Homeless Antifa activists took over sixteen motel rooms near Tacoma, Washington on Christmas Eve and are refusing to pay for the lodging, demanding that local government pick up the tab and turn the motel into a shelter.
According to KOMO News, members of an organization called Tacoma Housing Now paid for 16 rooms for one overnight stay on Dec. 24 at the Travelodge, located at 3518 Pacific Highway E. in Fife, WA. More than 40 homeless people moved in and indicated that they had no plans to pay for additional nights.
The activists are demanding that the city or county pay the motel bill and designate the motel a shelter, as has been done in other parts of the state. Neighboring King County, rented and purchased several locations for shelters and quarantine locations for the homeless at the beginning of coronavirus pandemic.
As suspected, the group responsible for occupying the motel is part of Antifa. Extremist site It's Going Down has published a post by the far-left activists, stating that some of their members are "veterans" of the recent Antifa street battles in Olympia, Wash.
"Housing people in unoccupied hotels doesn’t ruin anyone‘s business," Tacoma House Now tweeted in response.
"If you care about protecting empty spaces more than saving human lives, that says a lot about your ethics and values. We will not accept one more death on the streets!" the Twitter account later declared.
The homeless residents have been pointed to as a source of spiking crime in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as vandalism and even arson at the hotels. The county has providing alcohol and other controlled substances to entice homeless residents not to leave locations being used as quarantine facilities.
Under local ordinances, the activists are trespassing on private property, prompting the motel manager to ask city officials for help to force the activists out of the building. The motel could ask a court for civil relief, potentially setting the stage for police officers to come in and physically evict the group.
Shawn Randhawa, the motel operator, told KOMO News that if the cost of the rooms goes unpaid, it’s only a matter of days before he will have to shut down the motel, which was already devastated by the pandemic, and lay off his employees. Randhawa added that repeated protests in the parking lot have driven away most of the other paying customers.
There are approximately sixty protesters standing outside the motel in addition to the people in the rooms. Two more motel rooms were occupied by activists who joined the original group, bringing the total to eighteen occupied rooms.
“I’m just devastated,” Randhawa told The News Tribune. “Because of the protest, I have nothing else. I was barely getting through this pandemic, and now this. This Christmas, the Grinch came.”
“I’ll have to lock the doors. and if the city won’t kick them out, they can have it,” he told The News Tribune. “I’ll shut off the water and I’m not fighting with these people. I believe there should be a law.”
Fife City Manager Hyun Kim told KIRO 7, “They may have to close up shop because with no revenues coming in, with their margins where they are, they may have to close operations. So, I’m trying to buy some time. It starts with conversations with both sides.”
Kim added, “This is a societal issue. We have to start the dialogue, but this kind of confrontation, this kind of being splashy about how to get this moving forward is going to lead to more distrust on both sides.”
Randhawa told The News Tribune that he feels the group isn’t giving him a choice and he doesn’t feel supported by the police or the city. He said there was destruction of property when one of the doors was broken to a locked motel room.
“They are keeping me hostage. No one is out to help me,” he said. “It’s complete lawlessness in the city of Fife.”
Earlier this month, activists claiming to be homeless advocates took over an abandoned house that was being redeveloped near Cal Anderson Park in Seattle, as part of an attempt to reconstitute the armed occupation of the neighborhood last summer. Activists issued demands to the city, demanding permanent housing for all and called for a boycott of local businesses who complained to the city about the encampments in the park affecting their operations. The Seattle Police Department eventually raided the house and removed the activists.
Last November, Tacoma Housing Now broke into the abandoned Gault Middle School building in Tacoma and moved homeless people inside. After explaining the air in the building was toxic which is why the building was abandoned and condemned, Tacoma police moved the group out.
Tacoma Housing Now leaders claim that the hotel should be paid, but they want the money to come from COVID-19 relief funds or from defunding local police departments.
Pierce County council member Pam Roach, who represents Fife, told The News Tribune that this situation is a result of the need for housing for the homeless and a disregard for people’s businesses.
“It goes right back to the fact that we need to find space for people especially when it’s cold,” she. “If the government isn’t doing its job, citizens pay for it — just like this business owner.”