WhatcomCounty98225: Civic Blindspots Report 02-13-2021
On January 28, 2021 I watched the heart and soul of my community be torn apart by an intentional civic collision. I call it intentional, for the entire collision could have been avoided with peacekeeping action, rather than military style police action. It was a deliberate choice by the Executive Branch leaders to bring four law enforcement agencies to the scene of a homeless camp where people were asking for simple public services during the Covid crisis. There were many interception points that could have avoided the situation, but the Whatcom County Executive Branch CEO’s chose to withhold simple emergency shelter, water, sanitation and food provisions during the height of the Covid Crisis, the economic downturn and the winter weather. Instead, the County did not take responsibility for provided emergency services in a humanitarian way, and instead allowed the City of Bellingham officials to carry the load – essentially scapegoating them in a kind of bureaucratic avoidance sidestep.
This is my report on what happened after the fact. It took me about two weeks for the impact of what happened to sink in, for the research to come in and for me to collect my thoughts. When I did finally get my mind around the whole of it, called the incident “Compound Civic Domestic Violence” for it rolled out much like family domestic violence does. The emotional and psychological shock of it all left people across Whatcom County feeling traumatized and disoriented about what happened. As I watched, I recognized the list of complex post traumatic stress disorder symptoms grow as people in different groups, and in waves began to realize what happened. They registered that they were no longer safe in our community from bullying and domination by enforcement officials that we hire and pay for to protect us. The protector had suddenly become the predator.
In this video and in the workbook attached, I describe what happened from my vantage point. I had to invent new phrases to explain things more accurately, since the behaviors of everyone was skewed by the emergency crisis conditions. In this booklet I describe words like: “Civic Rankism” and identified the business model as one where the “OverCaste” authoritarian system was used as a tool for avoiding consequences using plausible deniability as the excuse.
Whatcom County 98225 – Compound Civic Domestic Violence is a 90 minute powerpoint video. It is rather like a dissertation that takes a broad-spectrum look into homelessness vs “the law” as I witnessed it from the outside in, and from the inside out. On January 28, 2021 the social media story was that it was a police protest, or a “police sweep of the Homeless Camp 210” in Bellingham. It happened a day earlier than planned, when four law enforcement agencies moved in suddenly – 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 directly witnessed it. Then I take an inside look at what happened across the civic systems that day; and then I observe and discuss what I saw happening in the few weeks afterwards as homeless hazing continued. My goal was to provide a hands-on view of what happened. Not dramatized, not hyped – but a humanized version – not intended to polarize. It is intended to provide a civic systems disease diagnosis of why our government systems have been producing poverty, 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.