Seattle, WA – Seattle police tried on Friday morning to clear the homeless encampment in Cal Anderson Park that has been there since activists set up a five-block, cop-free “autonomous” zone on Capitol Hill in June.
The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ), which later became the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP), was dismantled by police on July 1, but the homeless encampment stayed and continued to grow, the Seattle Times reported.
Police have done a series of sweeps since then to clear the park of homeless campers and protesters but they have continued to return over and over again.
Seattle police officers, many of them with bikes, descended on the park before sunrise on Dec. 18, the Seattle Times reported.
Police let the man in the hoodie behind the police line and he walked off
— Scott Greenstone (@evergreenstone) December 18, 2020
City park employees were on hand to help tear down the makeshift villages the protesters had constructed in the green space.
Construction crews moved the barricades that protesters had put up and hauled tents from the park one section at a time, the Seattle Times reported.
Police made 10 arrests when activists tried to block their cleanup efforts.
Seattle police said on their website that the people were arrested for “various charges including felony harassment, trespass, and failure to disperse,” the Seattle Times reported.
@SeattlePD’s Chief Diaz, assesses the situation at #CalAnderson park this morning in Seattle, WA., USA.
Seattle PD assisted in a request by Seattle Parks to help disperse a homeless encampment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.
A couple of arrests occurred.#CalAndersonSweep pic.twitter.com/VAm3kWGT5Z
— Jose M. (@VoteJoseM) December 18, 2020
More arrests. Lots of pepper spray and pepper ball guns in the hands of police. pic.twitter.com/LnRiyIk6MB
— Seattle Protest Network (@SEAProtestNet) December 18, 2020
Protesters gave up on trying to stop the public eviction and instead resorted to helping the homeless people collect their belongings before their temporary living quarters were torn down.
They chanted “Housing First,” a reference to the movement that believes homeless people should be given free housing ahead of substance abuse or mental health treatment, the Seattle Times reported.
The city had made plans to clear the homeless encampment from Cal Anderson Park two days earlier, on Wednesday, but were stalled after Seattle resident Ada Yeager filed an emergency restraining order against them.
Protesters gathered at the park to support the initiative, but U.S. District Judge Richard Jones denied Yeager’s request on Thursday, the Seattle Times reported.
A city spokesperson said that hours later, a Jeep Liberty parked at Cal Anderson was set ablaze by an “incendiary device.”
People who had been living in the park since early summer said the police were more aggressive in dismantling their encampment than they have been during prior raids, the Seattle Times reported.
A homeless woman named Sunday said she never heard the announcements by police and woke up when officers were “chain sawing” the perimeter fence open to evict everybody.
But Seattle Parks said employees posted notices all over the Cal Anderson on Monday that warned the people camping in the park to remove their personal property by 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the Seattle Times reported.
“This one was a lot more militant than the last ones,” Sunday complained. “I wish people would stop politicizing the homeless. Just let us live outside… People keep asking, what are our demands? Our demands are: give us housing or leave us alone.”
She said she would probably return to Cal Anderson Park when the police are gone, the Seattle Times reported.
But the city has said it intends to keep the park clear of homeless encampments after this latest sweep and will direct those people in need of housing to more appropriate resources.
“Mayor Durkan believes our City can have mutually shared values,” Seattle Parks Spokesperson Rachel Schulkin said in an email to the Seattle Times. “Individuals experiencing homelessness should be in safer spaces like shelters and hotels especially during the winter, and our parks should not be places with illegal and unsafe conduct like fires, makeshift barricades blocking access to residents and first responders, or individuals who are threatening city workers conducting routine maintenance and breaking into city facilities.”