On January 14, Andrea Suarez and We Heart Seattle came to the park and picked up various things which they considered disposable. One resident of the park told us this story:
Names redacted for privacy.
A first-hand account
On that day, I was trying to stay out of it, but they [We Heart Seattle] kept insisting. I have an extra tent set up which I let people stay in sometimes if they need a place, and that tent had some stuff around it. I didn’t want a confrontation, so I finally told [We Heart Seattle] that I didn’t mind them picking up trash, but I told them to preserve the tent if they took it down. It was a $500 tent that my aunt gave me. I told them to take it down carefully, fold it up, and leave it next to the tent where I stay. They said they would do that. Then I tried to stay away from them.
Later when I picked up the tent where it was set down, it was cut up. They had broken it and slashed it, they cut the tent off the poles instead of dismantling it. They even broke the poles.
I was gonna let it go because I didn’t want to deal with it anymore, but my friend [A] who had been staying in the tent managed to reach them and one of their people set up a meeting. [A] wanted to get some money out of them, which I didn’t support because it wasn’t [A]’s tent. I didn’t want to go to the meeting but they kept asking, so I went. I corrected some things that [A] was saying, and I corrected Andrea Suarez on some false things.
Andrea Suarez was so goddamn defensive about her team. I told them that they destroyed the tent, and at first she said No, they had taken it down nicely and folded it. The tent was still there, so I showed her how it had been cut up and broken. Then she changed her story and said “I’m sorry. It looked like garbage so it was garbage. It had a hole in it. I looked like someone had squatted in it.”
I said “Yes I let people stay there sometimes.” Sometimes I see people sitting in the doorframe behind the restroom or someplace, like they don’t have a place, and I’ll invite them over to stay in my extra tent. I told Andrea Suarez, “From your perception it was trash, but from my perception it was something that needs to be patched. We have to work with what we have. When you guys offered to fold it up, that was great. But you cut it up, you broke the poles. It’s a pop-up and pop-down tent, the instructions are right on the poles. Don’t say you didn’t do that when you did.”
She was huffing and puffing and lying. I said “You present yourself as a city leader? When you do stuff like this?” I was very shocked at the lying they were doing. When the meeting started, she shook my hand and said “I’m the CEO of We Heart Seattle. I’m a leader in the city. We get people off the street.” Then five minutes later she was spouting off lies.
She wouldn’t budge from her false story. Finally she comes over to me, looks me up and down, then puts her hand on my shoulder and says “Well thank you, sweetheart. If you come down to our 3rd Avenue office, I’ll give you a fresh change of clothes.” That was the condescending attitude she had about the whole thing. I would have preferred that she just tell me I look dirty.