Violence, once again, dominates the news in Washington State. Last week, it was Antifa visiting Tacoma to protest an officer who had been surrounded by a mob and, in the process of trying to get away, hit several people with his vehicle. On Jan. 31, it was a crowd of a different sort, demanding free rooms for the homeless in the state’s capital.
Between seven and a dozen (sources vary) people were arrested after they attempted to occupy the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia. The demonstrators, part of a homeless activist organization called Oly Housing Now, reportedly entered the hotel armed with batons, knives, and hatchets, demanding elderly unhoused people be given a room.
According to reports, when the 45 or so demonstrators arrived and started entering the building, an employee tried to lock the door but was assaulted. Fearing the intruders, the staff escaped to the basement and locked themselves in until authorities could arrive. At the time, about 40 rooms were booked by guests who were not involved in the protest and who had to barricade themselves inside their rooms until help came.
Before the occupation attempt, the group had reserved 17 rooms on behalf of “unhoused individuals.” In a press release that day, the activist group explained:
“FEMA provides counties 100 percent funding for houseless people who are over 65 years old or at high risk of contracting COVID to stay in non-congregate shelter. Not only would this save lives by getting people off the streets, but it would also support local businesses by giving hotels money during challenging economic times.”
Homelessness is a problem in the Evergreen State, made even more difficult by progressive lawmakers trying to create permanent homeless camps and, in some instances, taking over hotels to shelter the unhoused during the COVID pandemic. And now, King County, which includes Seattle, is trying to move forward with another plan for 2021 to permanently house the homeless and provide services with initiatives proposed by Health Through Housing. This legislation utilizes revenue from a 0.1% sales tax increase that will be used to build a network of apartment-like shelters.
“We have every reason to believe that homelessness will get a lot worse after this pandemic unless we take bold action,” said Leo Flor, director of the King County Department of Community and Human Services.
However, that doesn’t seem to be enough, at least not for members of Oly Housing Now, who thought it a good idea to force hotels to give rooms to the elderly homeless. In a press release, the Olympia Police Department said the demonstrators were armed “and had gasmasks, helmets and goggles apparently in preparation for a confrontation.”
Local law enforcement deployed crowd-control munitions while being verbally harassed, with protesters telling an officer to “choke and die” and “We know where you live. We know where your kids go to school. But we have morals.”
The organizer of Oly Housing Now was also part of the Olympia Anarchist Mutual Aid organization that supported the occupation of another motel in Fife last month. In both instances, law enforcement was able to stop the incursions before major injuries occurred.
“Change through violence” seems to be the new theme on the left. It is now going on nine months since the death of George Floyd, and the numerous violent protests and city sieges have been allowed to control the streets of America. Now even activists for the homeless have stepped up their game, taking a page from the violence book on bringing about reform.
Read more from Kelli Ballard.
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