These north and south partial views of the City Hall encampment last week, shot at night by Doug McKeehan when most people were inside their tents sleeping, give a sense of how many people braved the steady rain to participate in the overnight portion of the event. Organizers counted 48 tents plus various plastic-wrapped sleeping bags and cardboard boxes. They estimate that 150-175 people stayed overnight, and at least 50 additional participants helped with daytime visibility protests. Sharon Chan of the Seattle Times dropped by at 5:30 for the dinner and reported ten tents in her story the next day.
When Sharon called me at home for a quote, she asked how many would be staying the night. We'd been seeing huge interest and feeling real momentum, but most people who planned on staying hadn't officially committed. So, basically, I had no idea. "Two-hundred," I confidently replied.
"We're sending a photographer, but if I get there and see twenty people, there won't be a story," she said.
So I guess we dodged that bullet.
Her story was notable in that human services Director Patricia McInturff said she "doesn't like the term 'sweeps.'"
"They're unauthorized encampments," she said. "The city has been cleaning up unauthorized encampments for 20 years. I think the new protocol is a giant step forward" with its inclusion of outreach, storage options and additional shelter.Well, Patricia, if the City hadn't accelerated the pace by a factor of maybe twenty, and if the outreach, storage, and shelter you refer to had some reality to them, then you'd be right.
But as things are, you're a lying sack of shit and we're not stupid. They're sweeps. We know it. You know it. For once in your life, just tell the truth. Preferably, before you retire.
It takes a lot of people to pull something like this off. Operation Sack Lunch took care of the evening meal and helped with hospitality. The Real Change staff and Rachael and Natalie in particular put in heroic efforts during the preceding weeks. Board member David Bloom rounded up the ecumenical meal servers. Real Change vendors were there in force and helped spread the word, and whole bunches of RCOP members took leadership in the weeks and days leading up to the protest. Paul Boden from WRAP flew up from San Francisco and lent a hand as a seasoned pro over Thursday and Friday (Rachael handed him the press calls). And then there was the woman who dropped off a box of tangerines and wished us the best and all the others like her who did their small part.
In short, people pulled together and pulled it off. Last December, when we promised we'd be back, there were less than fifty of us overnight. This time, there were more than one-hundred-fifty. We're building power. The City's lies don't fool us, and we're not going away any time soon.