Seattle police arresting Occupy Seattle protesters
Occupy Seattle protesters running a live video feed from their corporate power protest at Seattle’s Westlake Park say police have started making arrests. They say at least four people have been arrested.
Organizers describe police as being “very respectful.” Earlier in the day, Assistant Police Chief Mike Sanford said while police have been lenient about enforcing city law against camping in parks, that would change Thursday night. The park closed at 10 p.m.
Police did not immediately return a call to confirm the arrests and provide details.
Earlier, about two dozen protesters moved to City Hall Plaza, where Mayor Mike McGinn has said they are welcome to camp. Dozens also protested outside the downtown hotel where Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney had a private fundraiser Thursday. They carried signs including one that said, “Romney is the 1 percent” – a reference to what the demonstrators describe as the concentration of wealth among a small slice of the population.
Local historian reviews Occupy Seattle protest
By Stephanie Klein
While Seattle is no stranger to public protest, the Occupy Seattle demonstration in Westlake Park may be evidence the climate is changing.
Local historian Feliks Banel told 97.3 KIRO FM’s Seattle’s Morning News not only is this a relatively peaceful protest, the public is able to follow the protestor’s goals morph just as fast as they’re able to development them.
Critics have blasted the group for a lack of vision, but Banel says it’s still pretty early as far as movements go.
“We’re only 10 days into Occupy Seattle or something like that. We’ve turned into a very meta culture where we’re talking about ‘is this movement a movement yet?'”
Banel points out that much like the WTO protests in 1999, the protestors have many issues they’re upset about, but it’s clear a handful are rising to the top. He says on the OccupySeattle website, people can vote on what they’re most upset about.
“There’s anti-drug stuff there, there’s stuff about abolishing the constitution, all sorts of radical stuff. The things that have the highest votes are corporate accountability and tax reform. Corporate accountability is hard to legislate. I think it’s going to morph into a tax reform movement. That’s stuff that you can actually change with legislation,” says Banel.
So far, the protest in Westlake Park has been relatively peaceful and Banel predicts it will stay that way. He doesn’t believe the anarchists from Portland, once blamed for violence and property damage during the WTO riots, will bother coming north to Seattle. After all, they have Occupy Portland to attend.
“It doesn’t strike me as an anti-government movement. It seems more pro-democracy. It’s asking people to be more involved in orderly democracy. We’re asking for people to get more involved, is what it seems like to me.”
Whether the Occupy Wall Street movement develops and grows or if it dwindles out, Banel says one thing is for certain: “These are unprecedented times. The addition of social media and all the things that you can be upset about. There’s no shortage of things that anyone can be upset about right now on a global scale.”
Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Sunshine, speeches at Occupy Seattle protest
Westlake Park filled by mid-Saturday with at least 800 supporters of the ongoing Occupy Seattle protest against corporate America.
The crowd has been peaceful, even festive under a blue sky. Police on horse and bicycle stood at the perimeter. On Wednesday, 25 people were arrested when some demonstrators refused a city order to remove their tents in the park.
Supporters planned to hang banners on Interstate 5 overpasses Saturday afternoon, and march at 5 p.m., according to the occupyseattle.org website. Seattle is among many places where citizens have launched spinoffs of the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.
In Seattle on Saturday, speeches for Indigenous People’s Day were delivered, as counters to the marking of Columbus Day on Monday.
“You people are finally waking up to what the indigenous people have experienced for centuries,” said Patricia Anne Davis, a Navajo who said she quit her job as a tribal government staffer on the reservation and moved to Seattle in 2002.
Labor leaders threw support behind Occupy Seattle and similar protests late this week, and unionists seemed to be about half the Saturday crowd in Seattle, alongside a diverse range of individuals, including students, job seekers, socialists, anarchists, the homeless, curious visitors and local politicians.
“This is an organic, bottom-up democracy, people-speak at its most basic level,” said Dave Freiboth, executive secretary of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council.
“We’re tired of inequity, we’re tired of economic disparity. We’re tired of corporate fat cats who want us to bail them out, then… act mean to us.”
As a parade of speakers entered their third hour, the event came to resemble a teach-in, heavy on leftish social theory.
Volunteers served chicken, potatoes, dried snacks and coffee from a tent in back of the park. Two tables were set up for sign-making.
A drum-circle formed. Young people slept off the fatigue from overnight sleepovers in the park. Some drivers honked, and a duck-boat operator raised his right fist in support as the tourists clapped.
“If corporations are people, they should not be exempt from the death penalty,” one sign said.
“$oft money, $oft democracy,” another said, in reference to the labyrinthine ways that special-interest groups channel money into political campaigns.
Labor-union banners represented longshore workers, stagehands, carpenters and teachers.
State Sen. Jeanne-Kohl Welles, D-Seattle, dropped by to donate dried fruit. She said the protest would form some of the “backdrop” for an upcoming special session, when lawmakers face tough decisions about budget cuts.
Washington state has arguably the most regressive tax system in the nation, according to the Institute for Tax and Economic Policy. Income-tax proposals have failed here, and Kohl-Welles said tax reform or even closing loopholes would be tough because of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, which requires a two-thirds majority on such issues. But some lawmakers are talking about a potential ballot referendum, she said.
One bright spot is an uptick in construction-trades employment, said Lee Newgent, executive secretary of the Seattle Building Trades Council. By his count there are 14 construction cranes in the air, including apartment towers being built with union-pension funds, while megaprojects such as the Highway 520 bridge pontoons and Highway 99 replacement have created jobs.
His optimism indicates just how low expectations are these days.
“We are starting to see some encouraging growth. We’re still 35-40 percent [unemployed], but that’s better than 50 to 55 percent,” he said. Occupy Seattle activists said they will stay at the park next week. On Monday, a 5 p.m. rally is planned by Working Washington, who will call on the U.S. to tax the rich and invest in public-works projects, according to fliers being distributed.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or email@example.com