Seattle, WA: 2nd Communique from TN & a Tale of Two Squats

Berlin squat letterbox

From Turritopsis Nutricula // PSA. Dec. 11:

Second Communique: Introduction V. 2/Statement Of Purpose

As the Expropriation Working Group of Occupy Seattle, we, the Turritopsis Nutricula collective, AKA “Fish Clique,” AKA “Jelly Squat,” feel obligated to point out, dissect and respond to certain misconceptions (that our previous communique apparently didn’t address as well as we’d preemptively patted ourselves on the back for) about #occupywhatever. The question has been raised whether we are “still with Occupy Seattle.” This simply points out a fundamental misunderstanding of the basic structure of the #occupy movement. There is no official roster of Occupy Seattle. The only statement we can think of that would be less meaningful than “We are not with Occupy Seattle.” is “Weare with Occupy Seattle.” That said: We are with Occupy Seattle. We were with “The Movement” before Anonymous was #occupying 4chan. Seeing as “The #occupy movement joined us,” the logical question to ask is whether Occupy Seattle is still with us.

Understanding that no movement does anything, that all social change is brought about by people, we recognize that Occupy Seattle does not exist. The question therefor becomes whether the people who continue to use the “Occupy Seattle” moniker for their actions are with us. Are they still locking themselves down in banks and shutting those banks down for the day to disrupt the flow of capital? Still blocking paddy wagons to oppose the arrest of comrades? Still taking over downtown? Providing free food for the hungry and a space to sleep and exist for the homeless? Is Occupy Seattle still hurting corporate profits, empowering the working class and threatening the status quo? Or is it a nonthreatening liberal reformist 501(c)(3) with dual offices at city hall and at a church? Obviously, there is no simple answer; every social movement is more complex than any slogan or label. “Occupy Seattle” is a moniker used by all kinds of people and groups. We, in the Expropriation Working Group, strive to remain in solidarity with the broader “us” who were joined in The Movement™ by Occupy Seattle.

This “us” includes anyone struggling against all forms of oppression. Here, in the Central, that solidarity means supporting the Umoja Peace Center and the fight for Horace Mann. It means remembering the struggles of the past, from the Black Panthers to the Northwest African American Museum. It means supporting present struggles, against gentrification, austerity and police. To this end, we are working toward opening a community center with a library filled with information on past and present social movements and political struggles. Right now, we are sharing the skills necessary to reclaim buildings with anyone interested, while we work on this space. Ultimately, we want to see Everyone refusing to pay rent or work for someone else’s profit. We hope to be a catalyst for the Occupation of Everything.

Everything for Everyone,

Expropriate the Expropriators.

♥, T.N.

Friday, 12/09/11

 

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From Seattle Weekly. Dec 9:

A few days ago, a local anarchists website posted eight handy tips for “how to occupy a vacant house.” Tip one: a “smaller residential property in disrepair” has “greater long-term potential” than a commercial one. As if to prove the point is what you might call the tale of two squats.

On Friday, Occupy Seattle protesters, evicted from Seattle Central Community College, decamped to a vacant warehouse on Capitol Hill. Police arrived almost immediately, endured being spit upon by protestors and left to contact the warehouse’s owner, who confirmed the protesters were trespassing. That same night, police returned and cleared the building, arresting 16 of the protesters.

Yet for more than two weeks now, a group of anarchists loosely aligning themselves with Occupy Seattle has taken over a formerly boarded up duplex in the Central District.

Contrary to reporting in an Associated Press article last week, neighbors have been up in arms about the squat. A Central District News article about the squat has gotten more than 250 comments, many of them angry–making it “the most commented story in CDN history,” according to a follow-up piece. Garfield High School complained to police about squatters trying to “hand out pamphlets and recruit members on the high school campus,” according to an e-mail principal Ted Howard sent out to parents.

And a half dozen neighbors filed complaints with the city Department of Planning and Development, saying the squatters were piling garbage and junk in the yard and defacing the area with graffiti.

Yet authorities have not, as of yet, forced the squatters to leave. DPD spokesperson Bryan Stevens says the department has spoken with the attorney representing the building’s owner, who confirmed that the group was trespassing. Thereupon, it became a matter for police, Stevens says.

Police spokesperson Sean Whitcomb, asked about the different reaction to the two squats, draws a distinction between them. The Capitol Hill one “wasn’t so much a squat as an effort to take over a building,” he says. But asked to clarify, he says there is a “very fine difference,” and seems hard pressed to elaborate. One might note, however, that the the Capitol Hill warehouse sits in a commercial area, the Central District duplex a residential one.

“I’m not going to say action isn’t going to be taken,” Whitcomb adds. “But I’m not going to announce when that might be.”

The Central District squatters aren’t doing the Occupy movement any favors in the mean time. Whereas it’s easy to work up outrage against the obscenely wealthy 1 percent, it’s far less popular to direct venom, as the squatters have done, at run-of-the-mill “gentrifiers.” What does that really mean, anyway? Per a commenter to the CD News:

My wife and I live very close by. We are youngish, we are white, and we are generally progressive thinkers. We’ve worked hard to attain advanced graduate degrees (and we have significant student loan debt to attest to that). We continue to work hard and maintain what we’ve got, while being smart with our money and putting away what we can. We bought a home in the CD when we moved here from out-of-state three years ago, mostly because it was more affordable, but also because my wife is so close to Swedish Cherry Hill where she works. Our home was built right before we moved here (independent of us) and we are the first owners.

So are we the bad guys? Are we a part of the colonization of the CD? Or maybe we’re just young people looking to buy their first Seattle home, who came here with no agenda other than to set down some roots (we have two kids now), avoid a long work commute, and live within our means.

Are we supposed to take our money to Madison Valley because that’s where people like us are supposed to go? Wait a minute..

That comment, and others like it, sound like the start of a long overdue conversation about the unexamined stereotypes of gentrification.

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