4 arrested as Bellingham began clearing homeless camp at City Hall

The city of Bellingham has started clearing a camp outside City Hall where people without permanent shelter had set up tents and were living since mid-November to protest the lack of housing in the area.

On Thursday, dozens of protesters and campers were on site packing belongings into vehicles, The Bellingham Herald reported.

Protesters were chanting, "We protect people, you protect property." While many residing at the encampment were leaving peacefully, several protestors assaulted officers who were maintaining a safety line, police said.

City officials said four people were arrested on suspicion of charges including assault and disorderly conduct.

Eve Smason-Marcus, a Whatcom Human Rights Task Force board member and volunteer with the camp, said previously that some 90 to 120 people had been camping there per night.

Last Friday, protesters demonstrated against the city’s plans to move the encampment and some broke a lock on City Hall, prompting Mayor Seth Fleetwood to leave the building temporarily.

"There were those who were well-intentioned and there were those who were clearly intent on provocation," Fleetwood said. On Monday, he decried the "heinous crimes" reported last weekend at the protest site, including a hatchet attack that seriously hurt a man.

Last week, Fleetwood said he and other local officials have been working with advocates and people in the camp to address short and long-term housing needs.

The city had notified residents they would have until Friday to remove their belongings.