In an apparent comment on homeless encampment clearings in the city, a Seattle Parks and Recreation building was vandalized over the weekend with a message to the city: “You sweep, we strike.”
According to Rachel Schulkin, a spokesperson for the Parks and Recreation Department, the building on Dexter Avenue in South Lake Union was vandalized sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning.
“Several windows were broken, cars damaged, and there was graffiti sprayed on the outside walls,” Schulkin said Wednesday. “The graffiti said, ‘You sweep, we strike.’”
The words appear to reference city’s removal of homeless encampments, referred to by some as “sweeps,” which the Parks and Recreation department helps coordinate.
Since Mayor Bruce Harrell took office in January, the city has upped its encampment-clearing efforts, with 30 camps cleared in his first 100 days compared to 70 total clearings in 2021.
The removals have garnered a strong reaction from community advocates, including a weekslong standoff with protesters who occupied one downtown encampment until Harrell ordered a removal in March.
Harrell condemned the vandalism in an emailed statement Wednesday, calling for a safer environment for employees of the department and the city’s Unified Care Team, which works with the public during encampment removals.
“Our Parks employees, along with the HOPE Team and workers from all the departments who make up our Unified Care Team, do incredible work to support people experiencing unsheltered homelessness,” Harrell said. “They have my full support — and they deserve to feel safe at work.
“These employees are in positions to help people. In the first quarter of this year, the Unified Care Team has referred more than 300 people to shelter, helping make a tangible difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.”
Harrell, whose concern with graffiti was prevalent throughout his campaign, announced a public effort to address graffiti and litter last week, calling May 21 a citywide day of service for volunteers to help spruce up the city.
Five days later, the building was vandalized.
“This kind of vandalism is wholly unacceptable — it does nothing to help people move out of homelessness and into shelter with services. It does nothing to restore parks, playfields, and public spaces. The way to make change is to engage, not to drive division,” Harrell said.
According to Schulkin, a police report has been filed, but there were no known suspects as of Wednesday evening.
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