Private security, hired by Seattle Parks after police cleared Cal Anderson, leaves the first night
After city crews evacuated a camp of protesters and homeless people from Cal Anderson Park on Tuesday, the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation hired private security firm Jaguar Security to “have a presence in the park. overnight and continue to remind people that the park remains closed,” a department spokesperson confirmed in an email Wednesday.
Cal Anderson Park has been officially closed since June 30, which the city says is needed to make repairs following the ongoing protests. However, the park is regularly used by people exercising and walking dogs and has become a hub for some protesters. Homeless people have also been sleeping in the park for a long time.
In recent weeks, a camp has developed in the park, where protesters have gathered for marches, handed out supplies such as goggles and helmets, and occupied a previously locked city rental center and barricaded to distribute food to people living in the park. For the second time in a month, police and parks staff evacuated the camp on Tuesday.
Later Tuesday evening, however, a group of protesters returned to the park. When three security guards arrived, the group yelled at them to leave and followed them into part of the park, according to video broadcasts. Guards, worried for their safety, eventually left the park and have no plans to return, said a man identifying himself as the owner of the security company.
Seattle Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Rachel Schulkin said the city plans to pay $85 an hour per guard each night, with four guards working from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for a total of 3 $400 per night. The department did not respond to a request on Wednesday for a copy of its contract with Jaguar Security; On Thursday, the ministry said it did not yet have a contract in place. The Federal Way-based security company was established in 2005, according to state business records.
“We had planned to use Jaguar Security to provide a presence in the park overnight, but no duration has been set as we plan to reassess the needs of the park daily,” Schulkin said in an email.
The parks department employs park rangers, who are not sworn law enforcement officers and are unarmed, but can issue warnings, citations, and trespassing warnings. In Alki, after a drive-by shooting last month, the department planned to pay three Seattle police officers to oversee nighttime closures at Alki Beach, although the plan was later put on hold. Security guards from Seattle’s Finest work some evenings at Alki Beach to help close the beach, according to the Parks Department.
Separately, on Capitol Hill, another private security firm, Iconic Global, has drawn attention after being hired by area firms. The business owner says Capitol Hill Seattle Blog last month, his teams began monitoring protests and marches.
Protests have been going on in Seattle since late May, with near-night protests in recent weeks starting in Cal Anderson Park and sometimes involving protesters causing property damage like breaking windows and starting fires. (The separate protests of many mornings and evenings did not include property damage.)
After Tuesday’s cleanup of Cal Anderson Park, police said they found a machete, a hatchet, homemade spikes, an unexploded mortar and makeshift shields in a tent in the park. Shields have become common at protests here and in Portland. A group that distributed protest supplies in the park said in a Twitter post that it had no weapons.
Seattle police also arrested a man near the park on Tuesday that federal prosecutors to say used a slingshot to shoot a firefighter in the chest with a ball bearing during a protest in Portland.
Reached by phone, a man who identified himself as the owner of Jaguar Security but declined to give his name said he had been contacted by the city several days ago to provide security at Cal Anderson Park. He said he has done security work for the city in the past at Magnuson Park and the city’s reservoirs, but would not discuss the details of his contract with the city.
The man said he and two other armed guards entered the park on Tuesday evening. A group, which included people with “poles and sticks”, quickly approached, asked why they were there, shouted obscenities and shone a light at them which blocked their view of the group, he said. Worried for the guards’ safety, he said they called 911 and walked out of the park to the sidewalk.
“We have not issued any directives. We didn’t tell anyone to leave the park. We didn’t have the opportunity to do that,” he said.
In video from the park on Tuesday evening, filmed by a livestreamer who often uses a pole-mounted camera, three guards can be seen in the park approaching a crowd of around 40 to 50 people. Shortly after, some of the group, mostly dressed in black, can be seen following the guards, shouting at them to “back off” and shining a flashing light at them, until the guards reach a another area of the park closer to 11th Avenue. and the crowd turns.
The video shows the guards then walking through the park towards the entrance and exiting the sidewalk on the 11th. Several people approach them later, but it is unclear what was said.
Later that night, video shows the group of protesters marching from the park to the East compound, where some threw rubbish and two burning objects at the compound.
To Cal Anderson, the city’s instructions to Jaguar Security “were just to tell people we couldn’t have you in the park,” said the man who identified himself as the owner. The guards, who were each over 56, carried guns but did not fire them at the group, he said. “We didn’t go out there with young muscular guys who were ready to fight,” he said.
He does not plan to return to the park. “They cost a minority-owned business a contract,” said the man, who is black. “They are costing people their jobs.”
The man said the police would not come to the park to help the rangers. In a statement, the Seattle Police Department said a security guard called 911 around 8:30 p.m. to report a verbal disturbance with a crowd in the park and a department supervisor then contacted the guard to “discuss of the disruption and assert that the SPD was available to respond to life-threatening emergencies.
At another point Tuesday evening, police vehicles could be seen on video driving through the park with lights and sometimes sirens on.
Amid the protests, Seattle Parks and Recreation also launched a “Community Conversation and Vision for Cal Anderson Park,” which includes online discussions and surveys.
In the park, the gardens built during the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) still stand. Marcus Henderson, a gardener who started some of the plots, watched police and parks staff clean up the park on Tuesday and expressed skepticism about the “community conversation.”
Some Parks Department staff “seem to be overextended” during discussions, Henderson said. “We talk about race and inequity. We’re not just talking about a park.
The ministry says it plans to “identify short-term measures and long-term strategies to strengthen the sense of place in the park.”