Group members arrested at Horace Mann for refusing to vacate property

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SEATTLE — At least three squatters were arrested at Horace Mann Elementary School in the Central District Tuesday, weeks after they were told to vacate the property to make room for school renovations and improvements.

Seattle police entered the large, antiquated school building around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at the request of Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda. According to police, school officials requested police clear several groups of squatters that continued to use the non-working school building without authorization from the district, delaying plans to renovate the school.

Squatters, consisting of various groups, were costing the school district about $1,000 a day in construction delays, the Seattle Times reported.

photoAccording to the Times, the group of squatters, operating under the name Africatown Center for Education and Innovation, advocated using the large school as a single spot for small business jobs training and youth-related development activities geared toward the African-American community that has long established itself in the Central District. Banda and the school district originally allowed the group to occupy the building, but the group overstayed their informal welcome.

Negotiations between school officials and sub-groups of Africatown supporters grew conscientious as time went on, with some squatters even claiming to carry explosives they would use, and snipers they would deploy, if anyone tried to vacate them from the building.

Seattle police said they had monitored the building for a week and determined only a minimal number of people were in the building Tuesday. Police set up a shelter in place at nearby Garfield High School, and officers entered Horace Mann around 12:30, arresting three people without incident.

As of 1:15 p.m., officers were still searching the building for trespassers.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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