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Seattle police clear homeless camp, make arrests

December 19, 2020 GMT
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The homeless camp is completely encircled with debris and fencing blocking the City of Seattle's sweep of the camp Cal Anderson Park, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Seattle. This is the only entrance to the area within the park. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times via AP)
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The homeless camp is completely encircled with debris and fencing blocking the City of Seattle's sweep of the camp Cal Anderson Park, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Seattle. This is the only entrance to the area within the park. (Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times via AP)

SEATTLE (AP) — Police cleared a homeless camp in Seattle early Friday morning after a judge declined to block authorities from removing the people and tents.

Police arrested 24 people and accused them of various offenses including failure to disperse, trespass and resisting arrest, the Seattle Police Department said on Twitter.

Construction crews took barricades and tents out of Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in sections, and a group of protesters helped people move their things and chanted at the police.

The encampment was made up of protesters, people who lacked shelter and those who identify as both, The Seattle Times reported. It has existed with varying numbers of people since summer when a temporarily-created “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone was created on an adjoining street. While the zone was cleared months ago, the camp has resisted a number of sweeps since.

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Officials intended to clear the area Wednesday morning but postponed after makeshift barriers went up, dozens of black clad protesters arrived and park resident Ada Yeager filed a federal lawsuit.

A federal judge on Thursday ruled against Yeager.

Yeager claimed a sweep would violate her civil rights, including rights to due process before being deprived of property, and that the park was targeted for a sweep for political reasons, in violation of the First Amendment, because residents have criticized officials and police.

But following telephone arguments Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones ruled Yeager had offered little to no evidence that her rights to free expression or due process were violated.

Seattle officials argued that the encampment, which until recently had about 50 residents, posed a public safety risk. They cited threats to city officials and fires in the park and said other dangerous conditions persisted. They also noted that shelter beds were available.

“Individuals experiencing homelessness should be in safer spaces like shelters and hotels especially during the winter,” Rachel Schulkin, a Seattle Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson, wrote in an email to the newspaper. “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.”

A camper who goes by the name Sunday told The Seattle Times she has been living in the park since July. She said she will likely check out a shelter nearby and then head back to Cal Anderson when the police are gone, like every other time.

“I wish people would stop politicizing the homeless,” Sunday said. “Just let us live outside. … people keep asking, what are our demands? Our demands are: give us housing or leave us alone.”