After delivering a five-minute dispersal order at 8:00 a.m., on Friday morning dozens of cops wearing riot gear and wielding batons moved into Cal Anderson Park to clear protesters organizing aid for the homeless out of the Shelterhouse, a small rental facility they'd occupied earlier in the week.
A police officer who told me I couldn't film in the park during the action said police were "enforcing the parks code for camping in the park and trespassing." He added that the park had been "closed for COVID since March or whenever that started."
In a statement, police said Seattle Parks and Recreation "requested Seattle Police Department's assistance in clearing the trespassers from Cal Anderson Park" after police and parks staff asked protesters to leave several times over the course of the week. Police arrested four people on suspicion of trespassing.
According to police, "after conferring with Parks and the Mayor's Office, the Seattle Police Department responded to Cal Anderson Park this morning at 8:00 a.m. to remove the group that had been trespassing in the shelter house [sic], as well as others who were in the closed park."
They add: "Parks staff was on-site to assist with the removal and storage of any personal belongings, to begin to repair any damage to the park, and to relock all the park's facilities."
Around 8:30 a.m., several people who'd been sleeping in the park had hauled their tents and belongings to a sidewalk, where they said cops told them to wait for the Navigation Team to come by and offer them services.
A spokesperson for the Human Services Department said the Navigation Team wasn't "on the ground" this morning, but SPD said cops who are on the Navigation Team were on site today.
Deanna Lucero, who said she had been in town for a year but had been sleeping in the park since late July, sat in a chair on the sidewalk near her tent, a luggage bag, and other belongings. She said she heard cops tell people to leave over a loudspeaker and began gathering her things. Suddenly, she was surrounded by officers.
"I had a group of ten of them come and stand right next to me like, 'Bitch, move,'" Lucero said. "I wasn't saying anything to them. It wasn't like they needed all this backup, like I was going to get wild with them. And only a couple of these motherfuckers helped. The other ones were standing there I guess just to look good and show muscle."
She said an officer took down her name and said someone was going to contact her, but that those officers were "in a meeting right now."
She said she's tried to get in a "tiny home" in the past, but she was put on a waitlist.
George Koski and Teresa said they were homeless and sleeping in the park this morning. Koski said a police officer told him to "sit right here and wait for the Navigation Team." He said police know him "very well" and that they were "very nice."
Val, who’d been helping organize donations for the Shelterhouse occupation, said she was leaving the building early this morning after using the bathroom when two cops told her to go back inside. She said one officer had a rubber bullet gun dangling from his chest. "The cop with the gun was acting like he was doing us a favor, and said something along the lines of, 'I'll give you a minute to get out of here before they come in and arrest you.'" She said she grabbed a bin of donations—"hygiene products, masks, some food"—and left.
Val had arrived at the Shelterhouse two days ago, shortly after activists occupied the place in an attempt to offer food and supplies to the homeless, and to advocate for "modernize[ing] the facilities in adherence with the city's Climate Action Plan," according to a list of demands. She said she'd pitched a tent nearby so she could be around at night and in the mornings to help de-escalate situations with anyone who might be struggling with mental health issues.
"I wish there was a service we could call to help these people, but we don't have that service, so we have to be that service," Val said.
Last year the city launched a pilot program called Health One "to respond to non-emergency calls downtown" with "two firefighters with special training and a social worker," according to the Seattle Times.
Officers drove some protesters who were helping gather belongings out of the park, though at one point officers cleared a path for protesters to roll a large storage container filled with belongings through the park. April, one of the protesters who was helping to gather stuff, said the plan was to start a lost and found at Seattle Centra College or later in the park.
"Because of this people aren't going to get breakfast this morning, they're not going to get lunch," said Ali, who'd been helping coordinate services at the Shelterhouse since Tuesday. She said she suspected the police action today was "retaliation from unrelated events from last night that happened near the area," referring to last night's protests from Every Night Direct Demonstrators.
After police cleared the park, a Parks department garbage truck pulled into Cal Anderson, and workers began cleaning the area and removing items from inside the Shelterhouse.
"It looks like they're dumping everything that was in there," Ali said. She added that her group was scheduled to "meet with the city later today," and so she was shocked by this action.
In an email, a Seattle Parks spokesperson said, "Our staff, together with Seattle Public Utilities staff, are meeting with some community members today to talk about better communication on our efforts to Reimagine Cal Anderson Park (this meeting has been scheduled for quite some time)."
Around 9:30 a.m., police and protesters squared off on the southeast corner of the park for a while, with several protesters pointing out the hypocrisy of clearing this group but not responding to last week's large concert and baptism ceremony full of traveling Jesus freaks, who'd gathered in violation of several state COVID-related mandates.
Police left around 12:30 p.m.
Though the park has been officially closed for "restoration " since June 30, people who live nearby have been walking dogs, reading, busking, working out, playing sports, and generally just hanging out for the last several weeks.