The "Occupy Seattle" protest group was told by Seattle police on Tuesday that it must move its tents from Westlake Park by the end of the day or be arrested.
The “Occupy Seattle” protest group was told by Seattle police on Tuesday that it must move its tents from Westlake Park by the end of the day or be arrested.
“The issue is the tents,” Seattle Police Chief John Diaz told KING-TV. “This is a city that appreciates that people want to protest. The issue is that other people need to have the right to use the park also.”
But by midnight, no police were to be seen and close to 100 protesters were still occupying the park.
Liam Wright, 24, of Seattle, said protesters received word about 10 p.m. there might be arrests.
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“So we called people to defend the occupation,” he said, “but the cops never showed up.”
The protest began Saturday, and each night the number of people sleeping in tents has grown, Wright said. Other protesters head home at the end of the night.
“We decided that we are not going anywhere,” Wright said at midnight. “We plan to keep this going indefinitely.”
He said other protests had been broken up in the predawn hours.
A post on the protest group’s website, occupyseattle.org, said the group had about 30 tents and 125 people at Westlake Park early Tuesday.
“We need people to come and occupy with us more than anything!” the post said. “Come whenever you can for as long as you can. … “
Around midnight Tuesday, protesters were standing around talking in the rain. Some were playing music and singing. Some were holding signs such as: “Stand up against Corp. greed” and “We are the 99 percent. Corporations are not people.”
Another sign said: “Honk for freedom,” and vehicles passing by honked in acknowledgment of the protesters.
The protesters, who have been at Westlake Park since the weekend, are an offshoot of the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations.
“Occupy Wall Street is [a] leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions,” the Seattle protest website says. “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.”
Noelle Stoffl, 25, of Seattle, had been at the park since 6 p.m. Monday. She had a sign on her back saying “info” but said she wasn’t a spokesperson because the group was leaderless.
The group has permission from the “parks service” to be at Westlake, she said.
A list of 30 people had volunteered to resist, and in the event police come to break up the camp, they will put themselves between the tents and the police, Stoffl said.
Other people, like herself, she said, are not willing to be arrested.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement Tuesday night, in which he offered support for the protesters’ cause, but concluded saying the demonstrators would be asked to remove their tents.
“I support the efforts of the protesters at Westlake Park to address this country’s economic situation,” the mayor’s statement began. He then referenced his budget speech last week, quoting himself:
“We are facing unprecedented inequality in this country. It is always true that bad times are harder on the poor. But we have not seen income inequality this great since 1928, the year before the Great Depression started. The top 1 percent control 34 percent of the nation’s wealth. The top 10 percent control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth. It is an unprecedented grab by the most powerful to get a bigger piece of a shrinking pie.”
The mayor’s statement goes on to say that a number of other events and protest groups have permits to use the park in the coming days, and the presence of the tents “has the effect of displacing others who have a right to be here.”
Stoffl said one of the groups the mayor cited had been in touch with protesters and was “in solidarity” with them.
“The middle class is disappearing,” Stoffl said. “More and more, it seems that corporate interests take precedence over human interests.”
Wright said the protest has a global context, citing recent demonstrations in Cairo, Madrid and Greece. “For every person,” he said, “there is a different idea why they’re here.”
That’s both a strength and a weakness of the protest, he said.
For Wright, his motivation is “a sense of the total unaccountability and unrepresentation” of government.
Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or firstname.lastname@example.org