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A group advocating for a West Seattle family that was arrested Friday for trespassing at a property they were evicted from in July is holding a protest outside the King County Sheriff's Office. (KIRO Radio/Brandi Kruse)

SAFE in Seattle protests sheriff's arrests in West Seattle eviction

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A group advocating for a West Seattle family that was arrested Friday for allegedly trespassing at a property they were evicted from protested outside the King County Sheriff's Office Monday afternoon.

"This was not an eviction; it was a raid against Seattle citizens outside the primary jurisdiction of the King County Sheriff's Department [...]," said a statement on SAFE in Seattle's Facebook page. "The Sheriff's department forced their way into the Barton home with a search warrant and detectives with guns drawn."

Byron and Jean Barton, along with their adult son, were arrested in the home. The Bartons have drawn a good deal of attention since protesters rallied outside their home as they were evicted on July 18. The sheriff said the family managed to get back into the house the same day and have been trespassing illegally ever since.

King County Sheriff John Urquhart defended the arrests on KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show Friday. "They can't be in that house because they don't own it anymore and haven't owned it for a month or two," said Urquhart.

Urquhart explained that a followup on residents that remain in a home following an eviction would normally fall to authorities of the local jurisdiction.

"Under the state law, we do evictions everywhere in King County, including every single city, but if they go back and break the law after the eviction, by custom and by procedure, that is the responsibility of the local police agency. It doesn't matter whether it's in Seattle, or Bellevue, or Kent, or whatever."

But the City of Seattle was not acting. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had actually asked Seattle police to stand by as things were worked out in the courts, and Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant had spoken out on behalf of the Bartons.

Urquhart felt like the city and sheriff's office had stood by too long. "We should not have let this go on as long as it did," he told Monson.

"This is simply a question of me enforcing the law because I could and it was the right thing to do," said Urquhart. "It was the right thing to do certainly for the owners of the property."

But SAFE in Seattle said the sheriff was acting out of turn, and the new owners of the property, Triangle Properties' "hands are unclean" for pursuing a house with what they call a clouded property deed.

"The sheriff's department decided to be judge, jury and evictor on this and just go ahead and run rickshaw over the whole due process. This was a case that was in limbo and he had no right to act out of his jurisdiction and act like this gung-ho moronic cowboy," Joshua Ferris, with SAFE in Seattle, told Monson on Monday.

But Monson said it sounds pretty clear that the Bartons took out loans on the home they didn't pay back and that's how they find themselves in this situation.

"Do you assign zero responsibility to the Bartons for the $650,000 in loans they initially took out?" asked Monson. "You blame everybody else, but they set all of these wheels in motion when they took out $650,000 on a house they owned free and clear."

Ferris said the Bartons have always wanted to pay back their bills.

"They didn't take out $650,000. They took out a series of different loans that were consolidation of bills and debts. You know what happens when Donald Trump gets in debt, he files bankruptcy. You know what the Bartons did when they got in debt? They took out loans. They went out of their way to pay off their debts and they continued to pay off their debts and then Chase Bank stole their house."

While they may have been paying off these other debts, Monson points out they weren't paying back the debt they owed to Chase.

"Is this a strategy you would advocate for everybody? Because Chase carries the mortgage on my house," said Monson. "Should I just stop paying my home mortgage, and if so, would SAFE come and protest on my behalf if I just stopped paying my mortgage? Is that what you advocate for everybody?"

Ferris said Dori's situation would not do much to help their cause.

"We fight for homes that help build this movement," said Ferris. The SAFE movement stands for "Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction." They say on their website that tenants facing eviction may blame themselves, but, "the cause of their economic plight lies entirely with a system that puts profits first and people last."

"If you're just not going to pay your mortgage - I know that you're very well off," Ferris told Dori. "I would say this is not really a sympathetic case, Dori, you're just not willing to pay your bills."

"The Bartons wanted to pay their bills and we have every obligation to really go out of our way to support them," said Ferris. "He's a Vietnam vet. His friend Louis lives there, who was a swift boat crewman and his swift boat was blown up. You have two Vietnam vets living in this house. It's a family that was just totally displaced and shattered by the sheriff's department."

Monson has said he supports the sheriff's decision to remove the Bartons from the home. "I'm supportive of what Sheriff Urquhart did because it's not the Bartons' home."

Related:
Sheriff on West Seattle eviction: I made the decision to go in and enforce the law

Jamie Skorheim, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Whether it's floating on Green Lake, eating shrimp tacos at Agua Verde, or taking weekend drives out to the Cascades, she loves to enjoy the Pacific Northwest lifestyle as much as humanly possible.
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