Joshua Farris, one of three city council candidates in District 2 and active member of the housing advocacy group SAFE, is potentially facing charges for punching a man in the Nickelsville homeless encampment.
The incident occurred last February, when Farris got caught up in the dramatic Nickelsville elections. Controversial Nickelsville leader Scott Morrow had been pushed out by residents in late January, in a mini-coup led by Lisa Hooper and Anthony Jenkins, two residents of the encampment. But after the Low Income Housing Institute – which provides many services in the encampment – threatened to pull support, Morrow was re-instated by popular vote.
According to a police report obtained through a public disclosure request, Farris' friend Bryce Phillips had run for a position in the election and lost. Farris told Crosscut the position was related to outreach. After losing the election, Phillips apparently left the encampment before returning with Farris and one other person, neither of whom live in Nickelsville.As to what happened next, Farris’ account and the police's differ.
According to the police report, the three men entered the encampment after visiting hours and were told to leave. Rather than leaving straight away, they knocked on the door of one of the residences and picked a fight. Farris, according to the report, had alcohol on his breath. He allegedly punched the person in the neck before leaving.
Farris tells it differently. He said he entered the encampment to inform Hooper that Jenkins had bullied people during the election. Jenkins, said Farris, came out and grabbed him by the collar. Farris punched Jenkins in self-defense, he said, and doesn’t recall having had anything to drink.
Hooper and Jenkins have since been barred from Nickelsville, and have been called “vicious” by other members of the encampment. But the case against Farris is currently under review in the City Attorney’s Office, certainly a potential deadweight for a city council candidate. Although Farris said he hadn’t been told of any charges or investigation, he expected the incident to become public at some point.
In the event he does make it to the general elections, Farris said he expects “other stories” to come out, on top of this one. Asked to elaborate, he seemed to backtrack, and pointed to an appearance at City Hall when he “called the police out and was able to move Bruce Harrell to call the police idiots." This is a reference to Harrell's recent comments on police conduct during this year's May Day protests.
Farris is not expected to make it past the primaries next August. His two opponents, Tammy Morales and incumbent Bruce Harrell, have out-fundraised him many times over. He was last in the news last month, when he was evicted from his apartment in North Beacon Hill. He staged a protest against his landlord afterwards, describing himself as "arguably Seattle's most active anti-eviction organizer."