A Belated History of the Central District Squats

  • Posted on: 15 August 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://pugetsoundanarchists.org/node/1975">Puget Sound Anarchists</a>

<p>At a recent communal BBQ in the Central District of Seattle, I ran into a young boy who had been coming around every week to get food and wander amongst the crowd of people. I started talking to him and he asked me if the people at the BBQ were the same ones who lived at the now evicted squat on 23rd and Alder. I told him that a few of us lived there. He told me he lived in the apartment building next door. This boy was eleven years old and had been in the neighborhood his whole life. </p>
<p>Those who lived at the squat experienced a reality that was never fully telegraphed to the world. This is partly because those who lived there largely did not come from activist backgrounds. Only a few anarchists took the initiative to make a few random public statements on the behalf of the collective or on their own. In short, there was never much information regarding the squatting offensive that took place during the winter of 2011-2012 in Seattle.</p></td><td><img title="You say offensive I say..." src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2012/doomba1.jpg"></td></tr></ta...
<p>It started on November 19th. A group of around 150 people left the site of the Occupy Seattle camp and walked to the Juvenile Detention Center. After having a brief noise demo outside the jail walls and declaring that they would be back, the group proceeded to walk to a house on 23rd and Alder. The squat was born relatively spontaneously, a mixture of an open door and the sudden desire of a dozen people to hold the house through the night.</p>
<p><img src="https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/387329_248170005255223_15161... /></p>
<p>On the first night, someone paid the neighbors to use their electricity and a few heaters were donated to the fledgling house. Over the next week, a remarkable amount of resources were poured into the house from every direction. The communists might have said it was the proletariat self-organizing, the anarchists might have said it was autonomous self-organization, but on a very basic level numerous skilled people installed a stove, wired the house with electricity, and reinforced the doors. Beyond this, everyone living in the house routinely gathered food from a variety of sources. No one was ever hungry, but as the winter intensified, it began to grow exceptionally cold inside the house. </p>
<p>Within the grander context of the Occupy Seattle explosion, hundreds of people were preparing for the West Coast port shutdown on December 12th. An extensive amount of promotion and networking was underway when a flier suddenly started circulating for a march on December 2nd. It was widely rumored that a high profile squatting action would take place. Prior to the action, conversations started happening about creating a wider network of squats that would not be public.</p>
<p><img src="https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash3/166953_248171905255033_13560... /></p>
<p>Soon enough, two keys appeared that were handed to over a dozen people who needed a place to sleep. While the new living groups walked to their new homes, several people in the neighborhood either cheered or clapped for the squatters. After settling down, the new residents returned to 23rd and Alder in the following days to gather supplies and learn of any developments. Unfortunately, one of the houses was evicted after only three days. They were caught because they had walked into the house right in front of a police cruiser. The openness of the public squat had encouraged them to be sloppy in regards to the security of their own house. Around this time, another group that attempted to open a fourth squat in the Central District were also caught in the act of opening the house. </p>
<p>However, the squat on Spruce Street began to thrive. Housing mostly artists, the residents of the Water House went out into the neighborhood and began painting murals on various walls. Most of them are still in existence to this day. </p>
<p><img src="http://www.thestranger.com/images/blogimages/2011/12/24/1324764338-mural... /></p>
<p>On December 2nd, an empty warehouse in Capitol Hill was occupied by hundreds of people. They painted on the walls, listened to live music, and ate food until the police eventually encircled the building and arrested the small number of people who stayed inside. The occupation lasted just over six hours. During the first hours of December 25th, the Water House was raided and evicted. On January 11th, the Sheriffs raided the house at 23rd and Alder and evicted the occupants at gun point. </p>
<p>The house on 23rd and Alder was across the street from Garfield High School. Every day the kids would come to school and see the giant anarchist flag hanging above the front door of the squat. Two students at the school lived there off and on. Occasionally their parents would come get them, but they often returned. The garbage men who drove by in the morning would always honk and wave through their window at the people cooking breakfast inside. The house was intolerably cold and to make it bearable people would talk and laugh and yell for hours into the night, waiting until they were tired enough to pass out in their sleeping bags or on their beds.</p>
<p>A local radio host who actively collaborates with the city and police began telling young black men to get the white people out of the neighborhood. One night some kids threw a brick through one of the front windows and were chased off by machete wielding psychopaths from hell. The next time they came back and bricked in the window they also pulled out a gun. A resident of the house had her butt grazed by a bullet and a horrible darkness entered the house. People began to grow irritable with each other and the stress ate away at their patience. They suffered the wrath that was meant for the gentrifying community groups that continue to destroy the Central District. It was far easier for these black youth to attack the squat, where not everyone was white and where no one had any money. It was far more difficult to attack the actual racists colonizing the neighborhood. </p>
<p>Seven blocks away, the area around the Water House began to fill with murals. A local artist brought the poor artist-squatters food and a skilled friend turned on the electricity. The immediate neighbors met the residents and expressed their happiness that someone was finally living in the house. This house was less cold, having insulation and carpets.</p>
<p><img src="http://ww2.hdnux.com/photos/07/11/50/1874457/3/628x471.jpg" /></p>
<p>Everyone at 23rd and Alder was too poor to spend 60 dollars each to buy wood to wall off their unfinished rooms. Insulation had been provided by friends but it sat in the work room for the entirety of the occupation. Only one room had been walled off by the resident with the most money. This resident earned around 400 dollars a month. </p>
<p>Many of those who lived in the squats or hung out in their large communal rooms were bright and luminous people, filled a desire to live freely. Some had been doing it for decades, others had been born into it at a young age. All were trying to survive within the current nightmare and all had been brought to the house by fighting against capitalism on the streets. Every single person inhabiting the squats had been involved in the numerous clashes with police that had occurred since the beginning of the Occupy Seattle phenomena in October. These were fighting people who were actively engaged in a struggle they believed in and they were the ones who took the most risks during that struggle. </p>
<p><img src="http://ww4.hdnux.com/photos/07/11/50/1874455/3/628x471.jpg" /></p>
<p>Winter is nasty and brutal in the Puget Sound. The wetness and rain is the most miserable part of the endless cold. When there is wind on those dark days it is even more unbearable to be stuck outside. Most of those who participated in the squatting offensive continued to live in the cold after they were kicked out of their house by shotgun wielding paramilitaries. </p>
<p>All of these events took place in a neighborhood where a project called 'weed and seed' was implemented by the cops and specific gentrifiers. This project has attempted to sterilize certain section of the neighborhood and forcefully displaced dozens of people from either their homes or the street corners where they hang out. The old Autonomia social center was shut down in the fall of 2011 by these reactionary and fascistic residents. These people are a very active minority of the residents who have moved to the Central District in the last ten years. While other gentrifiers are not active snitches, those who have adopted the 'weed and seed' philosophy of aggressive expansion have developed an often fascistic racial paranoia towards their neighbors.</p>
<p>The Central District still bears the memories and the imprints of what went on with the squats, the police, the politicians, and the gentrifiers. Everyone knows whats going on in the neighborhood and has heard of the anarchist menace lurking about in the shadows. The mayor and the police talk to the public about eliminating gun culture while the SPD and the FBI break down people's doors and raid their apartments with assault rifles. Guns go off in the night, people smoke cigarettes in the shadows, and rebellion is heard whispered in the air. The rest of 2012 will undoubtedly bring more surprises.</p>


This is beautiful. It's good to read these stories and I appreciate that someone took the time to share it.

Can't help but find the roller snark a little tired, but I guess that's the internet for ya. Sometimes they're actually funny, but I'd prefer if the default setting was "quirky" rather than "belittling" or "asshole."

Seriously. It's so tired. And passive aggressive. Let's hear it, instead of offensive, what do you say?

anytime there is a big object being thrown out in the CD, it should be dragged into the street and set on fire. this is how the feeling spreads.

That and smashing mailboxes!

ummm no.

Post your address and I will show your mailbox how INFINITE I have become!

the people in those pictures look fucking crazy. i would hate them living next door to me.

and the problem with this analysis is that is locates the problem as the kids with guns shooting at the squat because the squatters take the blowback of gentrification, and sees the solution as engaging with the gun toting kids.

instead, if people were anarchists and not stupid activist wingnuts, people should have learned FROM what those kids were doing, and take risks equal to the ones they were willing to take to fight their perceived class enemies. they did not waste their time engaging with people with less social power than themselves in an attempt to convince them that they are not the "real" problem with society (and BTW conveniently ameliorate their own guilt about their place is the social power structure), they fucking shot at the people with more perceived social power, and if the squatters had learned from those kids and acted similarly, the violence would ripple up the power hierarchy and the real gentrifiers would be attacked. that type of action would have served to focus the anger up the hierarchy, instead those who could have passed that anger on wasted their time trying to stop that violence from occurring to them from below.

get used to the violence. just make sure those with more power than you know how much violence you face due to their attacks on those below you. everything else is a waste of time, not anarchist, and usually comes from liberal foundational understandings.

welcome to the real world! it's full of violence!

yes, homeless people are so fucking privileged, yo. and of course people shouldn't defend themselves when getting shot at, they should just pick a new target. when the jews and communists were being beaten to death in the streets by working class brownshirts, they should have focused on their real enemies, amirite?

Black youth = working class brownshirts? Wow, racist fuck.

also, i love how this commenter, in lecturing people about how class society works, exhibits his/her own class privilege and snobbery, talking about how "crazy" these people look. maybe they should have shot at you, huh?

Yeah, I don't understand what looks so crazy about those people, anyway. The dude has a beard and long hair?

normal people usually think that male folk with long hair is crazy, as someone whose had long hair since High school I can attest to that.

We're all crazy by this society's standards. Anyway, both of those people pictured were pretty cool from what I knew of them. Kind, solid people.

i think the no shoes on outside thing kind of gives it away. derp/

Welcome to the internet! It's full of opinions like yours! Totally worthless opinions and comments!

Wow that was dumb.

"and the problem with this analysis is that is locates the problem as the kids with guns shooting at the squat because the squatters take the blowback of gentrification"

this analysis doesnt locate the primary problem, at all, as the interactions with neighbors. Shit, this article talked more about how cold the damn squat was with no money for repairs than it did about neighbors being mean. And to the extent it did talk about neighbors, it talked about active or passive support at least as much as it did about some kids throwing bricks through the window.

As for the idea that "if the squatters had learned from those kids and acted similarly, the violence would ripple up the power hierarchy and the real gentrifiers would be attacked" - this is a pretty weak cause and effect kind of analysis. I hardly think the most logical (or even likely to succeed approach) for an anarchist praxis, whatever the "problem" we are attacking may be, is for each person or demographic to attack the group one rung up the social ladder. That seems pretty damn ludicrous.

We need to create situations, cultures or resistance, phsyical territories or neighborhoods, etc. where people who are oppressed or exploited (albeit unequally so, and with different backgrounds) can attack people at the top, not simply attack each other in fits of self destructive or impotent rage. OF COURSE that rage will exist - welcome to class society - but actually painting a picture where we all attack each other, hoping that the violence eventually "ripples up the hierarchy" is stupid. I mean, let s actually think about how that would look...The black renters attack the white homeless youth...the white homeless youth attack white service class renters cus they have a steady home (those bastards!!)...the white service workers with homes attack some white workers with union jobs and a mortgage (sellouts!)...the better paid workers with union jobs find an office workers somewhere and lynch them for having a low salaried position and air conditioning...

i mean, fuck, this just starts to sound crazy. I dont think we're automatically committing to some kind of stupid class collaborationism if we recognize that people who are exploited but have slightly different levels of privilege or wealth can come together and share political affinity and resistance. Nor are does this commit us to a lowest common denominator populism, or some awful brand of popular front politics. But hell, we have to find ways to revolt that bring in different kinds of people, we have to join in and contribute in meaningful (and anarchist) ways to others' rebellions, and we also have to live and survive in this shit world, right now, without necessarily seeing every single interaction (a neighborhood kid attacked me, another neighborhood kid hangs out our squat) as symbolic of some massive theoretical whole. Just live and rebel from where you are, and try to find others...

Your argument is really twisted. I forget if this is included in the article or not, but some longtime neighborhood residents (who are also black) talked with some of the kids and chilled them out. Note that this wasn't just an instance of random kids getting pissed and taking the initiative; they were goaded into attacking the squat by an asshole.

Everything other than maiming or killing people who may or may not have more social power than I have is a waste of time and not anarchist?...... You're insane.

Is the voting for comments meant as an ironic critique of representative democracy?

Thankyou for your subtle answer.

Welcome to the crazy world, it's full of intense pacifists!

others have pointed out some of the issues with this comment, which i agree there are, but i would like to talk about the point i saw in it.

before even getting to this my question was about to me, so why weren't the 'real gentrifiers' attacked? how did anarchists attack the 'weed and seed' strategy? it doesn't sound like they did at all and that may have been why locals attacked them: their form of life was actually amenable to reproducing capital in the neighborhood; this is a very common dynamic for urban squats.

reading this beginning with the little local kid and the march to juvie, i was hoping to see more about how the squatting 'offensive' converged with the general climate of hostility between poor kids and police that seems to be growing these days. sadly you seem to have wound up fighting the people you came to fight alongside, standing for the police in their eyes. this is a serious problem that everyone involved in this should really think about.

unfortunately this leads me to ask what particularly was accomplished here. the argument could be that 'a bunch of activist white people used their privilege in a subversive way to produce housing to meet their needs directly'. but this hinges on the notion of subversion which is far from established, otherwise, again, why would the locals attack you? because they are idiotic savages who believe anything someone on the radio says? please. you never even bothered to meet them or you would have realized how idiotic your explanation of their actions sounds. i say this as sympathetic as possible. maybe you couldn't have met them, in fact maybe you just shouldn't have been there. maybe what you were really doing was 'leftist white people producing a space to be-political together so they could directly meet a need for their ethical self-gratification'. just because you style yourself a revolutionary or an 'ally' of the proletariat, doesn't mean you are invited or welcome everywhere. you should think about how antagonistic the stance really is of occupying a structure in such a neighborhood when you are not connected to anyone in your vicinity.

autonomous proletarian self-organization ftw

I am not wholly uncritical of the way the "squatting offensive" unfolded, but I can tell you that you are seriously misunderstanding what was actually happening at that time. These squats weren't full of white leftist activists--it was a combination of anarchists (some of whom have spent time on the street), random occupy people (who may or may not have been homeless before, I don't know), street kids, and homeless adults. The Central District is already extremely gentrified. You are incorrect in your assertion that maybe the squatters' "form of life was actually amenable to reproducing capital in the neighborhood." That's simply not true. This was basically an unrecuperable action. The 23rd and Alder squat looked like shit and was teeming with street kids, anarchist punks (not the hipster kind), and homeless people. I understand that sometimes hip young squatters can be the first wave of gentrification, but we are waaaaay past that here in the CD.

Anyway, since that time, many anarchists have focused more attention on building relationships with people in the CD in order to make more connections and make more clear who anarchists are and what they actually want.

No one is assuming the kids who attacked the squat were little savages or whatever you just said... but they were clearly foolish. This is not surprising to me at all considering how often people turn on each other instead of attacking their shared enemies. But it is pretty depressing. Thankfully, I am not so stupid as to take these kids' actions (or them as individuals) as representative of all the other people around.

i just recuperated your action bye accident when i was fixing this vcr. sorry man.

i agree it was foolish and depressing, i never said it was otherwise. but isn't it on you as the 'conscious pro-revolutionary actors' to look at all the aspects of the situation? you know? i mean how did any of the categories you mentioned - homeless, youth, adult, punk, non-hipster, occupier, anarchist - rule out being a white leftist activist? (or quasi- or crypto-leftist, whatever, we all know what we are talking about here.) as someone who spent a lot of time in various squat scenes i am well aware that the first wave of squatters in any given area are usually disgusting freaks who don't support gentrification in any plausible way; this isn't my point. my point is how could you have been attacking gentrification instead of just sort of taking advantage of the general condition of dispossession in a neighborhood to reproduce an activist lifestyle? what does the fact of your actual choices say about where you actually stand in things? just something to think about.

you are foolish and depressing. all of you.

You know nothing of the Jelly Squatters aka the Turritopsis Nutricula Collective. Community members engaged the kids who attacked them and talked to them about solidarity with them against the police and against gentrifies. And to be honest it was some lower case g with his dad's 22 who shot at us. Seriously though, TNC attacked gentrified houses. They were violent. Sure there were some hippie types living there too, but there was a violent radical core. A zine library that included many zines about armed resistance and fighting the back with force as well as actions almost ever other day. Viva Turritopsis Nutricula!

"zine library included zines about armed resistance" = DEATHBLOW!!!!

uh, i heard 4 of 8 rooms was insulated for like the total entirety. and $400 is about what we made from your mom this morning, worker.

and she said ur actually a maoist. tdtw!

I really have to ask. The article makes it a point to mention that not all the squatters were white, and that's fine, but the discussion in the comments does seem to create the impression that the squatter culture at the particular houses was largely informed by the experiences of white homelessness and poverty. Historically, it has been a fairly easy task to set poor whites against other marginalized communities, most notably during reconstruction, where the dominant narrative affirmed the value of whiteness, even in poverty, above that of blackness, in the racial sense.

Over and over again we have to go over these basic premises, basically that the illusion is sometimes more real than the reality. That racial differences exist, and with them privileges that cannot be reduced to purely economic matters. This is sometimes very difficult for poor people to comprehend, as when blacks that have criminal records, usually drug offenses, are passed up for menial labor positions that favor cheaper, immigrant labor, often with the added bonus of tax and labor law evasions. It is easy to create hostilities among different marginalized communities.

And it seems to me some people posting responses have made a concerted effort to approach those issues, and determine where exactly the particular marginalized group the article refers to is failing in its response to avoid the pitfalls. There does seem to be a rhetorical framing of the heroic anarchist hero liberating himself, and by extension the communities around him. But also, that these communities are easily influenced and malleable, and that the hero's journey is replete with tribulations as a result of the ignorant and unenlightened. If only they would wake up!

It completely ignores the ways that the squatters might be themselves manipulated by the existing power structures, the manner in which either the squat itself might be antagonistic to those communities, or the lived experiences of squatters of color, whose voice might be marginalized within the squat, while at the same time being better suited to engage the hostile forces created out of want and need and artificial scarcity.

Let's face it. After reading the article, my visual experience with the squat, albeit mediated through technology and language, is two people who are about as white as mayonnaise and Merle Haggard. They look somewhat of Celtic descent and I could just as easily visualize them at a Renaissance fair or as an extra in a Lord of the Rings movie.

Barring major cultural differences between the homeless in Seattle and where I'm from, I can say from my own experience that there tends to be a critical misunderstanding of race and ethnicity theory primarily among non-political homeless people. Indeed, a great deal of racism too. In the Occupy I participated in, there was a major confrontation during a march for indigenous rights, between mostly white homeless kids, who wanted to whitewash the problems of race altogether, and the academic, culturally elitist Latinos, who approached the issue from a highly informed and deeply rigorous analysis that becomes available generally through the privilege of formal or informal education.

The bigger problem was that conspicuous absence of homeless black and Latinos, and it seems this is the same problem we have here. A few token people of color is not enough to change the racial (ist?) assumptions of a predominantly white group of people, regardless of their economic situation. Or if I could self correct a moment, perhaps within material abundance it could, but not amongst scarcity. Within institutionalized and bureaucratic hierarchical systems, it is an easy matter to put people of color in powerful and influential capacities, although hardly anyone ever does this, and so the system perpetuates itself. Even when they are placed in authoritative positions their power is checked by other institutions, or by the fact that the power granted comes at the cost of playing down, minimizing and silencing notions of real racial differences.

The difference here is the lack of central authority, and that the necessity of black and brown power must be established through consensus, in a situation where whites are so marginalized that the loss of white privilege appears as just another bureaucratic boot on the head. It has to be established as necessary for the liberation of the whole, the liberation of the individual, much like the liberation of the proletariat means the liberation of humanity.

Ready for a new offensive! Learn from your mistakes! Also, it is much warmer in the South! ;)

those two photos are some of the few of the occupants that are on google

here is another one:


there were no tokens. yer right, you cant know through words and images. so dont try.

this picture is tiny and inscrutable. thanks

"yer right, you cant know through words and images. so dont try."

This is completely racist. I will say it again.

Why the fuck are you deleting my comments?

Embarrassed? You should be. This is vile.

THAT'S RACIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They threw newspaper boxes into the street, in a BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD, endangering TRANS-PEOPLE and POC SINGLE MOTHERS! PRRRRRIIIIVVVIIILLLEEGGEE!


grow up or go back to 4chan

i cant go back to 4chan cuz im 2 busy having sex with your mom

any self respecting 4chan kid can have "sex" with only one hand and multitask


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