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Statement on the removal of the Cal Anderson garden

Today, December 27, Seattle Parks and Recreation with support from the Seattle Police Department is removing a makeshift garden located in Cal Anderson Park. The temporary garden is being removed due to public health and public safety issues and the need for maintenance, including reseeding the area and turf restoration. 

The City’s Unified Care Team also removed tent encampments on Wednesday morning that were located near the garden area and immediately outside the park along E Olive St. as part of ongoing efforts to keep public spaces clean, open, and accessible to all. This is the 76th time the Unified Care Team has resolved encampments at Cal Anderson in 2023, which is one of the most frequently addressed areas in the city for repopulated encampments.  

In recent months, the temporary garden has created unsafe conditions for all park users, including the vandalism of Cal Anderson public bathrooms, public drug use, unauthorized camping, and a significant rodent problem, along with other issues. 

Since 2020, SPR has conducted community engagement with park visitors, neighbors, and adjacent small businesses related to the garden area. SPR received significant feedback demonstrating a desire to relocate the garden to another location within the park. Further, the current location of the temporary garden is not appropriate for this section of the park because the “Sun Bowl” is one of few spaces that is appropriate to host gatherings and events (because of its intentional design as a natural amphitheater proximate to electrical and water hook-ups).  

SPR has been in frequent communication with community activists since 2020 offering alternative locations for a garden, both within Cal Anderson Park, as well as in other Seattle parks. Unfortunately, Seattle Parks’ good faith conversations have not produced an alternative location acceptable to the organizers of the temporary garden. Seattle Parks and Recreation remains committed to an ongoing dialogue to produce an alternative garden site.   

In partnership with members of the Black farming community and leaders in Seattle’s Black community, Mayor Harrell and the City will conceptualize a new commemorative garden at Cal Anderson Park. Read more from several of those leaders below:  

Councilmember-Elect Joy Hollingsworth 

“We should continue to maintain all Seattle parks to be safe, clean and welcoming.  Cal Anderson Park is the living room of Capitol Hill and a focal point of our city. It’s important that we prioritize sanitary conditions within shared public spaces so that our neighborhoods can continue to flourish.” 

Katrina Johnson 

“I am Katrina Johnson cousin of Charleena Lyles. I wasn’t aware that there was a garden in remembrance of victims of police use of deadly force, which makes me wonder if this garden is truly reflective of impacted families. To make a garden without reaching out to families and even letting them know about it tells me that this is not about our loved ones but about folks hijacking the movement and trying to make a name for themselves off of our pain and that is simply not okay.” 

Mariay Rose Jones, BrownGirlFarmer LLC 

“As a 20-year-old farmer, navigating the fields of the Black Lives Matter Memorial Garden as the ‘Brown Girl Farmer’ has been a complex journey. Sadly, each attempt to immerse myself in farming activities has been overshadowed by the pervasive drug activity within the space. For someone of color like me, this Memorial Garden seems far from representing the essence of farming and agriculture. 

“Yet, I remain resilient and determined. The desire to relocate this garden to a safer environment, one that allows for organized activities, has become my mission. I am eager to contribute to a space where farming and gardening can truly flourish, free from the shadows of illicit activities. 

“In the face of these challenges, I plan to engage with local community organizations and authorities, advocating for a transformation that not only ensures safety but also fosters a more inclusive and vibrant community space for the ‘Brown Girl Farmer’ to thrive.” 

Brione Scott, Community Farmer 

“It’s important for us as a community to work together and create a safe space to farm and for families to feel safe in their homes and in their community.” 

Jim Buchanan, King County Equity Now 

“Parks and playgrounds are places where children, teens, young adults and senior citizens enjoy each other while also experiencing incredible community events. There are also family picnics, sporting events and community festivals that keep all of our lives rooted and grounded.  

“We support there should be a section in Cal Anderson Park that represents Black Lives Matter; however, it’s crucial that it’s protected with public safety and health safety. Not a place that’s used for drug use and activity, and a hang out spot. We stand with Mayor Harrell and his administration on their efforts to accomplish these goals at Cal Anderson Park.” 

Darrell Powell, President, Seattle/King County NAACP 

“The Black Lives Matter Garden was supposed to be a memorial to the Black Lives that have been lost due to police violence. The garden is anything but that. Instead, it is another example of white co-opting. The Black Community is unaware of the existence of the garden, and the garden does not represent in any meaningful sense, the vast number of Black Lives extinguished by police violence.  

“The Seattle-King County NAACP stands with Mayor Bruce Harrell and his administration in establishing a true representation memorializing the Black Lives lost due to police violence.” 

Jonathan Jones-Thomas, Environmental Climate Justice Chairman, NAACP WA 

“In my role as the Environmental Climate Justice Chairman for the NAACP in Washington state, I’ve stepped into the Black Lives Matter Memorial Garden on numerous occasions, only to be confronted by a disheartening reality. Amidst the sacred grounds meant to address the atrocities inflicted on the African-American community, I’ve witnessed not only drug activity, violence, and a proliferation of rats but also a disconcerting misuse of the memorial’s focus. 

“It’s bewildering to see a memorial meant to address specific atrocities against the African-American community being overshadowed by narratives and causes unrelated to its intended purpose. While acknowledging the importance of addressing wrongs across all communities, the African-American community’s memorial is unfairly bearing the weight of broader issues. 

“As a concerned citizen and environmental specialist, I passionately advocate for the relocation of this memorial, ensuring that the funds and resources designated for the African-American community are channeled towards addressing their unique challenges. It’s time to preserve the sanctity of this space and empower the community it was meant to uplift, allowing them to engage in gardening activities free from the shadows of violence and the misuse of their collective history.” 

Family of Che’ Taylor 

“The family of Che’ Taylor is outraged that the Black Star Farmers collective co-opted our call for police reform as a response to the lack of police accountability in Washington state. The collective is guilty of the same exploitive tactics and accusations made against Seattle Parks & Recreation. The values, mission and rhetoric espoused by this collective is not by any means reflective of the Taylor family’s tireless work to memorialize Che’s death through state-wide legislation and policy change. 

“The financial contributions that are received in the name of our victimization do not support families impacted by police violence nor do donations further our cause to reduce police violence. Black Star Farmer’s abstract agenda of anti-capitalism, food sustainability, land stewardship, US neoliberal free trade policies, sweeps of unhoused neighbors, and solidarity with the Palestinian people’s occupation are not efforts centered on the lived experiences of impacted families and our loved ones’ fatal encounter with police. Our concern with this Black Lives Memorial Garden is the failure of the collective to engage, support and get consent from surviving family members right here in our own city and state.”