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City workers clear out illegal homeless encampment amid protests

On Wednesday morning Seattle police, city workers dressed in haz-mat suits and counselors showed up in the park. Within three hours the narrow dirt plot where the tents, trash and people had been living was completely vacant. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE - For Kione Del Rosario and the others who had lived in a small homeless encampment in the University District things were starting to come together.

They were near bus lines and services on University Way Northeast, or “The Ave.” Unfortunately for them the place they designated for their encampment was one they’d be removed from – a city park.

Nearly a week ago city workers posted eviction notices in and around Christie Park, 817 NE 43rd Street.

On Wednesday morning Seattle police, city workers dressed in haz-mat suits and counselors showed up in the park. Within three hours the narrow dirt plot where the tents, trash and people had been living was completely vacant.

Del Rosario, who went to high school on the eastside, was among the group to move from Christie Park to an empty lot a few blocks to the west.

“Now we’re getting pushed further and further out. It’s like we’re getting thrown away, right? Exiled in a sense,” Del Rosario said.

Matthew Lang, an organizer for the “Housing for All” Coalition, was among the small group who watched as Seattle police teams broke down the encampment. Some standing around Lang booed and heckled officers.

Sgt. Eric Zerr, who oversees the department’s homeless outreach effort, was the focus of many protesters’ comments. He ignored the jeers and said that the people who had been evicted from the city property had been cooperative.

“There’s a mixture of protesters and people who are homeless we have met at other encampments, so that comingling is maybe different than at our other sites,” said Zerr.

Zerr heads the Navigation Team. which is comprised of outreach workers and police officers focused on addressing the homeless.

Lang said many of the people at the Christie Park encampment had been part of a homeless encampment at Seattle City Hall nearly a month ago.

“This is the same camp that started on the steps of City Hall,” Lang said. “We moved them from the City Hall steps to the King County building then about a month ago we moved them here.”

Del Rosario and others who had been living inside the camp disputed the account that everyone living in Christie Park was a protester or an activist. Del Rosario said he has been homeless for months.

Inside thw encampment, off Pasadena Place Northeast and Northeast 42nd Street, that opened Wednesday residents spent much the day setting up tents and a kitchen. They hammered a white banner into the ground at the entrance, asking the city to stop the encampment sweeps.

Hours after the Christie Park encampment was shut down members of the Housing for All Coalition called on Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council to reverse a proposal to cut nearly 250 shelter beds. After a protest downtown the activists delivered a letter to Durkan’s office.

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