” The Post Millennial reported.
The employees fled to the basement, where they hid out for more than six hours until police were able to evacuate them, KIRO reported.
Members of the mob were up on the fourth and fifth floors of the hotel placing black tarps over the windows when police arrived at the scene, according to KING.
At least 30 police vehicles including undercover cars, two SWAT vans and a mobile command unit are staged behind the Red Lion Hotel. pic.twitter.com/mX3rfIlRxD
— Shauna Sowersby (@Shauna_Sowersby) February 1, 2021
A crowd gathered outside the hotel and began swearing and screaming at officers, cell phone footage showed.
“What is wrong with you?” one woman yelled at the officers. “If there is a god, I pray to got that you all die a horrible f—king death!”
A house less mother and her children are now being forcibly removed from the Red Lion Hotel. Everyone around me is visibly upset. pic.twitter.com/NEqFp0mNfL
— Shauna Sowersby (@Shauna_Sowersby) February 1, 2021
Area business owners said they were contacted by OPD and told to close up their stores due to potential rioting, according to The Post Millennial.
Police obtained a search warrant for the hotel for conspiracy to commit burglary, trespassing, and first-degree burglary.
A Thurston County SWAT team and law enforcement officers from multiple agencies blocked off nearby streets and began evacuating the hotel floor-by-floor beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m., The Olympian reported.
At least 12 people were placed under arrest during the sweep, according to KING.
Olympia PD not messing around tonight. Several arrests so far as they clear the occupied hotel. Businesses were told to close early. pic.twitter.com/E3ZAsWuT1Y
— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) February 1, 2021
The guests in the 40 rooms that were not involved in the occupation were safely evacuated and relocated, the OPD said.
The City of Olympia’s Crisis Response Unit helped connect the homeless individuals evacuated from the hotel with services, but they were not allowed to remain in the Red Lion Hotel rooms, according to police.
“Making sure our unhoused residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been Olympia’s priority for more than a decade,” Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby said in the press release. “Olympia has led on responding to homelessness, on coordinating shelter and other basic needs. The tactics used today by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable.”