On Christmas Eve, left-wing militants booked sixteen rooms at a motel in Fife, Washington. Then they filled the rooms with forty “homeless people.” No one ever paid for a single night and everyone refused to leave. The militant group had been demonstrating in front of the motel, which prevented paying customers from booking rooms. The leader of the group, who goes by “Arrow,” demanded that the entire motel be turned into free public housing.
The motel is owned by Shawn Randhawa, an immigrant from India who says he employs ten people. It is a franchise of Travelodge. The actions of these militants threatened to put Randhawa’s motel out of business and his ten employees out of work. The motel, like most other motels and hotels in the USA, is already hurting because of lockdown measures during 2020.
The local police Chief Pete Fisher and City Manager Hyun Kim had previously said they were negotiating with the militant group. Hyun Kim even called the occupation “a silver lining,” because “we have about 40 souls who have come off the streets who want assistance.” Some local media outlets are aggressively portraying the militants as benevolent community activists.
The group is calling itself “Housing Now.” They are closely linked to local Antifa groups on social media. The same group previously set up a squatter camp in a condemned Middle School in Tacoma, Washington last November. The building had been condemned due to toxic gas. The Tacoma police evicted the squatters in one day. Fife is a suburb of Tacoma.
Around 2:00 PM EST on 12/30 police finally arrived at the motel. The leaders of the occupation posted messages on Twitter calling for more militants to arrive and confront the police. About an hour later, police began loading homeless people into a van to transport them to another location. While this happened, the militant group stood in the parking lot screaming “Nazis” at the police.
Between 3:00 and 4:00 PM EST, the militant group denounced the police and city officials as “fascists,” “Nazis,” and “capitalists” on Facebook and Twitter. They also posted a phone number for City Manager Hyun Kim and urged people to call and read a script containing the message “you have blood on your hands.”
The group also posted accusations on Twitter that Randhawa is an accomplice to sex trafficking and drug dealing. Around 3:45 PM EST, more militants arrived and began protesting at the motel.
Fife Police Chief Pete Fisher made a public statement saying none of the homeless people would be charged. However, he claimed that members of the militant group could face “felony-level theft” charges. [Don’t hold your breath] When asked why it took so long, Fisher said his department lacked the staff to adequately deal with the situation. He also blamed motel owner Randhawa for making statements to the press that derailed negotiations with the militants. Fisher says that, in the future, there will be a “zero tolerance” policy for this sort of criminal activity.
According to a local radio station, Randhawa is fearful of retaliation by Antifa.
There are multiple homeless shelters near the motel. The Tacoma Rescue Mission operates two giant facilities. One for families and one for individuals. These facilities are 6.3 and 3.1 miles from the Travelodge. Two other homeless shelters are the Nativity House, which is 4.1 miles away, and the Family Housing network, 6.6 miles away. Both of these facilities are operated by Catholic Housing Services. There are at least a dozen homeless shelters in nearby Seattle as well.
There are at least four homeless shelters within a 6.6-mile drive from the occupied Travelodge.