Tacoma elite organize for more police to harass the homeless

Business elites and landlords, organized as Tacoma Safe, are organizing to pressure the city to fund more police to harass the homeless. Many are even calling for a camping ban. How evil and conniving can they get?

Who is this new group, Tacoma Safe, and why are they in the news? To explain who this group that is calling for more policing of homeless encampments is, let’s take a step back to talk about class politics.

The elites – landlords, real estate executives and business owners – are regularly understood to be the people creating the problems in our world. You know, things like climate change, student debt, the prison industrial complex, homelessness and terrible wages.

Our local wealthy elite have various ways of organizing themselves; the Tacoma Executives Association, the Tacoma Business Districts and the Real Estate Investors Association of Washington are some examples. While acting like a community activist group, Tacoma Safe seems like just another one of these groups. They are a network that business owners are using to organize.

Tacoma Safe, according to The News Tribune, is a Tacoma-based group led by Angela Connelly. Connelly, whom the newspaper emphasizes as a local resident, has little in common with those of us living in Tacoma. While we pay too much for rent or struggle buying in the out-of-control housing market, this millionaire lives in a mansion looking over the sound. Zillow puts her house at over $2.5 million. 

Her LinkedIn profile touts her positions as co-director of Connelly Corporation and co-owner of Highlands Golf Course. If you google Connelly Corporation, it is difficult to figure out what the group is but it seems possibly linked to the real estate industry. 

She also sits on various boards of nonprofits and the board of governors of Thomas Aquinas College. At this point, I think you get it. She’s one of those rich people who sits on executive boards.

So what is this business group she heads up? And what’s it doing with a nice name like “Tacoma Safe”?

This advocacy group, according to their talking points and a News Tribune interview, doesn’t like that homeless people exist in Tacoma. Never mind the market forces they profit from are driving the very housing crisis they want to address. These elites are trying to make the encampments go away with increased policing and anti-camping legislation while obscuring their positions through the language of social justice. 

If you listen to their talking points, you hear that they don’t like that homeless people make their businesses look unsafe, that people without plumbing still must excrete waste, or that people without public trash services still produce trash.   

While it is obvious to most people that basing a social need like housing in the incredibly inhuman capitalist market is a terrible idea, the folks at “Tacoma Safe” don’t emphasize this dynamic; they want to police public camping with some leaders pushing for a camping ban. 

They couch their language in being pro-safety and pro-cop, but for those paying attention, they’re clearly just anti-poor and pro-cop.

These people seem to want the real estate market to flourish along with their profits while not addressing the consequences of out-of-control housing costs.

They all met up this past January, with the Mayor and Chief of Police as noted guests, for a PowerPoint presentation and networking at the car museum in town.

While some housing rights activists entered the event to hold a banner to read “listen to workers, not landlords & bosses,” others from groups like the Tacoma Tenants Organizing Committee stood outside the venue, protesting on the sidewalk against a camping ban.

At one point during the protest, a presumed right-wing zealot drove their truck up on the sidewalk, sending a woman to the hospital with a broken pelvis, according to The News Tribune. 

It speaks volumes that a group saying it stands for safety in Tacoma has supporters that drive trucks into protests.

You can support this victim of a right-wing attack by supporting her GoFundMe titled “Help Theresa recover from car attack injuries.” Connelly’s husband, a lawyer, has secured a prominent position on the GoFundMe page as a top donor of $5,000. While I suspect the money is appreciated, this apparent PR move is easy for such wealthy people. Don’t even get me started on taxing the rich to pay for universal healthcare.

While Tacoma newspapers write propaganda pieces depicting Tacoma Safe as some nice grass roots community group, some of their leading “activists” are clearly part of a network of the most influential names in Tacoma.

It’s not just the media coverage but the Mayor and Chief of Police who are giving legitimacy to their group and inspiring confidence in their movement for increased policing and increased harassment of Tacoma’s homeless residents.

While some of those supporting reforms like increased funding for public housing and shelters have found themselves in league with Tacoma Safe, I think this is a mistake as it gives cover to Tacoma Safe’s pro-business agenda that is ultimately one of increased policing and repression.

Trying to work in an activist network with the landlords, real estate tycoons and bosses in addressing homelessness in Tacoma, is like rabbits working with a fox to address an overcrowded warren. You might eliminate the overcrowding but not by digging a new warren.