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13th arrest at Nickelsville

 Spare Change News (USA) 27 May 2019

(Originally published: 11/2009) Dorli Rainey was one of 12 people arrested Sept. 30 after port officials gave residents of the homeless encampment, which moved to the site July 23, a final warning to leave voluntarily. About 30 did, some singing as they walked away from the site, which the port says it could not let them use because state law doesn’t allow it. Cydney Gillis reports on the controversy surrounding the forced eviction of a homeless community and looks at how port police are taking protesters to ground. (849 words) - By Cydney Gillis

Dorli Rainey stepped behind the orange plastic fencing that surrounded Nickelsville just moments before the Port of Seattle police moved in to Terminal 107 Park.

They had come to evict the homeless encampment and its 40 residents, and the 82-year-old Rainey had come to stand with them. As the officers marched past her two by two - in a line that stretched to 46 altogether, with another three standing guard and more on the periphery - the Austrian-born activist chanted, "Hep two three four, hep two three four."

Rainey was one of 12 people arrested Sept. 30 after port officials gave residents of the homeless encampment, which moved to the site July 23, a final warning to leave voluntarily. About 30 did, some singing as they walked away from the site, which the port says it could not let them use because state law doesn't allow it - an idea the Nickelodeons dispute.

As Rainey and about eight residents of the one-year-old tent city were arrested and escorted out, each got a round of applause from fellow Nickelodeons and supporters. They were then taken to a port warehouse, where they were processed and released on charges of criminal trespass.

The King County prosecutor's office says it doesn't anticipate pursuing charges against the 12. A woman who showed up late for the eviction, however, may not be so lucky: She had a run-in with port police and ended up being taken to the ground in what became the day's 13th arrest, the details of which are in dispute.

Holly Eckert is an artist and Real Change volunteer who says she went down to the South Seattle park last Wednesday after getting an e-mail alert that the port, which owns the Duwamish River property, planned to evict the homeless encampment sometime after 1 p.m. on Sept. 30 - a final deadline that the port had set for the tent city after months of insisting it could not let the campers stay.

Eckert's husband drove her to the site around 3:30 that afternoon and waited in the car while she walked up to the park to see if anything was going on. She says she saw tents and people near them and started walking toward them. She paid no mind to the police who were standing around chatting, she says, because she expected officers to be on hand.

One of them stopped her, she says, and asked her where she was going. She told him she was going to the tent area to talk with one of the Nickelodeons and he said, "No, you're not." The officer told her the park was closed for maintenance - a sign had been posted earlier in the day saying so. Eckert questioned this, telling him, "It's not closed for maintenance. You're closing the park to kick a bunch of people out, so don't hide behind the euphemism of maintenance."

The officer told Eckert the Nickelodeons were already gone and she realized the people at the tents were maintenance workers clearing the camp. "You should be ashamed of yourself," she told the officer. He and another officer then told her if she didn't leave, she'd be arrested for trespassing.

She turned to go and was walking away, she says, when a third officer came up beside her and grabbed her left arm. She says she pushed his arm away with her right hand, heard the words "Take her down!" and was tackled from behind - for which Eckert admits struggling and demanding that the officers get off her.

In their reports, the officers say Eckert was loud and berated them with foul language. From there, some details don't match. In two of the reports, she is said to have struck the right arm of Cmdr. Jon Hornbuckle, who says she had stopped walking and he had taken hold of her arm to guide her out of the park. Another writes that Eckert punched Hornbuckle in the forearm with a closed fist, and a maintenance worker states she hit the commander in the shoulder.

She is also said to have kicked another officer in the shin, one or more times.

Eckert denies striking or hitting anyone and says no one told her she was under arrest until she was on the ground. She was released to her husband at the scene, but could face charges of criminal trespass and assaulting an officer - which she says she plans to fight.

At the very least, like the Nickelodeons she came to stand with, she was forced to sign a paper saying she would not return to Terminal 107 Park. "It's an abuse of power," Eckert says. "All these officers had to do was just let me keep walking. I wasn't threatening anyone and I was leaving the park."

After the eviction Nickelsville made an emergency move to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. On Oct. 7, about 30 Nickelodeons will move to the sanctuary at Wallingford's Keystone Congregational Church at 5019 Keystone Pl. N., where they will be able to stay up to a month and are requesting limited donations of food and clothing due to space.

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