The city of Kent’s accesso ShoWare Center has turned into a temporary lodging area for about 200 members of the Washington National Guard and a staging area for approximately 70 police vehicles from several police agencies.
The Washington Emergency Management Division contacted city officials because the National Guard needed a place to sleep at night as they respond to demonstrations in the Seattle area after the May 27 death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died after a white officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes as Floyd said “I can’t breathe.” The officer has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“I want to be really clear – Kent has not requested the National Guard nor have we requested assistance from other agencies and to date we have had no significant incidents in the city,” said city of Kent communications manager Bailey Stober in a Tuesday, June 2, email. “They will use our facility for staging only and then will respond to jurisdictions that have actually requested them.”
The National Guard has helped out in the Puget Sound region with protesters and looters, including in Seattle and Bellevue.
The city of Kent will receive a daily rate from the Emergency Management Division for lodging and meals.
“We expect them to stay for about a week, although it could be extended if needed,” Stober said.
The large number of vehicles from the King County Sheriff’s Office and surrounding police agencies includes bomb squad vehicles.
Stober said the city had received calls Tuesday from residents as the vehicles started rolling in at the arena parking lot, 625 W. James St. No events have been held at the ShoWare Center the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.