Stop The Sweeps!

Housing and its intersection with policing was a critical issue this election year. According to the city of Seattle, there are more than 11,000 unhoused citizens in our city. Policing and increasing law enforcement in our communities will not solve the housing crisis. Houselessness is not a crime.
The ACLU defines sweeps as a “clean up” of homeless encampments and people from public property. One occurred during the morning of December 18th, when several Seattle Police Officers raided a homeless camp in Cal Anderson Park and brutally arrested over 21 people according to the Liberation News. The source also reported that cops “dogpiled onto arrestees, placing their knees on people’s backs.”
The city of Seattle must stop these brutal sweeps. Our unhoused neighbors deserve to be treated with decency and respect. They need support and social services from trained outreach workers and mental health professionals, not police officers.
During the pandemic, the CDC advised against sweeps due to public health concerns, confirming that sweeps increase “the potential for infectious disease spread”. However, the city of Seattle swept more unhoused folk’s homes than ever before according to the Seattle Times.
In addition to the health risks, it is also illegal to seize houseless folks’ property during a sweep. Ellis vs Clark County Department of Corrections, a 2016 federal lawsuit in Western Washington, ruled that lack of notice or later return of seized property to houseless folks violates the 14th amendment.
According to the ACLU, sweeps don’t reduce houselessness, provide long-term solution or address the root cause of the crisis. In fact, they often make the problem worse because people lose their belongings and can end up with criminal records as police often arrest them for misusing public property. This makes it even harder to find a job or to find housing or even to apply for public benefits.
Mayor-elect Harrel is a strong supporter of police and has promised to hire more police officers and increase SPD’s budget as the city’s primary public safety response. This means increasing the amount of sweeps in public spaces only continuing this cruel practice.
We need to hold newly elected officials accountable and urge them to stop the sweeps. While, passing policies to create affordable housing is a crucial solution we also need to think about the short term. Instead of trying to keep public spaces free of houseless people, we should prioritize providing them with the resources they need. As a Seattle citizen, you can join community organizations and spaces standing in solidarity with houseless folks such as “Stop the Sweeps Seattle” which provides direct resources and support to these community members.