Shopping carts filled with garbage and other items as seen on S. 320th Street on June 16. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Shopping carts filled with garbage and other items as seen on S. 320th Street on June 16. Olivia Sullivan/the Mirror

Shopping cart protesters won’t face fines or citations, mayor and police chief say

Three separate displays of carts with items from homeless encampments were found along Federal Way roads last month.

Residents behind the shopping cart protests in mid-June will not face fines or citations, according to Federal Way’s mayor and police chief.

Last month, dozens of shopping carts filled with garbage and other items from homeless encampments in nearby wooded areas lined busy roadways in Federal Way on three separate occasions.

One of the involved individuals, who requested anonymity from the Mirror fearing backlash from city officials, said these protests were a way to “spark a fire behind getting it cleaned up,” the Mirror previously reported.

As of June 16, city officials were aware of three separate cart protests that cost taxpayers upwards of $20,000 to remove, according to the city.

The Mirror has requested the city’s invoices for the garbage disposals once available.

City officials previously said responsible parties may face $5,000 fines for illegal dumping, jail time, or trespassing charges. Now, the city of Federal Way and Federal Way Police Department said they will not cite or fine any residents.

A formal investigation into the protest displays was not conducted, and it is unclear who is entirely responsible for the incidents, said Police Chief Andy Hwang.

“In matters such as this, the police department is always seeking voluntary compliance from our residents,” he said.

Since the controversy unfolded last month, the city’s message has been clear “for whomever are responsible to stop such acts to prevent the additional workload for city staff and the unnecessary expenses,” he said.

City and police have not seen any further similar displays.

Mayor Jim Ferrell, who swiftly denounced the residents’ actions, said the protests were counter-productive.

“We were already in the process [of cleaning the encampments],” Ferrell said. “This protest changed nothing, other than to let us know they were frustrated.”

Though people most likely believed they were doing a good thing, Ferrell said, “I honestly don’t believe that the people who did this knew that putting it on the sidewalk would constitute any kind of offense … I don’t think their intention was to do that.”

Homeless encampments and the city’s actions in addressing the sites are emotionally charged issues, he said. It draws strong responses because people who live in this city desire and deserve a clean and safe city, Ferrell said.

In order to improve communication with the residents about the city’s actions for cleaning homeless encampments, Deputy Police Chief Steve Neal and Community Development Director Brian Davis are conducting a joint presentation at the Federal Way City Council meeting.

The presentation about the city’s work and future plans is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 6. To view the meeting, watch on the city’s YouTube page or join via Zoom.

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