WA State: Capitol Protests Turn Ugly - Arrests Made
April 7, 2011
A protest against budget cuts for human services turned ugly today at the Legislative Building in Olympia when 16 mostly Service Employees International Union members were cited for disorderly conduct and released, and another individual was arrested on two counts of third degree assault for striking two Washington State Patrol troopers. Approximately 500 to 600 people were involved in the protest.
Assault in the third degree occurs when a person assaults a law enforcement officer who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault. It’s a Class C felony and a seriousness level III offense punishable by one to three months in prison and fines of up to $10,000 for someone with a clean criminal record.
This was the second day of protests by union and progressive organizations against budget cuts. On Wednesday, a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee was disrupted by a gang of protestors who interrupted the proceedings and began shouting. They were quickly ushered out the door by security personal and Washington State Patrol troopers.
Earlier Thursday, proceedings in the House of Representatives were interrupted by catcalls and other outbursts from the visitors’ gallery. Around 30 people were escorted out of the building as a result.
Efforts by protestors to storm the governor’s office were rebuffed.
State Patrol spokesman, Bob Calkins, confirmed the number of citations and the arrest. While refusing to give any security-plan details, he said there were enough troopers on hand to do the job.
“We knew we had a significant protest,” he said. “It appears that they had a plan. Our goal was a safe protest. The only injuries were to two troopers, which is never acceptable, but on the whole it was safe.”
The cases will be referred to the Thurston County District Court for processing, Calkins said. He confirmed that there were attorneys with the protestors, but he was unable to provide their names or the names of any of those who were cited or of the one person who was arrested.
Adam Glickman, the communications director for SEIU Local 775 NW, refused to say whether the union had planned on arrests, would pay the legal costs of those cited or otherwise had planned on the protest going violent. Most of the protesters who were seen hanging about wore SEIU purple t-shirts.
A crowd of people of indeterminate size was huddled around the Columbia Room on the ground floor of the Legislative Building where those who had been cited or arrested were being held. Singing protest songs and acting festive as if this was a desired result, the crowd awaited their release. When it came, they were received with applause and shouts of approval.
Linda Lee identified herself as having been cited. A long term care worker who belongs to Local 775, she said that she was outraged that the Legislature refused to raise taxes to pay her.
“They’re taking jobs away from us,” she said. “Close tax loopholes on banks, big corporations, yachts and out-of-state people making purchases in Clark County.” Lee identified herself as being from Clark County. Arguments that raising taxes would result in job losses were lies, she said.
Former Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, taking time off of his job in the office of Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, was seen joking and encouraging many of the protestors. For a time, he was locked in earnest conversation with Glickman.
Friday promises a third straight day of protests with a heavily-advertised union rally to be held at noon on the steps of the Legislative Building.