History and the course of this City have shifted since I last wrote to you five days ago. So, I find it hard to decide where to begin. I’ll start with a lay of the new land I write you from.
Ed Murray is no longer the Mayor of Seattle. He abruptly resigned this week, three months prior to the end of his four-year term. This came amid a scandal that has been growing since the beginning of 2017. This week a fifth person came forward accusing Murray of sexual abuse when the victim was a child. This time the accusation was from Murray’s cousin. Murray stepped down from the head of our city within hours of the news. Here are what both national and local headlines looked like:
City Hall has fallen into chaos as everyone scrambles to read and understand what our City Charter says about the transition here. We’re in the midst of a mayoral campaign that will place a new mayor in the seat at the end of the year, but there are months to cover before that. The last time a mayor resigned was almost 50 years ago when the mayor left to join President Nixon’s administration in Washington D.C.
As for the next few days, Council President Bruce Harrell has been sworn in as the new mayor. Here’s what the headline looked like yesterday in The Seattle Times:
Harrell will decide by tomorrow if he’ll remain mayor or appoint another council member. Harrell has more than two years left on his Council term, so it’s likely he’ll hand over power to someone else. That would mean we will have had three mayors in the span of less than a week!
After that, the Council has to choose a temporary replacement for the council seat, whichever seat becomes vacated. Here’s how The Seattle Times explained it:
During this same time period, the City and Police evicted more than 100 homeless folks from their community under the Spokane Street Viaduct in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. As you know from my posting on this site, this trauma and displacement at the hands of the City has happened many times before.
Opposition to the police evictions of homeless encampments here has been mounting. My neighbor and friend Eliana organized a protest this time. As you’ve read, we visited the community last week and worked with them to plan our action.
Here’s what the group looked like as we stood with our homeless neighbors in the midst of police trying to kick them out of their community. Eliana and Sue, two of the most kind-hearted activists and community caregivers I’ve ever met, both put their bodies on the line and were arrested—for merely showing their love for their neighbors and showing up when asked by those neighbors who were telling police they had nowhere else to live. (Eliana was also arrested in the same group of 26 folks that included me on May 8.)
Can you believe our City and country are so militarized and that stuff like this happens? Help your neighbors who are most in need and you get arrested!
As police surrounded Eliana and Sue, I talked with reporters from our ABC and NBC affiliates, I also talked with The Seattle Weekly newspaper and a government official in charge of the sweeps.
I spent time explaining that we were there to stand in solidarity with our neighbors who live in this encampment and that the police evictions only exacerbate the problem because most folks have nowhere to go. I emphasized over and over and over that the crisis in our city is a severe lack of deeply affordable housing. And, the solution to all of this is to create more deeply affordable housing. I also emphasized over and over and over that shelters are only good for a small portion of people living outside because there are so many barriers to entry like not bringing your dog or car or husband.
Or, perhaps you’re transgendered and scared of abuse or you’re scared your stuff will be stolen in a shelter (and these types of theft are COMMON). People find stability and safety and humanity in living on their own, not crammed in a space with a handful of other folks sharing beds right next to them and having to abide by unrealistic time deadlines to get inside, especially if you have a job or family. And, bottom line, most folks just move right along to another camp where they’ll eventually be evicted again and again and again by police. We need more deeply affordable housing.
Here’s what I looked like on live TV on KING5 in Seattle. I was on for about 5 minutes:
Also, here’s what the Seattle Weekly reported after my conversation with them:
Here are a couple other pictures, including one of authorities rummaging through people’s belongings, in some cases without asking the owners:
The day prior to the sweep beginning, a number of us had gone to the regular, full City Council meeting downtown to advocate for our homeless neighbors and urge the City not to go through with yet another heartless traumatization of our city’s most vulnerable. The topic was not on the meeting agenda, but there was a scheduled “public comment” period, so we jammed almost the entire time with this issue.
Here’s what each of us looked like as we took the stand to address Council and urge them to stop the police evictions of our neighbors:
Just a couple days prior to being at the Council meeting, we had packed a room downtown full of hundreds of folks for the campaign kickoff for Housing for All. This coalition is the result of so much work over the past few months. The coalition of dozens of organizations and homeless folks urges the city to address the real crisis, the lack of deeply affordable housing. Here’s what one of the lead organizers, Katie Wilson, said when she spoke to the audience, as reported by The Stranger newspaper:
One of the pieces of the Housing for All kickoff that I was most proud of and that I had a big part in organizing was a speech from the President of the PTA at Lowell Elementary School. Nick Hodges, his wife and two kids experienced homelessness in Seattle in the past year. He told his story and also shared that at Lowell Elementary alone 118 kids are experiencing homelessness. 118 KIDS! 38% OF THE SCHOOL! Can you believe we let this happen?!? Here’s a picture of Nick speaking at the kickoff, what an inspiration he is:
Here are some other pictures from the Housing for All kickoff:
In the midst of all of this major news, there was also terrible news on the other side of our state in Spokane. A young man who is a student walked into his high school and shot four fellow classmates, one of them died. Here was the headline in The Seattle Times:
Here are some other national headlines from The Washington Post: