Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Olympia WA: Capitol protests take a big toll

BY JORDAN SCHRADER and BRAD SHANNON | November 29, 2011 The Olympian

The toll in the first two days of the Legislature’s emergency budget session:

Six troopers and one state employee hurt in scuffles with protesters.
Fifteen arrests, and at least six demonstrators hit with shocks from
troopers’ stun guns.
$12,000 in overtime costs for troopers on Monday alone and $8,200 for
their first-day travel to Olympia.
Two hearings on the budget that were held up by demonstrators.
Two votes taken on legislation – neither of them on the state budget
that has brought lawmakers to Olympia to fix a $2 billion problem.

Demonstrators demand the gap be bridged in part with tax increases, not
just with cuts to social services, schools and the like. The State Patrol
says most have expressed those sentiments peacefully. But there have been
confrontations with a few in the Occupy movement.

Of 11 people arrested Tuesday, six are accused of disorderly conduct, most
for disrupting a budget hearing.

Committee chairman Sen. Ed Murray temporarily halted the proceedings. “I’m
actually sympathetic to the point they are making, but we have to have a
civil dialogue,” said the Seattle Democrat. It was “a little tough today”
to have a civil dialogue.

Five more were arrested for allegedly returning to the Capitol Campus
after receiving no-trespass warnings. Troopers handed out the warnings
Monday to 30 demonstrators who refused to leave the Legislative Building
after it closed for the night. On Tuesday, the building was emptied
without incident.

Mark Taylor-Canfield doesn’t intend to let the no-trespass order he
received stop him from returning. The Occupy Seattle activist said he
doesn’t believe the 30-day ban is legal.

“I’m going to have to call their bluff,” said Taylor-Canfield, who also is
reporting on the movement as a freelance writer. “If I committed a crime,
then arrest me and charge me.”

Among those arrested Monday were three alleged to have committed assault
as they tried to push their way into the closed Legislative Building. The
patrol said two troopers were bitten and four suffered bumps and bruises,
but Lt. Mark Arras said all returned to work Tuesday.

A Department of Enterprise Services worker’s ribs were bruised and his
face was injured. The injuries kept the man away from work Tuesday.

During the same scuffle, a trooper shocked three demonstrators by touching
them with the end of his stun gun. Later Monday evening, as protesters
tried to block a bus hauling arrested suspects to the Thurston County
jail, stun guns were deployed again.

Sgt. J.J. Gundermann said the weapons were used not to disperse the crowd
of perhaps 75 protesters blocking the bus, but only on those who resisted.

“They were definitely pushing and shoving us,” Gundermann said.

A judge set bail Tuesday afternoon for the assault suspects, one of whom
is identified in court as a 26-year-old veteran and Occupy Tacoma
participant. Two of the three were ordered held in jail; the third was
released on his recognizance.

Occupy the Capitol protesters felt troopers used “excessive force”, said
Taylor-Canfield. He said he talked to one young man who told him he was
stunned multiple times near the bus as the group was “attacked by police.”

Eric Finch, an organizer with Washington Community Action Network, sees no
problems with how troopers have kept order. “Generally, they’re doing
their best,” he said.

Finch did disagree with Gov. Chris Gregoire and Enterprise Services’
decision to close the Capitol at night. Officials allowed a sit-in last
April to last through the night as protesters slept under the eye of

Enterprise Services Director Joyce Turner said officials “learned a lot of
lessons” from those April protests, which she said started out peaceful
but “changed in tenor” dramatically.

Separate from the overnight demonstrations, 17 people were arrested in
April in a protest organized by Service Employees International Union 775
Northwest, which included an attempt to storm Gregoire’s office.

Gregoire’s spokeswoman, Karina Shagren, said the governor respects
protesters’ First Amendment rights but is concerned about the cost of
keeping the building open.

“It’s costing a lot of money,” she said.

The patrol released totals Tuesday for the money spent the day before to
have troopers stand guard and evict protesters. In addition to overtime
and travel costs, the patrol counted $76,000 in regular pay for troopers
who would have been working regardless of the demonstrations.

“The day to day work of troopers is important, or we wouldn’t have them
doing it,” Lt. Arras said in a news release. “If your car broke down
(Monday) and you sat beside the freeway for an extended period, that soft
cost suddenly has a very real impact.”

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