WTO squatters crack 'deal' for homeless in Seattle, WA, USA FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 12 Dec 1999 13:23:36 -0800 (PST)


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SQUATTERS VACATE DOWNTOWN BUILDING AFTER 'DEAL'

1999/12/08

by Chris Solomon
Seattle Times staff reporter

The group of young, self-styled anarchists, homeless
advocates and others who took up residence for nearly
one week in a building near Virginia Street and Ninth
Avenue danced on its tar roof yesterday, cheered by a
verbal agreement that housing for the homeless would
replace them after their departure.

But not long after the two dozen squatters and their
supporters slammed the door and melted away,
warmed by the sun and their victory, the building's
still-furious owner hedged on any deal.

"This is like someone putting a gun to your head and
telling you to donate to the Salvation Army," owner
Wah Lui said, still fuming at the group's tactics and the
lack of any punishment.

Young people took over the building north of
downtown last Sunday night. Since then, a variety of
protesters - as many as 150 - have used "the squat" as
a place to sleep, eat and congregate. Many called
themselves anarchists, and at least one resident
yesterday had been arrested last week for vandalism.

But most said violence and chaos were not their goal.
The word anarchos is Greek for "without a leader,"
and residents said that better explained their opposition
to hierarchies that rob people of their voices and
access to basic rights such as affordable - or even free
- housing.

Though some of the squatters came from out of town,
several were from Seattle. One of them, who went by
the name "Black," said he was homeless, despite being
enrolled at Seattle Central Community College and
having a 3-month-old baby.

The squatters said the building was derelict and should
be used for housing. Lui, who recently bought the
building, said he has plans to renovate it.

The city cut off power and water after the building
was occupied, chasing out Lui's handful of tenants. Lui
gave the trespassers a portable toilet, fire extinguishers
and battery-powered lights.

The police would not evict them last week.

Under a deal brokered by Seattle's Low Income
Housing Institute (LIHI) and Bob Santos, regional
director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, Lui tentatively agreed to let two
homeless-advocacy groups lease part of the building,
provided the young people inside never returned.
About 25 beds also would be made available for one
week to people at the Julie Apartments across the
street from the occupied building.

Lui was also infuriated by a mention in LIHI's
agreement yesterday that he would negotiate to sell a
50-unit apartment building on Seneca Street that he
owns.

The squatters and homeless advocates, meanwhile,
didn't seem concerned that they had nothing in writing
from Lui. They pointed to the 1992 occupation of the
100-plus-unit Pacific Hotel and the Arion Court
downtown - two instances of public pressure that
forced building owners to donate or sell the buildings
for use as low-income housing.


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