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Fake press release invites homeless to take shelter at Grand Hyatt in Seattle

Cars drive on I-5 in front of a hazy Seattle skyline due to wildfire smoke on Sept. 11, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

A fake press release was sent out Tuesday that appeared as if it was sent from the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle, saying that the hotel would be open to “host our homeless neighbors” as unhealthy air quality remains, thanks to a partnership with the city of Seattle and the King County Council. Reports then surfaced on Twitter of a group of homeless people occupying the lobby area. Both the group and protesters who had showed up in support were later dispersed by police.

Local journalist Omari Salisbury with Converge Media, who has been a guest on KIRO Radio in recent weeks, tweeted out an image of the false press release:

The Hyatt was not in on this and did not send out this letter.

Anna and William, two people who helped to organize the hoax, told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show on Wednesday that they believe businesses like the Hyatt and others are morally obligated to help.

“The word that was spread is that the Hyatt, and the city, and the King County Council were collaborating on a rollout pilot program to provide shelter for people experiencing homelessness during this dual crisis of smoke and a pandemic,” Anna explained. “A press release was leaked to various different organizations throughout the city, and we started to release it on social media. We spread the word pretty widely and then at 3 p.m., we arrived — and ‘we’ are a group of houseless and unhoused activists. Every single person who was there yesterday was fully informed, fully consenting, and largely part of the organizing itself.”

The Hyatt was targeted, she explained, because they have lit up their hotel windows to show “BLM” and a heart, which “demonstrated that they have a plethora of empty rooms.”

People have said this was cruel to offer rooms to people when in fact that was never arranged. In response, Anna pointed out that the release said the rooms had already been claimed by people chosen by the city’s Navigation Team in order to eliminate the possibility for that confusion.

“Even though the hoax part … could be construed as being dishonest,” William acknowledged, “I think that the social injustice of having people sleeping on the streets in the middle of a smoke crisis without adequate resources is the bigger … shame in this.”

As to why the Grand Hyatt was targeted, William says they’ve shown support for the Black Lives Matter movement on their social media pages and activists hoped to test the hotel’s compassion.

“Right now, as a activist and as a person who’s a stakeholder in this Black Lives Matter movement, I’m going after businesses that claim publicly that they support Black Lives Matters, but are given the chance to support Black lives by housing over seven Black lives that were in that lobby yesterday to get them out of imminent danger and not doing it,” William said. “We’re forcing their hand.”

“They don’t have a legal obligation,” to give rooms to anyone, William added, “but they do have a moral obligation. And that’s the way that we need to start framing this conversation in this country is that companies that profit off of using BLM to pretty up their marketing campaign need to give back to those same organizations that they’re using to capitalize off of a movement.”

He says the rooms were never demanded, but rather the group was asking for housing justice and for compassion.

“That was what this hoax was, was to test the compassion of the Hyatt,” he said. “And so yesterday, we clearly saw that the compassion of the Hyatt failed, and city council.”

Dori asked, where does this stop? Should restaurants be forced to give free meals? Should car dealerships be forced to give free automobiles to those without a car?

“We’re not forcing anyone to give us anything,” William said. “We are asking for companies to have compassion and take compassion on the people that use their products, that work for their companies. They’re part of the community. We’re asking for community care. We’re asking for community stewardship. We’re asking for the corporations to stand up and rise and meet the demand of the people who are being adversely affected by climate crisis, and being adversely affected by the homeless crisis, and being adversely affected by the COVID pandemic.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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