Breaking news: An abandoned middle school in Tacoma, WA. has been occupied by community members to provide shelter for a houseless encampment of 20 people, following multiple deaths from exposure in recent weeks. They are holding a press conference in about half hour. 1/?
A few weeks ago, a man in his 60s died from exposure in his wheelchair. Another man died from exposure in his car. This happens every winter in Tacoma. City council have been talking about turning Gault Middle School into a shelter for the houseless for a long time without action
Food Not Bombs has been working with this group of houseless folks for ~8 months now & have created a strong relationship with them. All are on board with moving into Gault. Tacoma DSA members such as co-chair @RebeccaforWA have been involved as well (informally as DSA members).
Organizers plan to fix up the school & utilities. Second floor of the building will be used for COVID quarantine. End goal is to get the property into a "community-controlled Community Land Trust" along with other comprehensive demands found in @TacHousing press release.
Tacoma Housing Now is requesting community members come to support them as the police have showed up outside.
It was actually Tacoma School Patrol, which works in partnership with Tacoma PD
They told organizers they are going to call the mayor of Tacoma and that the police will get involved to try to evict them. Media liaison @RebeccaforWA tells me they have not received an official order yet.
A lawyer to represent the organizers is on the way. Legal observer on the scene as TPD has shown up now.
Video published by a member of Food Not Bombs Tacoma / Tacoma Housing Now, about 45 minutes ago, about what they are doing. m.facebook.com/story.php?stor…
There are currently about 30 organizers and supporters occupying the building and 10 formerly houseless people, who are excitedly claiming and cleaning their new rooms. One person has already put their name above their door. 5-6 cops outside and a TPS cop, one cop car circling.
The independent legal observer had asked the police to not enter until the group's lawyer showed up. They are now present and will be communicating to the cops for the organizers and new occupants. Apparently someone is trying all of the doors to the building right now.
Fundraiser for the new occupants found here
The lawyer is now speaking with the police after consulting with organizers. Here is one new occupant moving into their new room. (The "don't love" was already there I believe, to be clear)
The lawyer is talking to the cops still and a large police van has pulled up. Tense situation, they may try to evict them soon here. Organizer told me that they think the cops need an affidavit from the owner of the property saying they are not supposed to be there.
Waiting on updates, stay tuned.
Just spoke with organizers inside. Earlier had a community meeting with the new residents then organizers went out to negotiate/give their demands to the police. The police said the best they can do is give 10 beds in cold weather shelter. Police conferring among themselves.
They say 10 is not nearly enough, as the encampment has a total of 30 people (not 20, correction); the houseless are in a life or death situation considering the deaths from exposure very recently. Organizers demanded to talk directly to the mayor and went back inside.
The police said that they shouldn't be housed in the school because of the presence of asbestos and mold. The new residents said they would much rather stay in the school with that rather than risk their lives in the cold with diseased rats running all over their stuff.
Organizers and the new residents are very insulted by this 'concern' by the police - where was their concern when two people died last week from exposure?
They say they are nonviolently housing houseless people, in an unused public building, providing sanitation and dignity. Why should the police kick them out? #Tacoma
Apparently the claim Tacoma Public Schools security (TPS) is making about the asbestos may be untrue
City of Tacoma, in response to this direct action, has announced their warming center (shelter for bad weather) will be open through Dec 31st. That shelter was not open the night Tommy, the man who froze to death in his wheelchair, died.
Here’s an article about the occupation by @OtherWillJames knkx.org/post/unshelter…
The police seem to think it is a good use of resources to guard the portapotties organizers set up for the new residents. I imagine residents/organizers are anxious about using them now, they could use this as a way to arrest people.
I've been told they harassed Pastor Gordy Hutchins when he went to use them, who is a part of the team.
The fundraiser is close to $4k! Thanks to everyone who is lending financial support in these difficult times, I understand donating money is hard for most people right now.
20 cops in hazmat suites have shown up. They may try to do a raid.
Patty wagon has shown up. At least 6 cops cars arrived out front 10 minutes ago after some cops left. Not sure how many are on the other sides. #tachousing #tacoma
Pictures of the police buildup outside the school. #tachousing #tacoma
A video of a closer look. #tachousing #tacoma
The police are now telling people to leave or face arrest.
They were specifically given a trespass warning and are being threatened with arrest.
Organizers calling on the community to phone the mayor to call off the police
If you are in the area, please show up to film the police. They need help. I expect police brutality.
Police say they will charge occupiers with felonies. People's lives could be ruined for trying to save the houseless from freezing to death and providing sanitation during a global pandemic.
I've got word they may be leaving the building. Unclear at this moment.
Everyone has vacated the building in the interest of protecting the houseless. Cops threatened felony burglary charges. People had to leave their stuff behind because they were given almost no time to leave. Organizers are focusing on getting possessions back.
It's not over yet. Tacoma Housing Now is calling for supporters to show up to Gault Middle School for a rally.
Video of police approaching the building in hazmat suites and threatening them right before everyone left the building earlier. #tachousing #Tacoma
Right now the main focus on the ground is reclaiming the houseless folks lost possessions from the school so they can return to their encampment. Its going to be another cold night for them to survive. They could have had permanent shelter but @TacomaPD prevented that.
Being told everyone has left the location now. I assume they got their stuff back - will confirm.
Unsure how much was returned still but the police are boarding up the school now. Also, when folks were forced out of the building they ID’d everyone and patted them down. They said they won’t be charging anyone but they easily could now.
If you folks enjoyed this thread, please give me a follow. I will be doing more threads like this one in the future!
Not everything the houseless community members left behind was returned by TPD. @TacHousing is asking for help.

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