A city councilwoman in Olympia, Wash., is pushing back on Mayor Cheryl Selby’s claim that an armed takeover of the Red Lion Hotel last month by homeless activists qualifies as an act of domestic terrorism.
“While I 100% believe people, particularly hotel workers and guests, could reasonably fear for their safety during the action by housing activists at the Red Lion last weekend, I 100% reject the notion that this was an act of terrorism,” Councilmember Renata Rollins told Fox News in a statement.
“Terrorism is the use of targeted political violence rooted in the supremacy of one group over others, along race, religious, or ethnic lines,” she added.
The FBI defines domestic terrorism this way: “Violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of a political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.”
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”
“I’m calling this crime an act of domestic terrorism,” Selby said earlier this week, according to The Olympian.
Selby’s comments are in reference to an incident that occurred earlier this month when a group of about 45 people with an organization called Oly Housing Now “forcibly” commandeered the lobby and 17 rooms of the hotel. Some of the participants were armed with hatchets and knives, reports said.
The group alleged their actions were justified as they demanded housing for homeless people allegedly at risk due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The takeover led to a brief standoff with area police who called in SWAT teams to help clear rooms and secure the perimeter around the hotel.
Selby told The Olympian that the organizers actually victimized people they claimed they were attempting to help and, as such, “should be held accountable to the furthest extent of the law.”
“This created an active crime scene that necessitated a police response appropriate to the scale of the actions of these terrorists,” Selby continued.
During the brief siege, the group issued a list of demands and pledged to remain on the property until they were met. Demands included forcing the county to apply for FEMA funds that would be used to pay for rooms used as lodging for homeless people.
Selby said that the group was “armed with items such as hatchets, batons, [and] knives…apparently in preparation” for a confrontation with police.
Rollins, who is the co-founder of an advocacy group for homeless people, said Oly Housing Now’s “underlying motivation was clearly the belief that housing is a human right — a belief more Americans share every day as millions fear evictions, while those already on the streets face a cruel impossible lottery attempting to escape homelessness in the for-profit housing market.”
She cited a 2019 poll from Hart Research Associates which found that 85 percent of Americans think a top priority should be making certain citizens have a “safe, decent, affordable place to live.”
But earlier this week, Rollins chided the group over its demands, saying that Thurston County and the city of Olympia were already practicing them and that millions in federal aid had already been used to provide for the homeless.
“The group’s demands made no sense. They read like they were copied and pasted from some other community’s struggle because whoever penned them had no context for what’s actually going on in Olympia and Thurston County,” she said.
“This wasn’t activism, this was nihilism,” Rollins said, The Olympian reported. “And it caused so much unnecessary preventable harm.”
The Red Lion incident follows an earlier one in Washington around Christmastime. Those activists also made similar demands after occupying a hotel near Tacoma, Wash.
There have also been similar incidents in Portland, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.
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