Homeless activists occupy Washington state resort in obvious takeover try, no less than 7 in custody: report
At least seven people were detained late Sunday after homeless activists, some reportedly armed with axes and knives, “forcibly” occupied the lobby and 17 rooms at the Red Lion Hotel in Olympia, Washington.
The activists were with a group called Oly Housing Now. They reportedly occupied the hotel in an apparent takeover attempt to claim a pandemic.
City officials said in a press release that the Olympia Police Department (OPD) had received reports that employees felt threatened by the group and that at least one employee was allegedly attacked.
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Law enforcement and SWAT teams have blocked the nearby road and are walking through the hotel floor by floor, The Olympian reported. A group of hotel workers who fled into the basement after entering the hotel were safely removed from the building, according to authorities.
Shauna Sowersby, a reporter, tweeted that a loud bang was heard at the hotel just before 11 p.m. local time. She said that lightning strikes were also triggered when officials tried to evacuate the building.
A crowd across the street from the hotel was later seen singing and harassing local law enforcement officials, according to videos on social media.
WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE
The group bought a night at the hotel on Saturday night and moved 33 homeless people in, reports say. On Sunday noon, at least 35 members of the group gathered in the lobby and in front of the hotel.
OPD later estimated around 45 members of the group inside and outside the hotel.
Oly Housing Now released a list of claims and planned to stay indefinitely until Thurston County raised funds for permanent housing.
The group wants the county to apply for funding offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for “uncollected” accommodations.
In particular, homeless people over 65 years of age or who already have health problems are at increased risk during the pandemic.
At around 11 a.m., officials said the people at the Red Lion called 911 to report that a group had attempted to take over the hotel by force.
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“Staff reported that some members of the activist group at the hotel were armed with items such as hatchets, batons, knives and apparently had gas masks, helmets and goggles in preparation for a confrontation,” the press release said.
The city’s Rapid Reaction Unit is on the ground and will connect people to “services” without residing, officials said. The residents are not allowed to stay in the hotel.
“Ensuring that our unhodged residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been an Olympics priority for more than a decade,” said Mayor Cheryl Selby. “Olympia has led to responding to homelessness, coordinating housing and other basic needs. The tactics Oly Housing Now is using today are unproductive and will not make the mission any more achievable.”
The OPD expects the occupation to be linked to further arrests, reports say.
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The investigation is still ongoing.