Two weeks ago, SAFE activists held a press conference where they asked the question, “Who runs this town?” Today, Sheriff Urquhart, stepping up to the role of corporate goon, answered the question definitively; property developers do. Thanks to a hastily-obtained search warrant, a mother and her son have been handcuffed, stuffed into a cop car, and taken down to county jail to be held. Byron Barton has been removed against his will from his childhood home and taken to a undisclosed hospital. The Bartons’ home is now occupied by unknown “renters”.
This was not an eviction; it was a raid against Seattle citizens outside the primary jurisdiction of the King County Sheriff’s Department –an extraordinary move to place a family in jail at the behest of Triangle. The Sheriff’s department forced their way into the Barton home with a search warrant and detectives. They did not have an unlawful detainer, which is the specific court document that would have allowed the Sheriff’s department to enact a legal eviction. The current unlawful detainer is under appeal.
The Sheriff issued a contradictory statement about today’s arrests. Sheriff Urquhart said of the arrests that “Triangle Property Development…is a victim of bureaucratic inaction…I was not willing to let that continue.” Does this mean that he will not allow elected officials to interfere with his interpretation of the law?
This is a clear about-face from just last week. At a court hearing regarding the Barton’s case, a representative of the Sheriff’s Department argued that the enforcement of criminal statutes, including trespassing charges, was in fact the purview of the Seattle Police Department, not King County Sheriffs. The Judge agreed. Why has the Sheriff’s Department now gone out of their own stated jurisdiction, and arrested the Bartons as criminal trespassers?
“This is a total violation of civil rights,” the Barton’s attorney Jill Smith said of the forcible eviction and arrest.
At this time, Byron Barton’s whereabouts within the hospital system are unknown. “The helplessness, I’m sure, is overwhelming for him,” Jean Barton said.