SEATTLE – In a controversial move, the Seattle Police Department and local aid workers began clearing the homeless encampment known as "The Field" Tuesday.
It happened despite late protests from activists and four Seattle City Council members about the lack of a plan to relocate the residents. Other city leaders say they may not be aware of the full picture.
"(We) have multiple ongoing investigations relative to some of (the) activity," said Assistant Chief Robert Merner, who pointed to two recent arrests of men tied to child sex trafficking at the site.
One victim told police there was "over six other juvenile girls" that had moved between tents. Merner says it was "close to the bus stop. Many times we have runaways, transient, some of them young females," and in this case, "they (ended) up at the Royal Brougham site."
Court documents say the youngest victim was 13.
But that was just one reason cited by police and the aid workers.
The area, at Royal Brougham and Airport Way, is infested with rats. There are also piles of debris and human waste.
"It's not safe. It's not safe, but it could be ran in a different way so it could be safe. We had no type of structure," said Jerry Coleman, as he pushed a cart away from the encampment on Tuesday.
Coleman said he moved here about a year ago after coming to Seattle from his native Florida. He pointed the finger at the city.
In fact, Seattle Council members Kshama Sawant, Mike O'Brien, Rob Johnson, and Debora Juarez all signed a letter asking for more time before the city took action. Sawant, in particular, circulated a letter she claimed was from Field residents and included new bylaws. That letter, shown by a Sawant staffer to media on Tuesday, included a request for use of the local hydrant as a water supply for residents.
"The Field" was a bit of a compromise last fall, between the city, state, and homeless advocates. They agreed to relocate residents of “The Jungle" underneath Interstate 5 to “The Field" as a temporary measure so WSDOT crews could fix expansion joints.
However, residents recently said the city never followed through on plans to properly clean porta-potties or pick up garbage.
Coleman says he's just going to move down the street to another unsanctioned encampment by the Stadiums. He worries about others.
"A lot of people have no more hope. They're done, mental illnesses, really bad drug problems," he said, his voice trailing. "I wish they'd allow us to go out of sight, into the woods and camp, but they don't want us to do that."
KING 5 crews were at the camp Tuesday and tweeting updates.
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