Anti-homelessness protest in Olympia hotel
Members of Oly Housing Now, a direct action group advocating for homeless people, tried to occupy the Red Lion Inn & Suites in Olympia on Jan. 31. Eight people were detained, and three may face felony charges, the Associated Press reported.
Organizer Emma Deitz told The Olympian that the group had purchased 17 hotel rooms for one night and moved 33 people living outdoors into them, planning to stay indefinitely until Thurston County funds more permanent housing.
Employees of the Red Lion Inn & Suites called for police, reporting that they felt under threat from the group.
The department responded with at least 30 vehicles and a SWAT team, independent journalist Shauna Sowersby reported. The hotel occupants experiencing homelessness were forcibly evicted. The city crisis response unit was present to help people who needed housing, according to a statement from the City.
The group’s demands include that the County apply for FEMA funding for non-congregate shelters to protect people vulnerable to COVID-19, and that Olympia provide more restrooms and sanitation.
Thurston County has a quarantine and isolation facility, including a hotel, and Keylee Marineau, Homeless Coordinator for Thurston County, told the Olympian that the county is looking into federal FEMA funding for shelters. But organizers believed these efforts did not go far enough.
Homelessness has risen steeply in Olympia. In downtown, 75 tents in summer 2018 grew to 300 by the fall. The county’s annual count of people living outside found 394 in January 2019, compared to 124 in 2017. According to the city’s website: “Many of these individuals were sleeping in Olympia, in the woods, under bridges, in vehicles and on Downtown streets.”
Council President runs for mayor
City Council President Lorena González announced her campaign for mayor of Seattle February 3.
“We are at a critical crossroads, and now is the time for bold and progressive action that overcomes the status quo and paves the pathway to Seattle’s collective, shared prosperity,” González said in a statement.
González’s campaign announcement emphasized she would tackle income inequality, build affordable housing, support small businesses and workers and “transform public safety to meet this civil rights moment.”
Before being elected to the City Council in 2015, González worked as a civil rights attorney, winning a high-profile case for a Latino man who was beaten and verbally abused by Seattle Police officers. She served as general counsel to Mayor Ed Murray in 2014 and 2015.
González was re-elected in 2017, and chosen as City Council president in 2020. A first-generation immigrant and child of two migrant farm workers from Mexico, González would be Seattle’s first Latina mayor.
Read more in the Feb. 3-9, 2021 issue.