Navy vet evicted from childhood home but fight continues
SEATTLE -- Protesters tried Friday to physically block the eviction of a veteran from his West Seattle home of 61 years.
And it worked, for a time.
Evictions happened thousands of times every single day in America. But this time, people screamed.
"Let's go home! Let's go home!" said two dozen protesters. "Byron Barton! Wants to stay in his home!!"
Noisy protesters laid down under, in front of, and behind an ambulance refusing to let it leave the neighborhood because it was carting away Byron Barton, the owner of the house a few yards away where a court's eviction order hung on the front door.
Befuddled Seattle police and King County sheriff deputies kept their cool, refusing to force a no-win situation.
When the ambulance doors unexpectedly opened, one protester shouted "What are you doing with him!?!"
"Letting him out!!" answered one officer.
"Give us some room, please!" said another. "We need to get him out. You need to move, okay?"
So there sat Byron Barton back in his wheelchair with his wife Jean, on the sidewalk, with no home.
"Because they said it's an eviction!" yelled wife Jean Barton into a megaphone. "It's complete! They've done their job. They've locked us out!"
His wife gave this account of how the nightmare came to be: Barton grew up in the house at SW Holly Street and 41st Avenue SW in West Seattle. They even got married in it. After his father died, he moved back in to take care of his ailing mother. He got a loan to buy the house from his mother and to pay for some of her medical care in her final years. About three years ago, the Navy veteran had a heart attack and stroke leaving him unable to pay the mortgage.
"There is nothing good about these situations," said King County Sheriff Division Chief Robin Fenton. "And it's unfortunate but for us in the Department, we're doing what we're required to do. Nobody wins in these kinds of situations."
"I want to go home to my bed!" said Barton in speech heavily slurred by his stroke. "I worked all my life and defended my country for four years!"
The eviction has been a testy legal and ethical debate for weeks now; a fight not just for Barton but against the very concept of evictions.
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant was there joining the protest.
"It's absolutely important for public servants, elected officials to stand only with working families who are paying their dues," she said.
The defeated protesters took one last stab at big banks, landlords and the courts, as one more former homeowner - a veteran - was out of his home.
"Thank you very much for fighting," shouted a protester into a megaphone. "Your courage is incredibly inspiring." The two dozen remaining protesters broke into applause.
But as soon as police cleared the scene, the Bartons and their supporters broke back into their house and, this time, chained themselves to each other and with Byron's medical bed. Seattle police eventually returned and met with the group to discuss another resolution.