Counter-demonstrators, threats pushed Fife Police to evict housing protesters

Demonstrators who had occupied a Fife hotel since Christmas Eve were evicted without incident on Wednesday.

There were no arrests, and most demonstrators took offers for shelter, including special facilities to house those positive with COVID-19.

Fife Police says the situation began escalating when strangers not connected to Tacoma Housing Now announced plans to counter-demonstrate and evict protesters without police help.

Chief Fisher told Q13 News he considered the hotel’s owner a victim. But after the owner complained about the city’s response, that’s when the threats began.

"I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that so many individuals are so angry we housed people who didn’t have housing in a hotel where those rooms weren’t being used anyways," said TDN spokesperson Skitter. "I’m just amazed death threats are happening towards houseless individuals."

Before noon on Wednesday, police showed up with officers wearing protective equipment. Law enforcement say each demonstrator left voluntarily. Police say the situation had been ramping up and the eviction had to happen as soon as possible.

"Today we were getting reports that we had Proud Boys showing up armed," said Fisher. "The Patriot Riders called me they were going to come out in force and take care of the issue if we didn’t."

Counter-demonstrators and housing advocates watched from the sidewalk as police moved people out of the hotel. Tacoma Housing Now says a few have returned to unsanctioned homeless camps, but counter-demonstrators said nobody had spoken out for the hotel’s owner.

"It’s unacceptable what they’re doing, bottom line," said Jacob Beaird who says he showed up to counter-demonstrate Tacoma Housing Now.

He said he streams video content online and planned to call for more people to the hotel should the city’s response not meet his expectation.

"I don’t want to say too much but I will call some people and get this handled," he said.

Beaird’s plan is why Fife police made their move before tempers got out of hand.

"They expect police to de-escalate, take compassionate steps dealing with low level crime such as the issues we’re dealing with here," said Fisher.

The owner of the hotel refused to go on camera or offer any comment.

Tacoma Housing Now said it considers the occupation a success and demonstrations will likely continue.