Protesters in Bellingham, Washington, broke into city hall on Friday, forcing the mayor to flee the building.
“It was unsettling,” Mayor Seth Fleetwood told KIRO-TV.
“They banged on the door and we got word they had somehow broken it open and were entering, and I was advised to leave.”
The mayor evacuated out a back door and was driven away from city hall to his own vehicle.
Fleetwood compared the situation to the incursion at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
Fleetwood said he did not know if any damage was caused inside the building, other than the lock that protesters broke to enter it.
The protesters were gathered to advocate for the homeless living in a large encampment of about 100 tents outside city hall.
Homeless campers had been living there since November to protest the lack of shelters in the area, The Bellingham Herald reported.
The city had to get involved with the controversial encampment after several fires had been set and county employees were harassed.
“We seek a peaceful end to this encampment and if there is confrontation, we will not be the aggressors,” Fleetwood said in a statement to The Herald.
1/4: Mayor Seth Fleetwood's statement about this morning’s events at Bellingham City Hall: "We seek a peaceful end to the encampment. If there is confrontation, we are not the aggressors. Most campers have not complied with our request to create a 25-foot fire and safety area. pic.twitter.com/U0WS2d5GLa
— City of Bellingham (@CityofBhamWA) January 22, 2021
“Circumstances at City Hall and the Library lawn are entirely untenable, escalated largely by protesters and outside agitators who are not residents of the encampment. Their actions are a disservice to people who are experiencing homelessness and putting them at increased risk.”
The Facebook group BOP Mutual Aid and the Instagram page Whatcom Focused Youth Movement both called for people to gather.
It was unclear if they caused the trouble inside and outside the building.
Video from inside the building shows protesters ripping down an American flag and people stomping on it.
#BREAKING: Protestors broke into a locked city hall in Bellingham today. Mayor had to be escorted out for safety.
They also tore down the American flag outside. Stole a KGMI journalist’s mic and threw a hot drink on him.
They’re supposed to be here advocating for the homeless. pic.twitter.com/uIMbRVRwBl
— Deedee Sun (@DeedeeKIRO7) January 23, 2021
About 50 to 150 people were gathered at one point, and they began to get hostile at around 9:30 a.m. Friday, KGMI radio journalist Joe Teehan said.
“There were shouts of, ‘He’s taking unauthorized photos, he’s invading privacy.’ Pretty soon I was surrounded by a fairly good number of people,” Teehan said.
Teehan said that the protesters spray-painted him, threw hot chocolate in his face and stole his microphone.
“They started grabbing at my equipment, and I started to back away and one person grabbed my mic and I lost that in the crowd. They were grabbing at my iPad and trying to get that,” Teehan said.
“I’ve never experienced that kind of belligerence. We’ve had protests in Bellingham and I’ve never seen anyone act that way.”