An Ugly Week: Homeless Sweeps, A Bombing, and Anti-LGBTQ Hate

I’m writing you in the midst of the first long, warm, and sunny days we’ve had in more than eight months. Nick and I felt like we were in a different city Sunday when we went to breakfast at one of our favorite spots, Linda’s Tavern, and the sun was scorching. Here’s what Nick looked like sitting across the table from me:

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And, this is what I looked like:

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The joy of the sun was all consuming until news broke of a bombing at an Ariana Grande pop concert in Manchester, England. ISIS has since claimed responsibility. England has dispatched more than 1,000 more police officers across the country. They’ve raised their country’s terror threat level. More police–this is one of the only ways western countries respond these days. This was the initial headline in The Washington Post:

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And, in other terrible news, Texas is about to pass hateful, anti-lgbtq laws that will limit where queer folks can use the restroom and allow adoption agencies to deny children to lgbtq and/or non-Christian folks. It’s disheartening especially because Washington state is working on its own version of this too. Here was that headline in The Washington Post:

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I had taken a five-week break from Facebook. I had gone as far as deactivating my account during that time. But I got back on because I think it’s important to be loud right now in every channel possible. Here’s what I wrote on Facebook moments after I found out about the Texas laws:

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Still, my focus right now is local.  Days earlier in Seattle I went to a townhall for my District 3 Socialist councilmember, Kshama Sawant. The townhall was part of a series of townhalls in each of Seattle’s City Council districts to discuss an initiative to pass an income tax on Seattle’s wealthiest.

Seattle and Washington state have some of the most regressive taxes in the country. This means that our taxes impact the poor disproportionately more than the rich. That’s because much of our tax revenue comes from sales taxes and we have no income tax.

20170518_181435During the packed Neighborhood Action Coalition-organized townhall with Sawant we heard from a vast array of marginalized voices. We heard from homeless folks who are organizing their communities to fight against city policies that are unfair to them and in some cases even destroying their lives.

We heard from Amazon workers who have faced inhumane working conditions and who have been discriminated against by the company because of their skin color, culture, and religion. We also heard from community activist leaders, and teachers from the south end of the city who face classrooms that have students who are homeless.

Here are some quotes that stood out to me. They’re straight from my notes. They’re from various folks who spoke and in no particular order. But I want to share them and I’m short on time:

“We packed Washington Hall on a Thursday night to talk tax policy!”

“We have become a sanctuary city for money, not people.”

“Corporations are organized for this fight, we the people are not. We have to get 20170518_191603organized right now!”

“Two of the world’s eight richest men live in this city. We’re talking billions of dollars. Yet our homeless crisis is out of control. How can we have so much wealth and so much poverty?”

“How can I assign homework to students who don’t have a home?”

“Our city has its priorities so backwards.”

“Economic inequality and racism reinforce each other.”

20170518_174902During her talk, Councilmember Sawant said police swept and displaced homeless communities hundreds of times in 2016. Another speaker said that the latest homeless “sweep” happened just one day before the townhall near I-90. I shared one that I witnessed back in March at a community called The Field. It was awful to watch.

Days later, I woke up early to go witness Seattle Police sweeping yet ANOTHER homeless camp. This time I watched AGAIN as police forced dozens of homeless folks from their community. I joined a group of protesters from Neighborhood Action Coalitions across the city. These are pictures from my phone when I went to the intersection of Dearborn and Rainier in Seattle’s International District (in the first pic, I’m on the far left in the shadow):

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This is what I shared on Facebook:

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This treatment of the homeless in Seattle is nothing new. And, we seem not to have evolved much on the issue. Get this, according to The Seattle Times (I like this because the homeless folks eventually won!):

“Seattle’s long struggle with homelessness was brought to the forefront in the 1930s, when eight settlements called ‘Hoovervilles’ sprang up as far north as Interbay and as far south as present-day Sodo.

“Tension over the settlement, built on port land, started a week after the first group of 50 shacks was built. The health department posted eviction notices giving one week’s warning; when time was up, Seattle police burned the homes down.

“But rebuilding began. And after two 1931 attempts by the city to stop the settlement, the city finally let the Hooverville stay in 1932 due to the nationwide unemployment crisis of the Great Depression.”

Here are pictures of what Hooverville homeless community looked like in Seattle in the 1930s:

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All I can say to wrap this up for now is this: We have to do better and we can do better for our most marginalized and struggling neighbors!

Here are other recent and horrific national headlines from The Washington Post:

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