On March 17, some parents from John Stanford International School (JSIS) staged a protest on the overpass of 45th St. over I-5. They wanted a camp of unhoused people near the school to be cleared out immediately.
The WA Dept. of Transportation had made it clear to JSIS parents that they were already emptying the camp by moving residents of the camp into transitional housing. The protesters wanted the camp to be swept immediately, which would interrupt the housing process and disperse the residents to continue being unhoused.
Many other JSIS parents did not support this protest.
We Heart Seattle decided to join the protest and visit the camp, in solidarity with the parents’ demand that the process of housing should be stopped by dispersing the residents and keeping them homeless.
We Heart Seattle and their director Andrea Suarez have a long history of lying, stealing, destroying possessions, bullying and abusing unhoused people all over Seattle. They most commonly lie about having consent from unhoused people, some of whom they have bullied or tried to bribe, some of whom they haven’t asked at all.
Most of these abuses go undocumented. On this day, there were witnesses.
On that morning, We Heart Seattle first came to the overpass protest itself and tried to enter a different camp near the overpass. Some mutual aid volunteers were there, hoping to prevent any harm to the residents of those tents. When the volunteers stopped WHS, Andrea Suarez said that she had been “doing outreach” at the camp and knew residents there. But no residents of the camp confirmed this, and when asked, Andrea Suarez could not name a single resident there.
When they failed to infiltrate that camp, Andrea Suarez and We Heart Seattle went to the camp which the JSIS parents were complaining about. The camp is several blocks south of the overpass and is under the Ship Canal bridge of the I-5 freeway. However, WHS had announced in advance that they would do what they call a “cleanup” of the camp on that morning. WHS cleanups often involve theft of possessions, bullying of residents, and entering private spaces without consent. Because of this warning, neighbors and volunteers were able to organize a blockade of WHS.
Mutual aid volunteers had been visiting the camp for some time, bringing supplies and helping pick up trash. Some of those volunteers checked with residents of the camp. Residents confirmed that WHS had violated their trust in the past: offering to pick up trash but showing up with body cams, violating privacy in other areas of the camp, taking photos and videos without consent and posting them on social media in ways that made the residents look bad, stealing bicycles and other usable possessions without permission. Mutual aid volunteers had been hearing these stories about WHS from residents for months.
Residents did not want WHS to enter the camp, and they accepted the offer to have neighbors stand with them to turn WHS away.
When WHS arrived at the camp, they were met by a team of volunteers who blocked them from entering.
The WHS team were angry and aggressive. Some found ways to squirm through cracks in the fence, but volunteers and residents blocked them inside too. Residents helped walk the WHS intruders outside the camp. One of the WHS staff later said that he was assaulted by volunteers. The actual incident is on film, showing that it was the WHS staff who knocked a sign out of a mutual aid volunteer’s hand.
WHS members insisted that they had been asked to come by a resident of the camp. They gave a name for the supposed resident. None of the residents who were present recognized the name that WHS members said. WHS often pretends to get consent from random individuals who might not even stay at the camp.
Disgraced right-wing blogger Jonathan Choe was with WHS. Choe boasted that he had visiting the camp every day for the previous week. Residents confirmed that Choe had entered the camp and repeatedly violated their privacy by sticking his camera into tents and private spaces without permission. Residents of the camp asked not to be photographed or videotaped. WHS and Jonathan Choe did so anyway.
Several residents told WHS that they were not wanted in the camp. Andrea Suarez kept asking one resident “Do you want us to come back later?” The resident kept saying No, but Andrea kept asking and even said “Okay we’ll come back later.” One of the mutual aid volunteers had to keep affirming at full volume “He is not saying come back later. He is not saying come back later.”
WHS ultimately left. Andrea Suarez tried to persuade or recruit one of the newer volunteers, who politely but firmly refused to be coopted. Andrea Suarez finally said “Okay we’ll go, since you’ve got supplies covered here,” trying to present the situation as a cooperation between WHS and mutual aid volunteers, rather than a situation where WHS was blocked from entering a camp and prevented from bullying and abusing camp residents.
Mutual aid volunteers asked residents if they would like some simple signs to put up. Residents said Yes please. The volunteers printed some signs on paper that said WE HEART SEATTLE NOT WELCOME HERE. Residents put them up inside and outside the camp.