from the 4th issue for November 2013:
THIS SUMMER HAS SEEN yet another transitional moving period for the homeless camp formerly located in West Seattle known as Nickelsville. The camp was started in September of 2008 and was named after Mayor Nickels in commemoration of his violent police-lead eviction of a previous homeless camp. The Seattle City Council voted early this summer to evict the camp, citing general lawlessness, drug-use and pollution as reasoning. The well-being of the campers was never actually in the minds of City Council members, as they opted only to set aside a lump sum of cash for the camp to find alternative housing instead of longer term proposals that advocates for the camp were asking for.
The camp located three separate sites in which its residents were able to move to; two in the Central District and one in far south Seattle. Calling this a victory, however, would only gloss over the stress that moving all of one’s belongings many times over the last year brings, not to mention that an entire community of people who found housing together in a house-less world have now been split up between three separate locations all at the whim of the Seattle City Council.
There has been a noticeable absence in this entire scenario. The last time an illegal encampment made up of a collection of capital’s excluded seized news headlines, the camp’s name was Occupy Seattle and anarchists had a very recognizable presence in the camp’s day-to-day activities. It would be perhaps inappropriate for anarchists to start to hold a presence at the Nickelsville camp, unless they lived there. But it seems as if all notions of mutual aid have been thrown to the wayside as another illegal encampment is given the boot by the city.
Perhaps the reason why anarchists did not step up to the plate when eviction orders came down for Nickelsville was because there had been no established connection between radicals/subversives and the encampment, unlike the relationship between anarchists and Occupy where radicals had contributed to building the space and atmosphere from the beginning and therefore had very much at stake at in defending the space and making it an antagonizing force.
Is the presence of a very real relationship built on directly shared experiences and engaging with aspects of social bodies who are also crushed by the daily weight of this boring existence under capitalism the base of a social insurrectionary project? If a group of anarchists had approached the residents of Nickelsville about militantly resisting their eviction and continuing to occupy the land they were living on without previously knowing any of the residents, could anyone expect the residents to take them seriously? But if we simply lined up to offer a hand to help with moving and feeding people, what would set us part from the non-profits and charity programs who simply exist to grease the gears of capitalism?
How are we to say that Nickelsville would have been hospitable to an anarchist presence? Up until now, there has been no public anarchist discourse surrounding the homeless camp. It would be foolish to assume that an antagonizing presence would have been welcomed with insurgent hearts at the camp. But wondering at the possibilities of what may have come out of a longer-standing relationship between anarchists and the camp when faced with the eviction, we can still take this lesson to heart as we continue to look for instances of when we as anarchists can contribute to projects that happen outside of our subcultural circles. If one is to acknowledge that Nickelsville was an illegal encampment of some of the most excluded people in Seattle, it can be easy to wonder why there wasn’t at least an attempted anarchist presence.