Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stuff that Trash

After a brief lull, the City of Seattle's aggressive attack on homeless encampments is raging forward once again. This morning, a crew of city parks employees wearing haz-mat suits with respirators and goggles tramped through the greenbelt on the west slope of Queen Anne Hill to clear three homeless encampments at which an estimated 35 people were living. To read the story in the Seattle P-I you'd never know that these encampments had been the homes of human beings. Rather, the story refers repeatedly to "debris such as old mattresses and tarps, open cans of rotting food, bottles of urine and countless used syringe needles."

The City pulled a similar stunt last fall when crews went through the same area destroying tents and throwing out belongings without posting notice, but leaving mountains of trash behind. They then invited press to see and photograph the trash, which was used to justify their actions. By every account, there are simply not enough beds in the city's shelters to absorb the people whose camps are being "cleaned up" - not that the city made an effort to place them. The propaganda issued by the Mayor's Office, and repeated uncritically by the city's news outlets, simply references the trash and the cleanup, and rarely mentions the people whose meager belongings have now been destroyed.

Tim Harris, the publisher of Real Change newspaper, has gone to heroic lengths to put a human face to this story. As the city's media machine churns out a stream of lies and half-truths, Tim's blog, Apesma's Lament, has become the single most vital source for accurate and timely information about this situation.

In protest of the City's policies, Tim and Real Change are organizing a tent city at Seattle City Hall on June 8-9. Download the flier here and spread the word.

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