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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tense and Tired, A Tent Fight and (At Least) One Arrest at Westlake

Posted by on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 at 2:02 AM

The arrest.
  • The arrest.
"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" a gentleman raved into the night. "I'M JOHN T. WILLIAMS."

A police officer leaning on the wall outside the makeup store Sephora yelled back at this noisy would-be ghost of Williams, the Native American wood carver who was shot dead last year on the street by a police officer, taunting, "Whooo?"

It seemed an incredibly ominous exchange to witness upon entering this night's protests.

It was around 9 p.m., and a hundred or so Occupy Seattle protesters were continuing their stand. About two dozen organizers were huddled around for a General Assembly meeting about next moves; the park closes at 10, and everybody agreed the police felt unfriendlier tonight after a sweep of arrests this morning.

The tent fight.
  • The tent fight.
"Feed the flames!" one protester called out. Another vehemently insisted that anyone moving south to the mayor-sanctioned camp with power and internet and bathrooms was a sellout. Other ideas for locations surfaced: the park near SCCC? Denny Park?

I asked a pair of officers what might happen after 10, but they only answered practically.

"I'm gettin' paid," he said.

"We were told to come down here," she said.

I overheard another: "I'm not getting overtime for this."

Ten p.m. came and went, and then 11. Around 11:15, just before the close of the TV-news night at 11:30, a core group of protesters erected a tent—forbidden!—and a clump of officers moved in.

Ive been here since 6:30 am! Ive been here since 6!
  • "I've been here since 6:30 am!" "I've been here since 6!"
Things immediately dehumanized. The officers gated off the small area with bikes. They collapsed the tent, and the man who had previously been insisting that going to City Hall meant selling out was suddenly seated on the sidewalk being arrested. "He wants to be arrested," the arresting officer called out, sing-songy, mockingly. On the flip side, I'm pretty sure I saw calculation on some protesters' faces as they tried to figure out just what they could do to get arrested without experiencing too much pain (who could blame them?), and cops trying like hell not to take any bait. The edge was close. Flashing phones and video cameras and lights and computer screens were being pushed at the faces on both sides of the front line of the now-collapsed tent. "The whole world is watching" was chanted, but it was unclear what the whole world was seeing.

Somehow the situation just drained away; people dispersed. Only one young woman in glasses kept yelling and poking her finger at and following around a police officer while demanding he answer the question, "Why are you being such a fucking asshole and not doing your job?"

"I've been here since 6:30 a.m.!" she threw at him. "I've been here since 6!" he threw back.

By midnight, the protesters were looking for another tent in order to restage the situation. One had been down to the camp at City Hall, but all the tents there were spoken for, "which makes me sad," he said.

Were the sleepers sellouts? I couldn't help but think of the women who camped out at Greenham Common in England for 19 straight years. There's something to be said for simply keeping a thing going in whatever way you can.

Stop the greedy bigs, says Ophelia, 3.
  • Stop "the greedy bigs," says Ophelia, 3.
Most protesters had opinions but didn't seem to feel much like arguing. They were each sure of why they were there, even if their reasons were all different.

"It's not about one issue; it's about people over money, that's the bottom line," said M.T. Andrews, a Native American woman and Real Change writer and vendor with family police brutality stories to tell.

"People say we don't have a point—that's because there's a lot of points! Dude, we all have a point," said Forrest Baum.

Even Nick Castillo, the man who at first told me, "Don't hate, don't participate," and who stood on the outskirts, explained, "I come because everything here make sense. They say vote on it, we vote on it, and it seem not to make a difference. It's a mess. I don't have a job. I wish I did. I want to sweep these streets right here."

Three-year-old Ophelia Orcutt-Whipple: "We need to protest the Disney corporations that have the greedy bigs."

Ophelia's father, Michael Whipple, was the protesters' chosen police liaison this morning, when the police swept the park and made several arrests. "Cocky" was how he described them, high-fiving as they broke down tents, "contemptuous." Now they were giving him the runaround, he said. There was a bad new tone tonight. "Their tolerance of us has decreased," another organizer said flatly. Everybody was punchy.

David Trujillo, who once worked as a news intern at The Stranger, talked of Tiananmen Square, where some soldiers changed sides to support the students; the same thing has happened in the Middle East. We need to make connections with the police officers, he said. It reminded me of something Forrest Baum said: "We don't have to hold the park, we have to hold the higher ground."

As I left, I overheard an officer telling an organizer, "I'd rather be home with my family." She nodded and agreed.

Maybe he could bring his family next time.


Comments (15) RSS

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KittenKoder 1
So it's basically a "play homeless camp" for another week.
Posted by KittenKoder on October 18, 2011 at 2:54 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 2
I take back my comment ... they're more like clones or androids .... that whole "repeat what the speaker says" is creepy as fuck, after seeing some of the videos, all I can think of is christian bible camp.
Posted by KittenKoder on October 18, 2011 at 4:06 AM · Report this
#1,2 - you're an idiot... good thing you weren't on the stage, i'd hate to be repeating the nonsense you spout. Try and at least get a lil' wee bit informed before you comment on stuff, k?
Posted by stu ungar on October 18, 2011 at 4:21 AM · Report this
KittenKoder 4
@3 Aaaw ... but you're all so good at following the leader and being brainwashed, maybe I can brainwash some sense into the crowd.
Posted by KittenKoder on October 18, 2011 at 6:03 AM · Report this
lol, what is it about 'leaderless movement' don't you get? oh yeah, you don't know a single thing about what's happening but feel a knee jerk reaction to comment... it's not like there's hasn't been a bunch of articles on it or anything. I mean, like, read the stranger or something, but whatever's clever, keep on smiling and nodding and whatever else you do...
Posted by stu ungar on October 18, 2011 at 6:29 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 6
Westlake is pretty much empty right now, though we are paying lots of cops to walk around the park looking tough.

Don't you love the police state we live in?
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on October 18, 2011 at 7:04 AM · Report this
LOL @ Libtards
Posted by LOL @ Libtards on October 18, 2011 at 7:24 AM · Report this
LOL @ Libtards
Posted by LOL @ Libtards on October 18, 2011 at 7:26 AM · Report this
If only "I am Mayor Mike McGinn" had the same lyrical quality as "I am Governor Jerry Brown."
Posted by riot gorl on October 18, 2011 at 8:31 AM · Report this
in-frequent 10
Neither side has to be so immaturely antagonistic.
Posted by in-frequent on October 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM · Report this
I can't wait until these dumbasses run out of steam and go away.
Posted by sonder on October 18, 2011 at 9:18 AM · Report this
@2 While it does seem a little creepy, and I am sure it does even more so from an observer* standpoint, in my opinion the 'people's mic' is pretty awesome.

- It allows, without amplification, to get the word, in a clear and concise way, out to a larger audience

- It forces the speaker to speak slowly and clearly, and pause to (hopefully) give thought and consideration to what is being said and how it is being said (though for me, when I spoke the first time, it was distracting in the same way a delay on a PA system is distracting)

- It forces the audience to listen closely and remain engaged, even if they disagree

*observer: if you have something to add, even if it is counter to the message(s), please speak up, talk to people, engage, participate. It's damn messy, Seattle seems even more messy than it needs to be, but in my opinion, this direct attempt at democracy is a wonderful thing.
Posted by zimbo on October 18, 2011 at 9:56 AM · Report this
You missed the bit just before ten when a woman on mic check shouted: "We are all individuals"

...and the crowd shouted back in unison, with no hint of irony:

"We are all individuals"

The comedy never ends down at Crustylake!
Posted by Life of Brian on October 18, 2011 at 9:58 AM · Report this
I overheard an exasperated mother cussing out her 'activist' college student daughter today. It was hilarious.

"YOU CANT JUST SWITCH BANKS LIKE THAT! Do you know how many accounts and deposits and automatic things we have set up? Do you think this stuff just magically appears? How do you expect the money to get transferred from your fund now? None of that is set up with the credit union. There are payments pending those are all going to fail! God Dammit I wish you would think about these things before you just DO them. Our accountant is-LISTEN TO ME! our accountant is pissed off, sherry. What is wrong with you?"

I laughed my goddamned ass off.
Posted by sonder on October 18, 2011 at 1:58 PM · Report this
Hey you jerks out there:
If you are not out here in the rain, and the cold, well you are not important to spew your hate.
It is evident you just don't know what you are speaking about.
It says you are lazy and no good bums who don't give a rats ass about making changes.
Are you hungry, are you wanting to get food, are you just meddling?
If you have something to add, come on down.
If you don't, then stay where you are, probably at your mamas house, where you pay no bills, you have no bank account, and you are living off of her gray headed ass. It is evident she must of beeh a gossip monger, maybe that is what she taught you.

I taught myself to speak up and out every chance that I get with the injustices I see on the homeless, the poor and yeah the rich too.

This is my United States of America. No one owns me, controls me since I am a human being and not a damn dog.
If you don't do anything now to change the future, shut up and go back to suck mamas tit. I am sick of wimps.

Mona Joyner
Seattle, WA
Posted by Mona Joyner on October 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM · Report this

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