Thursday, February 25, 2021

Armed activists arrested for trying to turn Washington hotel into homeless hostel

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SWAT teams stormed a Washington hotel after dozens of activists armed with hatchets and knives “forcibly” took it over for the homeless, according to officials and reports.

At least 45 activists with a group called Oly Housing Now occupied the hotel Sunday after reserving 17 rooms for pandemic housing, the city said in a statement.

Hotel employees made numerous 911 calls saying the group was “armed with items such as hatchets, batons, knives and had gas masks, helmets, and goggles, apparently in preparation for a confrontation,” the city said.

“Employees felt under threat from the group” and an “employee was allegedly assaulted,” the statement added.

Guests in at least 40 rooms unconnected to the siege were forced to shelter in place, while the staff fled to safety in the basement, the city said.

After getting a search warrant, police finally stormed the hotel at 6:30 p.m. — seven hours after the activists first took over.

Police in Olympia arrested at least a dozen people after they occupied the Red Lion hotel in the 600 block of Capitol Way South near the state Capitol grounds on January 31, 2021.KING 5

Washington State Patrol’s SWAT team assisted Olympia police and Thurston County Sheriff’s Office in the raid — which led to at least 12 arrests, according to King 5 News.

The SWAT team conducted a room-by-room search and employees and guests were escorted safely out of the building, the outlet said.

The homeless people given the 17 rooms by the militant activist group were refused permission to stay, but will be rehoused elsewhere, officials said.

The exterior of the Red Lion Hotel in Washington state is seen.KING 5

“The tactics used … by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable,” Mayor Cheryl Selby said as she insisted that “making sure our unhoused residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been Olympia’s priority for more than a decade.”

Oly Housing Now’s Emma Veite insisted to Kiro7 that the group didn’t “mean any harm” and just wanted to “stand our ground” to force action.

After the raid, one member of the group griped to The Olympian, “We could have housed everyone here for a week with the money spent on the police response.”

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