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Bellingham police clear homeless near City Hall, 3 arrested

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 28, 2021

A temporary homeless camp is set up outside Bellingham City Hall in December.  (KCPQ-TV)
A temporary homeless camp is set up outside Bellingham City Hall in December. (KCPQ-TV)
Associated Press Bellingham Herald

Associated Press

BELLINGHAM – The city of Bellingham on Thursday cleared much of a camp outside City Hall where people without permanent shelter had set up tents and were living since mid-November to protest the lack of housing in the area.

On Thursday morning, police arrived and dozens of protesters and campers packed belongings into vehicles, the Bellingham Herald reported.

As of 1:30 p.m. Thursday, the Whatcom County Jail log showed three arrests by the Bellingham Police Department at 10:20 a.m., 11:01 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on suspicion of assault, reckless endangerment, obstructing a police officer and failure to disperse, according to the Herald.

Protesters chanted, “We protect people, you protect property.” While many residing at the encampment left peacefully, several protesters assaulted officers who were maintaining a safety line, police said. City officials said Thursday afternoon that four people were arrested on suspicion of charges including assault and disorderly conduct.

Eve Smason-Marcus, a Whatcom Human Rights Task Force board member and volunteer with the camp, said previously that some 90 to 120 people had been camping there per night.

Last Friday, protesters demonstrated against the city’s plans to move the encampment and some broke a lock on City Hall and entered the building, prompting Mayor Seth Fleetwood to leave the building temporarily. In December, police said a tent was set on fire, which caused propane tanks to explode.

On Monday, Fleetwood decried a hatchet attack that seriously hurt a man.

Fleetwood has said he and other local officials have been working with advocates and people in the camp to address short and long-term housing needs. On Thursday, he said the city has acknowledged the need and they are making solid and diligent progress.

The city had told residents they would have until Friday to remove their belongings. But Fleetwood said he decided to start Thursday because of credible information that the site was “becoming the target of agitators far more intent on mayhem than working toward any social good” and that certain groups had put a call to gather there on Friday.

“We acted today to reduce the risk of further injury, violence, and vandalism by those who are using the plight of our community’s most vulnerable to further their own agenda,” he said.

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