Federal judge won’t stop sweep of Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park

Dec 16, 2020, 6:08 AM | Updated: Dec 17, 2020, 5:15 pm
Cal Anderson Park...
Makeshift barricades have been put up around Cal Anderson Park in an attempt to stop a city sweep of the homeless campers. (Meili Cady/KIRO Radio)
(Meili Cady/KIRO Radio)

UPDATE: A federal judge has just denied the request for a temporary order to keep Seattle city workers from clearing a homeless encampment in Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.

Seattle’s parks department is working to clear the park, once the center of the CHOP zone, so it can clean it up and repair damage.

An attempt to remove everyone living in the park Wednesday was unsuccessful when the homeless and their supporters put up barricades.

KIRO 7 reports that since the ruling, activists have taken over an abandoned house about one block from Cal Anderson Park.

Protesters gathered in Capitol Hill’s Cal Anderson Park Wednesday morning, believing that city officials had planned to sweep homeless campers and aid tents out of the area.

Seattle Parks & Recreation posted notices about its planned sweep Monday, letting people know they needed to have their stuff out of the park by 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. That led to a big defense effort among those who are considered protesters or defenders of the homeless people who live at that park, KIRO Radio reporter Hanna Scott explained, asking for materials, old furniture, boards, and whatever they could get to build barricades. They were prepared to stop the city from taking people out of the park.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda issued a statement expressing her concerns over the developing situation on Wednesday evening.

“I remain concerned with the planned removal and urge first placement in non-congregate shelter options in order to be in compliance with current public health CDC guidance,” Mosqueda said. “We need to place folks in available housing and appropriate shelter options, like the additional tiny houses and hotel rooms authorized in the budget, that meet the demographic needs of those in an encampment. City parks represent public space and healthy communities and should be usable by all; and we must balance access to this public health resource with the public health crisis to not put at risk our entire community health.”

The city is classifying the planned sweep as a multi-day cleaning and maintenance project. Social workers were reportedly going to be present Wednesday to provide support services and offer services.

Police and parks workers did not ultimately attempt to enter the park or move homeless campers out of the area. It’s unclear at this point when or if a sweep will occur.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by a homeless person camped in the park is asking a U.S. District judge to issue an injunction, which would put a pause on any efforts to clear Cal Anderson Park. Judge Richard Jones — who heard arguments for and against the lawsuit Wednesday evening — indicated a ruling on a possible injunction could arrive by Thursday.

If the sweep moves forward, this would mark the third time Seattle has cleared homeless campers out of Cal Anderson Park this year, with a pair of sweeps taking place in late-summer months. At the prior sweeps, police officers that were present to support the city were met by a group of protesters, and campers and aid tables returned to the park soon after police left the area.

Mayor Durkan ‘in conversation’ to remove East Precinct wall, reopen Cal Anderson Park

Seattle city officials confirmed in early December that Mayor Jenny Durkan was entering into talks to remove the concrete wall surrounding the city’s East Precinct, and to reopen the neighboring park.

Cal Anderson Park has been closed since June 30, with city officials citing the need to enact repairs after a summer of protests, and repeated clearances of homeless encampments in the area. The concrete wall around Capitol Hill’s East Precinct went up in late August, “in an effort to protect the facility from arson and other damages,” after a 19-year-old from Alaska was arrested and federally charged for attempting to set fire to the building.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report. This is a developing story.

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Federal judge won’t stop sweep of Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park