This article has been updated to include new arrest numbers from the Seattle Police Deparment in connection with the "autonomous zone." SPD is now reporting a total of 24 people have been arrested.
At first light this morning, the Seattle Police Department surrounded Cal Anderson Park, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, site of last summer's infamous "autonomous zone" to facilitate the removal of the encampments and activists who had taken up residence there.
Police were on site to protect park workers clearing the massive homeless encampment and the new makeshift activist camp, as well as serve a warrant to clear the "Yellow House," the abandoned house which activists had occupied earlier in the week.
Signs had been posted last week that the encampments would be cleared. Since the 'CHAZ' this summer, the park has been a regular location for drug addicts, mentally ill and the homeless, to set up camp. The park has technically been closed since the occupation this summer. Social workers had visited the encampments earlier in the week to offer shelter and services to the campers.
Under new guidelines, the Seattle City Council has said they do not want police involved in clearing encampments, but Seattle Parks officials said conditions have become too dangerous to be at the park without police protection.
"Recent regular (Seattle Parks & Recreation) maintenance efforts have been met with threats of physical violence which is why SPR has had to request the assistance of the Seattle Police Department to ensure the safety of park maintenance and other City employees," a parks spokesperson told KOMO News on Wednesday. "Individuals have barricaded a portion of the park and intentionally set a fire to a tent. SFD has reported five fires in the last month."
An activist named Ada Yaeger, who had been living in a 'protest encampment' in the park since the summer, sued the city to try and prevent SPD from clearing the encampment. The clearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but the city postponed the removal pending a ruling on the case. US District Judge Richard Jones ruled on Thursday that the lawsuit would not stop the city from moving in to clear out the people camping there.
Thursday night, the parks department created a plan to remove all the barricades at the park and have a multi-day cleaning to pick up garbage, needles and repairing city facilities. Once the homeless campers were cleared from the park on Friday, parks workers moved in with heavy equipment to clean up the mess left behind.
The removal of the encampments is still in progress as of Friday morning. Seattle police said twenty four people were arrested for various offenses including felony harassment, trespass, obstructing, property destruction and failure to disperse. Activists claiming to be ‘homeless advocates’ took over a nearby abandoned house earlier in the week. They 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 affecting their operations.
A SWAT team served a warrant on the "Yellow House" on Denny Way this morning. According to SPD sources the abandoned house is being developed and the raid was done with the owner’s permission. SWAT is still outside the house now and police have blocked off part of 11th Ave near Pine Street, where protesters are yelling at the police. SPD sources say the occupants were a mix of activists and others. Crews are still in the process of tearing down the walls of pallets used to create the new zone. A barrier that was blocking Nagel street has been removed.
City officials said that outreach and social workers will continue to offer shelter and other services, saying that so far, they have identified fifty shelter spaces available and since the notice of the removal was posted, twenty people have been referred to shelters, city/county rented hotels and tiny homes. Eight people re-located and one person returned to Olympia.
This is a developing story and will be updated.