United Kingdom

Mayor is rushed out of City Hall in Washington state after protesters storm building

A Mayor was rushed out of a City Hall in Washington state after protesters ripped down an American flag before storming the building during a rally against plans to clean-up a homeless encampment. 

Mayor Seth Fleetwood of Bellingham was escorted out of the building to safety Friday morning when a group of around 20 people entered the main lobby, according to KIRO7.  

Bellingham Police arrived and asked the protesters to leave. 

Bellingham Police Lt. Claudia Murphy told The Bellingham Herald the demonstrators left when they were told to, no one was injured and nothing was damaged inside the building.  

Protesters had gathered outside City Hall to protest against the city's plans to move a temporary homeless encampment, known as Camp 210, off the lawns of the hall and the Bellingham Public Library. 

Officials planned to clean up the site Friday morning and move the homeless campers 25 feet away.

The encampment was first erected in the area in November to draw attention to the lack of shelter for homeless people in the city, located around 88 miles north of Seattle.  

Mayor Seth Fleetwood of Bellingham was rushed out of City Hall in the Washington state city Friday after protesters ripped down an American flag before storming the building during a rally against plans to clean-up a homeless encampment. Pictured the protest above

Fleetwood told KIRO7 he was taken out of City Hall through a back door and driven from the building.   

He told the outlet the sudden evacuation was 'unsettling' and compared it to the January 6 riot on the US Capitol in DC that left five people dead. 

'They banged on the door and we got word they had somehow broken it open and were entering, and I was advised to leave,' he said. 

Fleetwood said the protesters had broken a lock to get inside the locked building. 

Footage shared online by a KIRO7 journalist shows a group of demonstrators outside the building tearing down an American flag and stamping on it before a man made off with it. 

Protesters also confronted members of the media to try to stop them from filming the scene, Fleetwood said. 

No arrests were made during Friday's incident. 

Mayor Seth Fleetwood of Bellingham was escorted out of the building to safety Friday morning when a group of around 20 people entered the main lobby, according to KIRO7

It is not clear if the 20 who stormed the building were part of the rally opposing the removal of the encampment.  

City officials announced Tuesday that Camp 210 residents had to move 25 feet away from the buildings and move all their belongings from the area by 9 a.m. Friday.

They cited a number of issues, including several fires in the area and county employees reporting being harassed.  

None of the wooden structures or roughly 100 large tents were moved by Friday morning, the Herald reported. 

Activist groups urged people to gather in the area Friday morning to stop the city tearing down the encampment.

People formed a human shield and blocked the road in front of the courthouse while others held up signs reading 'Services now', 'Do not sweep' and 'Provide an actual solution for the homeless', the Herald reported. 

By around 5p.m., most protesters had cleared the area, according to a KIRO7 video. 

In a statement, Fleetwood called the morning's events a 'disservice' to homeless people. 

In a statement, Fleetwood called the morning's events a 'disservice' to homeless people

'Their actions are a disservice to people who are experiencing homelessness and putting them at increased risk,' he said. 

He said the city wants 'a peaceful end to the encampment'.  

'If there is confrontation, we are not the aggressors. Most campers have not complied with our request to create a 25-foot fire and safety area,' he said.    

Eve Smason-Marcus, a Whatcom Human Rights Task Force board member and volunteer with Camp 210, told the Herald between 90 and 120 people sleep there each night. 

She said advocates for the homeless population had been in discussions with the city for over a month and had called on officials to provide 100 units to house people.

She said negotiations fell apart when the city offered only 25.  

'They will not leave city hall unless there is housing for everyone,' she told the Herald. 

Fleetwood said the city 'offered reasonable conditions for working together and were eager to do so.'  

He has directed people at Camp 210 to a homeless shelter on Cornwall Avenue operated by Lighthouse Mission Ministries, known as Base Camp.

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