Civic Collision+ Civic Trauma + Civic Shock = Compound Civic Domestic Violence
Whatcom County 98225 – Compound Civic Domestic Violence is a 90 minute powerpoint video I did that takes a broad-spectrum look into homelessness vs “the law” as I witnessed it break out in Bellinghan on January 28, 2021 when the “police sweep of the Homeless Camp 210” in Bellingham happened a day earlier than anticipated.
This video is an ethnographic case study reflection and analysis of what happened in our community that day as I wtinessed it. Then an inside look at what happened across the civic systems that day and in the few weeks afterwards as homeless hazing continued. My goal is to provide a new view of what happened that while humanized, is not intended to polarize. It is intended to provide a civic systems disease diagnosis of why our government systems have been producing poverty and mental illness, and criminal behavior – when that is the opposite of our desire. Why are we replicating abusive habits that are hurtful to all of us?
It is a look through the eyes of a business leader who has been looking for solutions; hands-on studying the issues of law, jail and justice system reform, poverty and homelessness, the criminalization of poverty, addiction and mental illness – and the issues of constitutional law, freedom, business and enterprise in America. It includes reflection, research and time I spent working with hundreds of volunteers, the homeless, police and civic-minded people involved in providing services to the people afterwards – as weather went below freezing and winter survival conditions set in. As volunteers and the homeless people were increasingly traumatized and dealing with real survival needs.
I was there on January 28, unwittingly coming to do peace making work, and found myself mitigating trauma for the homeless and people throughout the crowd. So I felt the impact as hundreds of officers and employees from multiple federal, state, county and city law enforcement agencies surrounded blocks of our central city. The area was cordoned off, law enforcement no-cross lines established, and sniper positions set up with cameras, guns and drones. Compelled by the police lines, batons, shields and the actions of more city employees, the homeless felt trapped and boxed in with their tents and limited possessions (volunteers were there to help them pick up the pieces of their lives). They had basically one clear way to leave. Then over the next hours they were herded out of the area with heavy equipment and law enforcement. The homeless were terrified, some arrested, some melting down emotionally. With the deep fear of potential arrest, they left during a covid lockdown emergency, with limited opportunities to find safety, shelter or sanitation.
I watched the varying degrees of psychological distress and emotionally complex trauma show up in the homeless, in the police, in elected officials, in employees of the city, in protestors, in volunteers, in media, civil rights observers, social workers and literally thousands of people over a period of hours. It was exaccerbated because in a small community many people know people on all sides of the situation and are dealing with friends, family, associates and colleagues along the way.
And then I watched the media story tell, the marketing by political extremists, the law enforcement officials justify their actions, the civic leaders avoiding accountability…and the disaster to our community as it became clear we were in the middle of a caste collision…and the people of rank would dominate those who were powerless and had no resources. It was clearly a case of domestic violence – civic style – where “the law” was in charge of createing were the abusive parents, and the taxpayers of all kinds would pick up the tab and pay the price one way or another.