On Saturday afternoon, Seattle’s Ballard Commons Park sparkled and shined for its grand re-opening after being closed for more than a year.
Families and senior citizens, excited to have their park back, filled the space to enjoy food and games.
The reopening was a hopeful sign of a new, safe future for families to enjoy their park. Not long ago, Ballard Commons was the site of a plethora of tents, propane tank explosions, and dead bodies being wheeled out by emergency crews.
Dan Strauss, Seattle’s District 6 Councilmember, who was actively involved in restoring the park, came to speak to residents.
In the midst of the celebration, a group of far-left activists with Stop the Sweeps Seattle disrupted the day.
The vocal activists marched in with signs and drums, criticizing the city’s policy on encampment removals and accusing Councilmember Strauss and Mayor Bruce Harrell of being complicit in the deaths of men and women living on the streets.
“Sweeps literally kill people,” shouted Anitra Freeman into a megaphone. Freeman works for the homelessness non-profit SHARE/WHEEL.
But some courageous neighbors finally decided to push back. After more than a half hour of delay caused by the Stop the Sweeps activists, they confronted the activists and reclaimed the day for their community.
As the day of celebration resumed, kids from a local school entertained the crowd with a singing performance, reminding neighbors it’s time to write a new chapter in this story.
Councilmember Strauss is aware that the homeless could try to come back to the park, but he says this time around, the city is prepared.
Strauss tells me that the Regional Homelessness Authority is now operational and that “the Unified Care Team is working daily and expanding to neighborhood-based models.”
There are still plenty of skeptics and critics of the plan. Strauss wouldn’t say how long it would take for a tent to be removed if one showed up tomorrow. “It all depends on every circumstance surrounding it,” he said.
Today’s grand re-opening celebration is a step in the right direction as Ballard Commons Park tries to make a comeback.