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Occupy Seattle Group Squats In Abandoned House

Liz Jones
11/22/2011

Some members of Occupy Seattle are now occupying an abandoned house in the city's Central District. Today is day three of this splinter occupation, and it's causing some talk among neighbors, as KUOW's Liz Jones reports.

TRANSCRIPT

The occupied house sits at the corner of 23rd and Alder in Seattle's Central District. The outside is a mess of graffiti, mismatched paint and plywood.

On Monday afternoon, about six people were there cleaning and fixing up the place. One of them is a young man named Cameron, who declined to give his last name.

Cameron: "We're just trying to cover up some of the old graffiti, just trying to paint it up, make it a little brighter. Trying to make it so that from the outside and in, it's not such of an eyesore for the community."

Cameron says when they arrived Saturday night, the door was open. Now, between 15 and 20 people are sleeping here.

The house appears to be in foreclosure, and neighbors say it's been vacant for years.

Cameron says this occupation is partly a symbolic act against bank practices that are unfair to low–income people. He says those practices can result in people going homeless or freezing to death on the street.

Cameron: "And we've got places like this: empty. And I feel that that is, um, I find it disgusting, personally."

The squatters say their move is not an official action of the Occupy Seattle camp.

Seattle Police say they're monitoring the situation but gave no further comment.

County records show the owner bought the house in 2006 for $425,000.

KUOW's attempts to contact the owner have been unsuccessful. A woman listed on the property records died two years ago.

Some neighbors here say the protesters have been peaceful and quiet so far. However, this squatting situation did spark a lively debate when I knocked on the house next door.

Rita McPhaul: "It's not their right to take over someone else's property just because you have a house that sits there and you're paying on it. They have the right to come and invade your space?"

That's Rita McPhaul. She's lived here 10 years. As we talk, her friend Anthony Givens comes up the porch. He jumps to the occupiers defense. He says they are making a good point.

Givens: "It's about the disparity in being able to get jobs, finding an affordable place to stay. Where's an affordable place to stay around here?"

Anthony tells Rita how programs that help low–income and homeless people are losing funding.

Givens: "Why is all their funding getting cut? Why?"

McPhaul: "Don't you think they need to be in the state capitol, than in the CD?"

Givens: "They can be wherever they want to be if they want to make a point. If you're trying to make a point."

Anthony says he supports Occupy's message against what they describe as corporate greed. Rita nods along. But still, she disagrees with the protester's method of squatting in the house next door, across the street from a high school.

McPhaul: "Being that the situation's happening right across the street from Garfield, there's people that's about to graduate. What is this teaching the kids?"

Givens: "To stand up for themselves, to stand up for their rights. Because there's gonna come a time when they might need these services."

McPhaul: "It's not the right way to do that. I don't care if it's an abandoned building or not, and how long it's been there. It's nobody's right to mess with somebody else's capital."

Rita and Anthony continue to debate for about 15 minutes. They talk about big banks, social unrest around the world, the Arab Spring. So, at least on this porch, this Occupy action seems have hit part of its target: to keep up the public debate.

I'm Liz Jones, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2011, KUOW

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