By Ian Finkenbinder
As of the time of this writing, Occupy Seattle has been evicted from Seattle Central Community College and its tents torn down. Its activists and campers have been scattered to the winds, some qualifying for assistance in relocating to homeless shelters and some left to fend for themselves in the December weather. Many are now Occupying their homes, having lost the symbol of their movement: an actual Occupation.
For the moment, Occupy Seattle seems to be taking a breather from camping, instead using this time to clean their equipment and scout out new locations. This does not mean that the protesters have relaxed; on December 12th the organization took part in a West Coast Port Shutdown and on December 17th plans to protest a planned incinerator installation downtown which promises to choke that area with pollution.
In the aftermath of the camp’s peaceful eviction in which the south lawn received a thorough scrubbing by Occupy Seattle’s dedicated personnel, questions and reflections arise among many, namely this: why did they get evicted?
The school was quick to paint the round-the-clock demonstration as a filthy, crime-ridden homeless camp that posed serious risk to the school and community at large, however SCCC’s own faculty is quick to point out that the problems on the campus didn’t originate with the encampment. So what are the real reasons that they were evicted?
In essence, the complaints the school had had little to do with the actual movement and more to do with what they perceived as the ugliness of the camp. After all, many homeless people moved in to find shelter and food, and everyone knows homeless people are unsightly and must be hidden away, right?
Homeless people, the quintessential examples of economic disparity, bring with them the many troubles that beset the homeless population. Drug use and mental illness are symptoms of a besieged and impoverished class. Just because it doesn’t exist on the south lawn now doesn’t mean the problem is nonexistent, just that it has merely relocated to Seattle Central’s parking garage.
So what was the appropriate action? Was it insisting that the homeless who lived with Occupy Seattle leave? Or could city officials and school administrators have taken more compassionate action?
I outlined ages ago on my personal newsblog what action could be taken; namely the people whose job it is to help the homeless (specifically local government) should have sent in social workers and drug counselors. The school, instead of convening farcical emergency board meetings, should have presented real solutions to the problems on their doorstep. In a year when homelessness among students in Washington State is at an all-time high, can the school really afford to just dismiss these unfortunates?
It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. Those who did not find their way into a shelter are back to sleeping on doorsteps of local businesses while Occupy Seattle is researching possible new locations. The drug addicts? They’re still using.
In the end, what got Occupy Seattle evicted is simple: they welcomed the poor, the tired, and the huddled masses. They dared to clothe and give shelter to the disadvantaged. They dared to feed the homeless, and got evicted for their trouble.
Merry Christmas, Chancellor Wakefield. Happy New Year, President Killpatrick. You are fortunate. For many, Christmas will not be merry, and the New Year will be anything but happy. But rest assured: the movement will live on.