City officials in Bellingham, Washington, ordered the removal of a homeless encampment ahead of schedule after reports of possible violence by "outside agitators" from Portland and other cities.
Bellingham is located about 90 miles north of Seattle, with a population of about 89,000 people.
Bellingham Police and Public Works crews removed the encampment Thursday from the city hall and the library. They were assisted by law enforcement officials, including some members of the U.S. Border Patrol.
Officials said that public workers were being harassed and that the growing encampment was engulfing the city buildings.
The encampment had grown over several months, but officials had set a deadline for Friday when they would forcibly tear down the camp. They moved up their schedule after hearing several reports of outside "agitators" planning to travel to Bellingham to resist the closure of the camp.
"We initiated the clean up early because we received credible information from multiple sources that caused us to accelerate our plans," said Mayor Seth Fleetwood in a statement.
"Our civic center was becoming the target of agitators far more intent on mayhem than working toward any social good," he continued. "More specifically, we received information regarding certain groups known to have a history of confrontation. They put out a call throughout the Northwest to gather in Bellingham on Friday."
Bellingham Police Department Chief Flo Simon said that there were as many as 100 tents in the encampment on city land. Police had responded to calls from the encampment in recent weeks that involved attacks with a baseball bat, a hatchet, and sticks. Simon said that a propane tank ignited a fire at the site as well.
Officials were confronted by the homeless and activists during the removal. Four people were arrested during the skirmishes with police. Three officers were assaulted.
At one point, a man threw himself under a moving dump truck. He later claimed that he was just trying to retrieve his table.
Activists also unsuccessfully tried to block the action with a barricade made of pallets.
Police said they will be ready if the protest by outside agitators at the city hall planned for Friday materializes.
Here's a local news report about the incident:
Protesters and police clash over Bellingham homeless encampment www.youtube.com