Mayor McGinn and Deputy Mayor Address Operation Jungle Defense Protesters
By Aliana Bazara
Approximately 60 people gathered Friday evening in front of the Mayor’s house in Greenwood to protest the impending eviction of a homeless community in West Beacon Hill, known as The Jungle. The protest was organized by several Occupy activists and included residents (both homeless and non-homeless) of Beacon Hill, Wallingford, and Seattle. After 2 hours of talking, playing chess, eating, and sharing stories of why they were there, the crowd was greeted by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. A circle quickly formed around the officials, and deep conversations and questions began.
“When you break apart a community such as this one, forcing individuals to leave their support mechanisms and fend for themselves, you are creating even greater safety concerns,” said Ben Holden, resident of Beacon Hill.
The issue that no social services had been offered to these individuals prior to the eviction notice, was raises, and the Mayor responded saying that Fire Station 39 has been opened as a shelter and there is space at The Fry Hotel and City Hall Shelter.
Enoch Madison, a US Army veteran, homeless resident of, and spokesman for The Jungle, advised that 60-70% of the residents of The Jungle are Veterans who are already on long wait-lists for housing. “The shelters are not safe or clean. People there have lice and scabies. We’re not hurting anyone where we are (in The Jungle). Please, please, please, I am begging you, don’t kick us out.”
The Mayor defended the eviction, explaining that he had an obligation to keep the community safe and cited that a gun linked to a previous crime was found at the encampment recently. The crowd barked back, with shouts of “What community are you keeping safe?” Karen Studders, a lawyer and Occupy Wall Street activist asked the Mayor, “Would you evict the residents of Greenwood if a gun was found in this community?”
Studders poses an interesting question, a double standard that deserves investigation. Why should those that are homeless be considered more of a threat than those that have homes? As more and more Americans face unimagined poverty, the mindset of “us” versus “them” seems to be disappearing. The “middle class” is losing its status and seems to be realizing that they too, could face similar treatment.
The question and answer period continued for an hour and a half on the sidewalk of Dayton Ave. N. & N. 87th St., and went remarkably smooth as it was done in typical Occupy fashion. A stack was taken, points of process were called, and clarifying questions were asked.
The biggest question of the night remains unanswered. Will residents of the Jungle be forcibly removed? Receiving 3 different answers from the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, and the SPD standing by, the future is unclear. So activists exchanged information last night and agreed to be ready for an immediate response should an actual eviction take place.