Tuesday morning, Seattle crews began work clearing a massive homeless encampment from Woodland Park, one of the largest encampments in the city. Crews said it could take several days to fully clear the park of the junked cars, RVs and debris that had accumulated.
The park had become notorious for the campers, crime and drug use. Organizers of annual cross country events, with thousands of participants at the park last year, either relocated or canceled their meets. Visitors who use the parks for sports and recreation, said they felt unsafe or found parts inaccessible because of tents and drug use.
The city had posted notices informing campers of the clearing of the encampment, which has been growing in the park since before the outbreak of the pandemic.
However, a local group, that encourages drug use and campers to remain on the streets, posted notices encouraging campers to remain "neighbors" and "part of the community."
The flyers advertised the People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, a group that encourages "safe" drug use. According to a lawsuit recently won by Washington state against "big pharma" over 80 percent of the people living on the streets that were contacted by city outreach teams had substance abuse issues.
The flyers called the sweeping of encampments, "a forced eviction from your home." The flyer added, "sweeps are immoral, stupid and useless."
The flyers advocated for utilizing some city resources but warned against accepting help from local volunteer groups falsely claiming that they "will try to confiscate your possessions or exploit your face or your name for their fundraising."
The flyers also cautioned campers to avoid the media, specifically calling out KOMO and KIRO news, as well as independent journalist Jonathan Choe. Choe was present at the sweep and was harassed by activists
The flyer advertised PHRA services including "syringe access." Encampments near needle exchanges are frequently found with boxes of needles because typically, the facilities do not do a one-to-one exchange, instead, give out as many as a person requests.
PHRA alliance is not alone in enabling the campers. Mutual Aid, a group affiliated with Antifa, frequently harasses cleanup volunteers, city crews, police and journalists. Volunteers have told The Post Millennial that members of the group and other activists have slashed their tires and allegedly stole their belongings.
Some have even accused the city agencies of enabling the campers. Brand new tents are frequently found several blocks away from an encampment that is scheduled to be cleared, stocked and ready to go.
Campers at other locations have claimed that city organizations visit encampments offering drug paraphernalia, but never follow through on requests for services from campers.
Activists have a new plan, Initiative 1922, which eliminates all penalties for all drug possession in personal use amounts including fentanyl and heroin. It would also mandate funds from the marijuana tax to be spent to promote “harm reduction” strategies, which include distributing needles. Activists have long advocated for heroin injection sites as well.
Oregon passed a similar initiative in 2020, which has been a failure. Out of approximately 2,000 who were ticketed for drug violations during 2021, only 19 requested drug treatment, and almost half of those who received tickets ditched court appearances.
According to an analysis of fentanyl positive drug tests, there was a 58 percent increase in tests positive for fentanyl in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same time in the previous year. By 2020, there was a 163 percent increase in positive tests.
2021 year-over-year overdose deaths in the state increased by 41 percent, while nationally, overdose deaths increased by3 16 percent.
Seattle and Oregon's plans for addressing the drug were similarly echoed in the Biden administration's plan of spending a $30 million grant on "crack pipes."
Workers arrived at Woodland Park at 9 AM Tuesday to dismantle more than 40 tents and structures that had been built in the park. Some campers even enclosed park shelters to create homes complete with lighting hacked into the city power supply. After the tents were removed, two large excavators were brought in to haul away trash and debris.
In January, 80 people were estimated to be living in the park. 37 were reportedly connected to some form of housing. An additional 11 shelter referrals had been made for people who moved into the park more recently.
On Tuesday, according to the city, there were 20 referrals to tiny house village units and 7 referrals to enhanced shelters. Many do not stay for long.
Jamie Housen, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s office, said in an email to the Seattle Times on Tuesday regarding the campers, "Some have received numerous offers of shelter. The city has enough tiny-house village and enhanced shelter options to accommodate all those remaining on-site today and everyone on-site will have received a legitimate offer of shelter."
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