Authors note: Today is Part II of a series of three diaries I am writing about the West Coast port shut down. Part I was posted on Wednesday Occupy Seattle - Why We Shut Down The Port Part I and on Sunday I will write about the police brutality that has been used against those of us who participate in the occupy movements
Authors note: Once I started writing this I realized I had a lot of information to relay about the three reasons we are supporting the West Coast port shutdown. Today's diary is about EGT and union busting in Longview. I will write two more - one about SSA and the truckers in LA and one about the police brutality that has been used against those of us who participate in the occupy movements
In response to a call out from Occupy Oakland to shut down all West Coast ports on December 12th, Occupy Seattle has begun a massive organizing campaign to participate in what will be a historic day of nationwide direct action.
Fighting An Eviction
On Dec 2nd participants of Occupy Seattle gathered for a march at their camp of 100 tents on Capitol Hill. The camp is currently under threat of an eviction from Seattle Central Community College, where they have been occupying since they were forced out of Westlake Park by police and park rangers last month.
There is an ongoing battle between the Occupy Seattle legal group and the college over the camp and it’s now being fought in the courts. SCCC president Paul Kilpatrick addressed the OS general assembly last week, but his claim that he is willing to work with the group met with a great deal of skepticism among some of the campers and their supporters in the community.
It was clear to most experienced political observers that Kilpatrick had already made up his mind- he wanted to force the group off the campus. It was the college president who had called an emergency meeting of the board of regents and launched legal proceedings designed to remove the protesters from campus property. It was Kilpatrick who made accusations against the Occupy Seattle camp to the news media. OS claims in a press release that many of his allegations are false.
During the general assembly the college president repeated several times that he wished to avoid violence when referring to the imminent eviction. This left one of the GA participants commenting, “He’s the only person here talking about violence. Is he delivering to us an implied threat?” The threat being, of course, the use of the police to forcibly remove the encampment, and maybe a little more pepper spray and jail sentences.
Meanwhile, members of the American Federation of Teachers spoke up for the occupiers at the same general assembly. Two of the teachers from the college read public statements thanking Occupy Seattle for their commitment to direct democracy and citizen engagement in the community. Some of the college faculty had even volunteered to conduct all night teach-ins for the demonstrators. They did not agree with the college president when he declared that Occupy Seattle is not welcome on the campus.
On Dec. 2nd a judge in Olympia ruled that the college can now proceed with the eviction. Attorneys for Occupy Seattle had requested a restraining order to stop the eviction. After OS participants were informed of the judge’s ruling late in the afternoon, some of them decided to organize a march and move to a new location.
Occupying The Warehouse
The protesters marched to an abandoned warehouse located at 10th and Union on Capitol Hill shortly after 6PM. The group immediately occupied the building and they celebrated this accomplishment with food and live music. A rock band and an R&B group performed to a lively audience of occupiers. People were feeling happy. They declared that they were inspired to work even harder to organize for the future. A lot of the campers were glad to be out of the cold rain and inside a building that offered them some security and shelter.
A general assembly was held while volunteers cleaned up the floors and prepared food. Folks got busy organizing the place and setting rules of conduct. Some smaller groups decided to spend their time discussing social justice issues. Some volunteers started checking out the plumbing, mopping up rain water in the basement, etc.
There was no urgency in the way folks reacted to the potential for police violence or forcible removal from the building. Few of the occupiers at the warehouse were even talking about the possibility of getting arrested or attacked by police. This attitude of nonchalance may have been due to several related factors. A national call out to occupy buildings had been requested by Occupy Wall Street in NYC with coordinated actions planned for Dec. 6th. OWS related groups have already occupied buildings in New York, London, Santa Monica, Portland, Oakland and Minneapolis.
Another group of activists from Occupy Seattle had been occupying an abandoned home for weeks without police harassment.
Also, traditionally squatters have retained certain rights under the law. Usually a forcible eviction requires a court order issued by a judge. Another group of activists from Occupy Seattle had been occupying an abandoned home for weeks without police harassment. However, in the case of the warehouse, the squatters were treated like dangerous criminals with absolutely no rights whatsoever to be in the building even though it has been empty and is currently scheduled for demolition.
The warehouse occupiers felt they had no reason to believe that they would be arrested on the first day of their occupation.
At one point several police squad cars were parked a block away from the warehouse. Unexpectedly, one man was arrested at the entrance to the warehouse by police. The reason for his arrest was unclear but it was announced to the people inside the building. Soon after that incident the squad cars left the area and everyone seemed to relax. OS folks say most of them were looking forward to a long occupation of the building lasting through the winter.
Just before 3 AM police began banging on the warehouse door demanding entry.
The door remained closed. The Seattle Police Department blocked Pine Street and sealed off sidewalks with crime tape. Media and bystanders were pushed by Seattle police to a location one block away from the scene. Because of this, no one was able to observe the details of the police activity or the arrests. This restriction made video documentation nearly impossible.
Potential witnesses were kept so far from the building that they were unable to clearly see anything that was going on at the warehouse. The crowd who had gathered at 10th and Pine lost cell phone contact with the people inside the building. No one knew what was happening and they were very nervous about the fate of their friends, especially when they saw the police carrying rifles.
As a journalist, I was outraged that I was being blocked by police from reporting on the event because I couldn’t get anywhere near the building. I was arrested on Nov. 28th at the state capitol protests while wearing my press pass and the Washington State Patrol has since banned me from reporting from the state capitol. I am fighting that prohibition on the grounds that I was never charged with any crime and I was never brought before a judge or jury.
In the case of the SWAT raid in Seattle, I was once again being kept from doing my job as a journalist by an overzealous police department. The SPD treated the occupation of the warehouse as if it were some kind of violent terrorist attack. Since the Occupy Seattle folks have been committed to non-violence since the beginning of their protests, it is impossible to justify such a heavy handed and heavily armed response by law enforcement.
This wasn’t a drug raid or a mission to rescue hostages or an attempt to stop a violent gunman. It was in fact a raid on a group of pacifist activists who want to believe in democracy and community. They want a better future for everyone where violence in abolished and poverty is eliminated. That doesn’t sound very dangerous to most people. It actually sounds like a great idea. Perhaps the Seattle police disagree…
Some SWAT team members were carrying what looked like assault rifles. Apparently they had commandeered a Seattle Fire Department ladder truck because they extended the ladder to allow police access to the roof of the building. I suppose a helicopter would have been too noisy and would have tipped off the occupiers to their raid. The SWAT team obviously wanted to go in secretly and surprise the Occupy Seattle protesters.
The police used highly organized tactical military style maneuvers to evict a group of unarmed political organizers. As opposed to being dangerous, I suggest that many of the occupiers may actually have been a bit naive and inexperienced, but nonetheless they were treated as if they were a major danger to society.
At the time of this publication, there is no information available to me concerning what actually happened inside the building, because most of the people who were inside are still being held in jail for criminal trespass and other charges. Most of them can’t afford to post their bail.
I can only imagine what it must have felt like to be a young activist locking arms with your compatriots and watching as SWAT team members came storming in carrying assault weapons and screaming orders at you. It must have been extremely frightening.
I am wondering if they were actually arrested at gunpoint. That would be a truly traumatic experience for anyone.
Media Black Out
I was shocked to see that only one news media cameraman bothered to even show up during the hour long raid. To my knowledge, no one has any video of the SWAT team members climbing up the police truck ladder. It would have been compelling footage for sure, and very unique, but there was no one there to document it. We missed a great opportunity to capture a very compelling image.
I called all of the local news media to give them the tip on the raid but they all seemed uninformed and disinterested. The Seattle Times and the local Fox news station simply failed to answer our calls. After repeatedly trying to contact them,
I finally gave up. I’ve never seen that happen before.
Where were the reporters? Where were the cameras?
For over twelve hours after the SWAT team raid on Occupy Seattle, there was a virtual media black out on the story. All day long the only reports that appeared were from a blogger who lived in the Beacon Hill neighborhood and a couple photos of the building from photo journalist Joshua Trujillo. I kept looking for coverage of the raid but I couldn’t find anything.
The only published photo of the fire truck was taken by the blog writer. Corporate news media completely failed to cover this raid. Normally they are eager to broadcast dramatic footage of police and flashing lights, protests, people being arrested, etc., but for some unknown reason, no one was available.
After many long hours of making phone calls and sending emails and voicing complaints about the lack of coverage, the local press finally began to report the news. Unfortunately, some of the coverage didn’t even mention that a SWAT team was involved. At this point there has been no in-depth coverage of the police raid.
Here’s a quick “background check” on SWAT teams in the United States.
They were originally formed out of special police units that were developed in the 1960’s and 70’s. The SWAT teams were intended to be deployed during dangerous life and death situations like bank robberies and hostage situations. But after the US declared a “war on drugs,” the role of these forces expanded to include the enforcement of laws prohibiting drugs.
Now in 2011, SWAT teams are being used against non-violent Occupy Seattle and Occupy UCB demonstrators. When students staged a sit-in inside Wheeler Hall at the University of California Berkeley on November 20th, the authorities sent in a paramilitary SWAT team to clear them out.
Here's what former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper had to say about SWAT teams:
"Everyday policing is characterized by a SWAT mentality, every other 911 call a military mission. What emerges is a picture of a vital public safety institution perpetually at war with it's own people."
Some important points to remember:
1) SWAT teams are designed to be used for dangerous situations like bank robberies or hostage situations.
2) There were no violent armed people inside the occupy Seattle warehouse building.
They were happy peaceful activists.
3) Other occupy groups have successfully occupied buildings in other cities without being raided by SWAT teams.
4) What was the threat which required a PARAMILITARY RESPONSE?
Some occupy folks tell me they have come to the following conclusion:
The police in Seattle are trying to send a message to political dissident groups.
In the 1970’s three different occupations were staged in Seattle. One was an occupation of Fort Lawton, an abandoned military base. Even Jane Fonda participated in that protest. An empty school building was occupied and activists took over an old fire station.
In those halcyon days before the events of 911, the police and city officials left the protesters alone. In the end, the city gave the buildings to the community activists and they are still providing services for the community today.
Is this latest SWAT raid in Seattle another case of violence and threats of violence being used by the authorities to stop the protests?
Freedom of Assembly?
Another Occupy Seattle legal battle also involves police misconduct. It resulted from the arrests of OS protesters and a reporter by the Washington State Patrol at the ongoing state capitol protests in Olympia. The WSP has issued what amounts to "no trespass" orders to people who were arrested but not charged with any crime during a sit-in inside the state capitol building.
People are being banned from the state capitol campus. Those who return to the protests are arrested and charged with criminal trespass. Some of them have been banned from the state capitol for up to one year. OS is challenging the ban because it is clearly unconstitutional.
Besides using tasers and pepper spray on protesters and violating their civil rights, police are now sending in SWAT teams to deal with politically motivated squatters.
A Question For The Fire Department
If we can confirm that the ladder truck was used to allow police onto the roof of the occupied warehouse, I have a few questions for the Seattle Fire Chief and the Seattle chapter of the fire fighters union.
Why are you allowing the paramilitary police to misuse public resources to crack down on non-violent demonstrators?
During the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in 1999 the fire department was asked by city officials to turn their fire hoses on protesters to clear the streets. For many fire fighters this request invoked images of civil rights marchers being attacked with dogs and fire hoses during the 1960's. The union told their chief that they would refuse to follow the order.
The fire fighters explained, “Our job is to protect life, not to endanger it.”
Yesterday saw the first General Strike in the U.K. for more than a generation. Yesterday was also the 12th anniversary of the W.T. O. protests in Seattle that shared many of the same themes of the Occupy Wall Street Movement and established a president of people in the streets changing the actions of the elites and the larger perception of issues.
I've been camped with Occupy Olympia this week. We've been protesting the draconian cuts the Special Session of the State Legislature is contemplating and many observers think will be the inevitable outcome of this special session. Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire has proposed a temporary one half percent rise in the state's sales tax to preserve some of the needed services from the cuts. She wants the legislature to put the temporary sales tax increase up up for a state wide vote. Some observers say even this is unlikely to get past our state's onerous super-majority requirements passed by the anti tax simpletons.
Occupy Olympia's General Assembly with the Capital dome behind them.
We start our march to the Capital.
We joined with a labor rally in a downtown park before marching onto the Capital.
We rallied on the steps of the State Capital, which is modeled after the US capital building.
On Friday, November 25th, Occupy Seattle will join Occupy Tacoma, Occupy Bellingham and Occupy Everett in a statewide protest at Wal-Mart in Renton at 2:00pm.
With its long history of mistreating workers and suppliers, its recent announcement of significant cutbacks on employee health care, and its obscene profits, Wal-Mart is a prime example of how the 99% are suffering at the hands of the 1%. [...]
With $14.3 billion in profits in 2010, Wal-Mart still saw fit to eliminate health insurance coverage for part time employees, cut company contributions to employee health savings accounts by 50% and increase health care premiums 17% to 61% for over 2.1 million employees worldwide. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the average Wal-Mart worker makes $8.81 per hour, while the CEO makes $8990.00 per hour.
Protesting specific companies that are doing the most to hurt American workers (and by extension, consumers)? Sounds good.
The other thing to do, of course, is not shop at Wal-Mart at all, but I assume most progressives are already avoiding them. Wal-Mart sets a standard for poor worker treatment that other companies can only aspire to.
I received this email from a friend of mine this morning, and the message is so timely and on point that I asked for his permission to publish it here.
After three weeks the Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College,
the group is once again under duress as the college administration tries to force the protesters off the campus.
Following is a portion of an open letter from Reverend Rich Lang, Pastor of University Temple United Methodist Church (Seattle).
On Tuesday night a small group of the rag-tag campers of Seattle’s Occupy Movement left their camp to protest the destruction inflicted upon the Wall Street Occupy site. Throughout the march I, as a Pastor in full clergy alb, stole and cross, acted as a peacekeeper placing myself between the police line and the Occupy Movement. On four occasions I stepped between verbal battles between the police and the protesters. The point being that it was evident to all who I was and what my role was in this non-violent march of the few escorted by the many.
The incident was minor in nature. A girl, dressed in Anarchist black waving the Anarchist black flag was plastered side by side with an officer on the bike. They were jawboning each other. At one point her flag was thrust in his direction --- a provocation yes – threatening?—no. The officer grabbed the flag and in the pulling, pulled down the girl. Her friends reacted jumping in to pull her away from the officer. It was at this point that the first wave of pepper spray went off.
Point --- one might think the officer acted within reason, that the officer was suddenly threatened. But with what? By whom? The friends of the offender were grabbing for the girl, they were not grabbing at the police. Basically the officer, and his comrades, were trigger happy as if they couldn’t wait for just this moment. And so the spray went forth.
I leapt to the front and tried to place myself between the parties --- with spray in the air the protesters were also fleeing. Separation between the police line and the protesters was clearly visible … there was certainly no threat of the “mob” suddenly rampaging into the well armed police. The separation had occurred (as can be clearly seen on the video captured by King 5 News). But the spray continued. I walked between the lines, I was alone, I was in full clergy dress, everyone knew who I was and what I was --- with the protesters fleeing and the police line holding --- with my back to the police and my hands waving the protesters to get back --- alone in full alb, stole and cross --- six officers turned their spray on me thoroughly soaking my alb and then one officer hit me full throttle in the face.
I praise the courage and compassion, the discipline and the decency of the Occupy Movement. Out of the rag-tag mob came help, grabbing my hands, leading me (I was blind by then) to the wall and administering care and concern for my well being. The protesters were assembled around all the wounded, and maintained the discipline of nonviolence (granted the nonviolence was in behavior but not language). And they were not afraid. The spraying had been a baptism sealing them into the security of knowing that their prophecy of repentance was indeed the Spirit-Word through them --- it is as if they did not prophecy their very bones would melt within them. Against the wall in increasing pain and burning I realized I was in the midst of church.
The police, on the other hand, were afraid. Their quick use of chemical warfare reveals how cowardly they are. The unwillingness of their commanders to maintain discipline reveals how incompetent they are becoming --- the only tool in their bag is brutality and like a drunken raging father beating wife and kids, the police have increasingly disgraced themselves. Step by step they are being shaped into the front face of fascism, the emerging police state that protects the property interests of the Marie Antionette’s who have seized control of our government, commerce, media, military and increasingly the Church itself.
My question to my clergy colleagues is this: Where are you? How much longer can you preach without practice? How dare you remain protected in your sanctuary while your people (the rag-tag mob of the least, last and lost whom Jesus loved) are slaughtered doing that which God has commissioned you to do (prophecy!). Where are you? Who have you become in this age of baptism by pepper spray? Do you not know how much power you have to stop our national descent into chaos? Don’t you realize that the world is your parish and right before your eyes the Spirit of God is doing a new thing? Can’t you hear that God’s judgment is upon the land? God is against the thieves that bankrupted our nation. God is against the armies of the Beast who pillage other lands in our name, and turn and destroy our people on our own soil. Are you blind? --- Perhaps you need a baptism of pepper spray in your eyes to restore your vision.
And to the police I say this --- there are always the brutal ones in our midst. As colleagues you have the moral responsibility to police your own. If your commanders order you to brutalize your people you have a Higher Command that says, “disarm yourself, turn away from your sin, renounce the orders of unrighteousness.” And in doing so, cross the line, come over and join us because we are the winning side of history. And we welcome your repentance and heal you of your shame.
And to the church, beloved church I say, you cannot sing the hymns of faith if you are too afraid to live that faith. In Amos it says to silence your sacred assemblies and let JUSTICE burst forth. Our nation, with the nations of the world, are under an assault of tyranny and treason of the 1% against creation itself. You may not worship God until and unless you care for the image of God living in those tents and prophesying on your behalf. Once the Powers sweep the Tents away, if you dare to lift your voice even a peep, you too will be swept away. But the destiny of the church, the Body of Christ, is not one of quiet passivity and fear, our destiny is to bear witness having no fear of the Cross because even now we have crossed over into resurrection.
Rev. Rich Lang
University Temple United Methodist Church
One of Occupy Seattle's outspoken activists who blogs under the name Ian Awesome has a post up this afternoon about the pregnant woman who was hit in last Tuesday's pepper spray attack by Seattle police:
On the 20th, Jeniffer Fox received news that she has miscarried, and alleges the miscarriage is due to the injuries she received during the police action on the 15th.
"It hurts. It's upsetting. I was ready to have a kid, because my family was going to support me in taking care of the child. Her name was going to be Miracle."
UPDATE: Jennifer Fox, 19, spoke to The Stranger at the Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College. Fox begins by saying that she was three months pregnant last Tuesday evening when she joined an Occupy Seattle march that stopped at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Pine Street.
"I was standing in the middle of the crowd when the police started moving in," she says. "I was screaming, 'I am pregnant, I am pregnant. Let me through. I am trying to get out.'" At that point, Fox continues, a Seattle police officer lifted his foot and it hit her in the stomach, and another officer pushed his bicycle into the crowd, again hitting Fox in the stomach. "Right before I turned, both cops lifted their pepper spray and sprayed me. My eyes puffed up and my eyes swelled shut," she says.
Fox asked for medical attention—the now-famous photo by Josh Trujillo of her being carried to the ambulance is here (click to the third photo)—and was rushed to Harborview Medical Center, she says, where doctors performed an ultrasound and said that they "didn't see anything wrong with the baby at the time." Fox says she had also seen a physician at Harborview for prenatal care about five week before.
"Everything was going okay until yesterday, when I started getting sick, cramps started, and I felt like I was going to pass out," Fox says.
And HERE we are. We all knew it was just a matter of time.
This is just too damn sad...
The news from Occupy Seattle lately has been both heroic and tragic. The activists have gained personal strength through their struggles with an overzealous police department. Now they are taking their protests directly to the people who make the decisions which affect their lives on a daily basis.
I came across an interesting article in The Stranger today, and it made me realize something (a duh light bulb moment if there ever was one). As enraging as it is when the police indiscriminately pepper spray us, they may not be acting like jerks. Maybe they are just lazy.
I had reservations about sharing the words of a third party in their entirety on this site, but after reading this email (that went out to a list serv) and because he urged us to "please share" I decided to do it. I will include his professional contact info so that anyone can verify this is legitimate. He has been very public about what happened to him last night. This is powerful stuff.