For the second time this month, hundreds of people gathered at Hing Hay Park — this time with fresh new signs and messages targeting multiple elected officials.
Chinatown-International District (C-ID) residents are angry and feel disrespected. Especially the seniors. Instead of enjoying retirement, these grizzled veterans are challenging King County Executive Dow Constantine’s plan to ram through a homeless megaplex with close to 500 beds in nearby SODO.
They’re worried about all the problems this kind of shelter campsite can bring with it – like crime spilling into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Seattle Police Officers Guild president Mike Solan, who came out in support of the community, says he expects their fears to be confirmed: “Can you imagine the number of 911 calls that are going to be produced from that area?”
Protesters marched through the streets of the C-ID and straight to Seattle’s City Hall. Dozens packed the council chambers and unleashed their frustrations, hoping someone would listen and help put a stop to this project. “I hope our elected leaders know that people here are at a breaking point,” says community advocate Sea Chan.
Tanya Woo is one of the organizers. She’s demanding a six-month moratorium on construction so that the community can share public input before it opens…not after the fact. “We want to be heard,” says Woo.
But Constantine and his Department of Community and Human Services Director, Leo Flor, have already said no to the idea at a press conference earlier in the week.
“We are working urgently. We cannot tolerate people languish on the streets,” says Constantine. He insists the project is simply an extension of a preexisting shelter run by the Salvation Army near 6th and Airport Way, and it must go live by the end of the year.
“We’re going to do this in a way that provides them a place that they can go,” says Flor.
But Woo says Constantine has not laid out a clear public safety plan and he is unfairly spinning the narrative to make it sound like Chinatown is against the homeless. “There’s broken trust — he’s just barreling through without consulting or talking to us,” says Woo.
Woo says her community is unfairly shouldered this burden, since there are already multiple shelters in or around the C-ID.
The dispute may drive political realignment. Asian Americans have traditionally voted Democrat for years. But many here are now open to alliances with anyone willing to stand with them during this fight. Caleb Heimlich, President of the Washington State Republican Party, and several other GOP representatives showed up to march. “That’s why we’re showing up today to show we want to listen. We want to listen to the community. We want to make sure they have a voice,” says Heimlich.
So far, not a single Democratic official has come out to support the C-ID community.
Unless he changes course, Constantine will remain unpopular in the Chinatown-International District, as voiced by community advocate Connie So: “You keep coming to us for donations. You say you’re friends. It’s easy to say that, but when the real big issues come, we want to see people really there.”
Unfortunately, the community knows they’re likely on their own. That’s why they’re planning to protest again, and again, until the very end.