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Posts tagged: protests

This protest required a lot of air

Protesters work to prop up an elephant they are inflating on the Capitol Rotunda floor as part of a call for a state income tax.

OLYMPIA — As legislative leaders sweated the small stuff on the operating budget and other members awaited word of a deal, protesters called for something that isn't really on anyone's radar screen right now.

A progressive income tax for the state.

Members of the Backbone Campaign draped a banner for a state income tax over the fourth floor railing and chanted while others worked to inflate a large elephant on the rotunda floor. The sign on the side of the elephant, readable once it got nearly to full inflate: “Progressive Income Tax.”

While a proposal for a state income tax gets introduced by someone almost every year, there was  no serious discussion of such a tax this year as legislators struggled with the budget. An initiative for an income tax on the wealthy was defeated in 2010, and several times before that, reaching back to the 1930s.

“Somebody's got to have the guts to talk abour real reform,” Bill Moyer, of Vashion Island, co-founder and director of the Backbone Campaign, said. Legislators should “stretch the boundaries of what the perceive is politically possible.” 

Showing up for the protest

The Rainier bottles “graze” in front of the Capitol during a protest against the extension of the state's temporary beer surcharge.

OLYMPIA — There's never a giant opener around when I need one.

A pair of the Rainier bottles made famous in the beer's off-beat commercials, with their “wrangler” in tow, showed up at the Capitol for the protest against continuing the temporary beer surtax and extending it to microbreweries.

A couple of things you may not know about the iconic beer-creatures. In their costumes, they are blind as bats, and were not allowed to go up and down the Capitol steps in costume. The costumes don't handle the rain well — making one wonder what would happen to them in a giant ice chest.

WA Lege Day 8: Making a chilling protest statement

Taylor Malone of Spokane removed her shirt during a protest to symbolize that with cuts to programs, some people have to make the choice between feeding their familes and buying them clothes

OLYMPIA — Some 300 people, including about 75 from Spokane, marched through downtown to the steps of the Capitol Monday, demanding the Legislature fullfill Martin Luther King's dream by doing more to help the poor.

Some made statements with chants like “The people united will never be defeated.”

Others made statements with cards that held a legislator's name, and a letter grade for how the Washington Community Action Network thinks they voted in the last session issues of race and economic justice.

Taylor Malone of Spokane made a statement by taking off her shirt and standing through the half-hour rally on the steps in a bra and jeans. In recent years, she said, the Legislature has cut social service programs, forcing some people to choose between buying adequate food or adequate clothing for their families.

Instead of more cuts, the Legislature should close some tax breaks for businesses, she said.

Malone said she  has been active in Spokane protests to support gay rights and to  help victims of sexual assault, and against the Westboro Baptist Church. But it was her first protest in Olympia, were temperatures were in the mid-30s under fog-shrouded skies. The obvious question was whether she was cold.

“Truthfully? I am,” she admitted. After the rally, she put on shirt and coat before joining a group visiting 3rd District legislators.

Also coming from Spokane was Wendla Fryar, an Eastern Washington University graduate student working on her masters in social work, who hoped to talk to legislators from Spokane's 6th District about preserving or restoring social programs.

Fryar suffers from lupus, and needs to take 13 different prescription drugs every day to manage her symptom, but was dropped from the Medicaid program that helped cover her drug costs. She receives a grant to help with college costs and food stamps, and is worried about cuts to those programs, too.

“I can't survive without those programs,” she said.

State ‘unoccupies’ park

OLYMPIA — Protesters who set up an “Occupy Olympia” encampment in a park below the Capitol Campus were evicted overnight. But a handful broke into an abandonned building a few blocks away in a brief effort to try establishing “squatters rights.”

Police surrounded the building, but didn't immediately move to evict protesters, who set up a tent in the parking lot, hung signs down the side of the old Thurston County Health Building and continued to move in and out through a door in the roof.

Eventually, all protesters left the building without incident.

Leon Janssen, a commercial painter and part-time student who had spent the last two months at the encampment, said the protest would continue, just not in the park. Some protesters who have nowhere else to go may move to unoccupied or foreclosed buildings, he said.

Demonstrators will hold general assembly meetings every Sunday afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda, Janssen said.

The state Department of Enterprise Services erected temporary fences around the encampment and state workers started gathering up tents and other items left behind when protesters were evicted.

Spec Sess Day 2: Spokane protesters in the Capitol

Chris Clark of Deer Park ties a list of concerns about budget cuts to the string of a helium balloon outside the Capitol.

OLYMPIA — About 20 people from the Spokane area joined protesters in the state Capitol urging legislators to close a budget gap with a combination of taxes and cuts.

The group drove across the state on Monday, but arrived in Olympia after the building was closed to the public by state officials. Unlike some demonstrators, they didn't try to rush the building to force their way in.

Tuesday they lobbied Spokane area legislators to consider closing tax exemptions, particularly for large national banks. They're not wild about the half-cent increase in the state sales tax that Gov. Chris Gregoire has proposed, but would support it to save programs.

The sales tax is regressive, Shar Lichty said. “But cuts are more regressive than a sales tax increase.”

Members of the group had hoped to tie a list of their requests to the string of helium balloons that they would let loose in the Capitol. The balloons would rise to the dome, then slowly descend as the helium ran out, and bring the messages down.

But building officials wouldn't let the balloons into the building. The balloons were tied into the shape of a Christmas tree and tied to a weight on the north steps of the Capitol.

Spec Sess Day 1: Occupying an empty Senate

OLYMPIA — If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, does it make a noise?

If the Occupy movement occupies the Senate gallery, and no senators are there, does it make its point?

When some 200 “occupiers” crowded into the Senate gallery Monday, they chanted for about a half-hour to a mostly empty chamber.

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia, was present for some of it, and Sens. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, and Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline,  sat through bits and pieces.  But for much of the demonstration, the Senate floor was empty except for some security officials and a few journalists.

WA Lege: Coming Monday

OLYMPIA — It won't be just the state's 147 legislators — 148 if you count the two state senators from Spokane Valley's 4th District — who will be coming to the capital Monday for the start of the special session.

The Occupy movement, along with organized labor and the Washington Education Association, plan to be there for the beginning, and some may be staying through the bitter end.

Occupy Olympia has been encamped in Heritage Park down the hill from the Capitol Campus for about two months, and the Occupy Seattle protesters may send a contingent via caravan on Sunday or Monday morning. Washington Community Action Network, an umbrella for progressive groups, also is urging members to show up Monday. The WEA has a rally for public school and college faculty at noon on the West Campus.

Noon is also when the Senate and House are set to convene, after most parties in the two chambers hold caucuses at 10 a.m.

House Ways and Means, where the budget cutting discussions will start in a session designed to find some $2 billion in savings or new revenue in the state's $31 billion budget, starts at 1:30 p.m.

Ways and Means hearings always draw a large contingent of lobbyists. This time around, they're likely to draw an even bigger crowd

Labor unions to join “Occupy” protests

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Labor Council says it will  join with various local versions of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests next week.

The council is in line with national labor leaders who are praising the protests from New York City to Seattle and Spokane for “capturing the imagination and passion of millions of Americans who have lost  hope that our nation's policymakers are speaking for them.”

Unions are planning a “Week of Action” starting next Monday, and want to hook up with Occupy demonstrations for some joint efforts. They haven't yet announced an agenda for their coming week.

Occupy Spokane protests have all been peaceful so far, but Occupy Seattle demonstrations at the Westlake Park resulted in 25 arrests Wednesday after protesters refused a city order to remove their tents. The tents have come down and but protesters remain in the downtown park…

Irony alert on postal protest

This just in: Members of the postal unions and community supporters are planning a protest on Sept. 27 in every congressional district, asking the honorable congresspersons to do everything in their power to save the Postal Service.

That includes a demonstration outside Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office at 10 N. Post tomorrow from 4 to 5:30 p.m, the Washington Labor Council says.

And how did we find out about this? By e-mail.

So maybe we have a first-hand demonstration of what's at the heart of U.S. Postal Service's problem.

To be fair, the editors in Spokane mentioned that we did get a notice last week about the protest by mail. But we apparently only received one…perhaps postage was too expensive to send more?

Spec Sess Day 18: ‘Zombies’ protest budget

OLYMPIA — Budget protesters dressed as zombies marched on the Capitol Friday in a demonstration against cuts to social services.

Well, shuffled is probably more accurate. Zombies don't actually move very fast, and these zombies moved so slow that by the time they got to the Capitol steps, the House of Representatives had already approved cuts to a key social service program, the Disability Lifeline, and adjourned until Tuesday. The Senate was out all day.

No matter. They performed a bit of flash mob theater, with their own rendition of the Monster Mash, rewritten into “Monster Slash.” They brought their own saxophonist. The dance worked well. The chant — “What do we want? Brains. When do we want them? Brains.” — didn't.

(Don't tell me it's in keeping with zombies. Efficacy is more important than staying in character.)

Heather Duke, an Olympia resident who joined the group, said she doesn't usually take part in protests but is concerned about the budget cuts and thought this was worth joining.

“I liked the creative forces behind this. We need to be extra creative to get noticed in the face of well-paid lobbyists,” she said. “I hope this kind of action will spur other people.”

To read the rest of this post or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

WSU, UI students to protest lax immigration

Conservative student groups from Washington State University and University of Idaho say they plan to put up a chain-link fence on Terrell Mall today to protest illegal immigration.

The groups include College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty and Youth for Western Civilization. (The last sounds like a group that's a big fan of the college survey course that studies history, art and literature from Ancient Greece and Rome up through modern European and and American history…what a previous generation rather cavalierly used to call “dead white guys studies”. Probably not what they mean, though.)

Their press release says they expect a counter-demonstration from liberal student groups, although liberal groups have yet to announce any such activity with a press release of their own.

WA Lege Day 89: Senate wasn’t told of Thursday’s ‘lockdown’

OLYMPIA — State senators who left the Capitol for their offices or to grab a bite to eat during a break in floor action Thursday returned to find the building on a lockdown and closed to the public more than an hour after protesters were arrested outside the governor's office.

No one without a magnetic stripe key card that operates the automatic locks was immediately allowed in. That meant lobbyists, any legislator or staff member who'd left an ID card on a desk, and, of course the general public

That didn't sit well with Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane, who said she'd been at a meeting with the governor, General Administration and the State Patrol after the arrests and no one mentioned a lock down.Senate Democrats refused to resume floor action until the doors were unlocked.

Just because some people were disruptive doesn't mean everyone else interested in peacefully exercising their free speech rights should be locked out, Brown said.

The Legislature is heading into the final weeks of the session and Democrats would not be “conducting public business while the proceedings were closed to the public,” she said.

Friday morning Brown said she thinks the lines of communication between the Legislature and the governor's office were improved for anything that might be considered in response to today's protests.

WA Lege Day 89: Union rally and budget debate

Protesters gather near the World War I memorial on the state Capitol Campus Friday.

OLYMPIA — The last of four days of protests in and around the Capitol over a proposed “all-cut” budget will feature thousands of labor union members joining other demonstrators on the north steps at noon.

How many thousands isn't clear, but the steps were already filling up at 11 a.m., as buses dropped off more demonstrators on the Capitol campus. The unions brought their own “marshalls” to keep some semblance of order, and a healthy complement of state troopers is visible inside and outside the building.

Sometime this afternoon the House is expected to begin debate of the 2011-13 budget that demonstrators don't like. There are actually two budgets, the House Democrats' version that was reported out of the Ways and Means Committee, and the House Republicans' alternative, which the GOP will likely try to swap out through a striking amendment.

If there aren't other amendments as well, it would be a very rare budget indeed. All this is a way of saying that although the debate is scheduled to start today, it's not possible to predict whether it will finish today, too. The House is scheduled to be in session on Saturday as well.

Meanwhile, the Senate is running through a long list of appointments and bills that are not part of the budget.

WA Lege Day 88: Protesters arrested outside governor’s office

State troopers arrest Karen Washington, left, outside the governor's office Thursday.

OLYMPIA — Sixteen protesters were arrested outside the governor's office today in the third day of demonstrations against proposed budget cuts. Fifteen were cited for disorderly conduct and released, while one was also cited for assaulting two state troopers, and jailed.

Protesters swarmed into the Capitol Building around lunchtime, marched around the hallways outside the Senate and House chambers chanting slogans lilke “This is what democracy looks like” and “Who's house? Our house.”

Around 15 were ejected from the House gallery when they stood to speak to the legislators on the floor below. After escorting them out, however, Washington State Patrol officers released them without arrest.

About an hour later protesters gathered outside the governor's office on the floor below the legislative chambers. While some confronted a phalanx of troopers in front of the office doors, others pushed in from behind. Patrol officials warned them that they would be arrested if they did not step back; the ones who remained were arrested, mostly without incident.

They were taken to a room on the lower level of the Capitol, where a patrol spokesman said they would be cited and released unless they have other problems, such as outstanding warrants.

Karen Washington, a home health care worker from Spokane, was among protesters in the House gallery, and was later among those group arrested outside the governor's office.

She said she came from Spokane on a busload of protesters to try to convince legislators to close tax exemptions for some businesses instead of adopting an all-cuts budget. The group went into the gallery because “we knew they wouldn't be able to hear us” inside the House chambers. The chanting is significantly muffled inside the chamber because the doors to the chamber are thick, and walls are lined with marble on both sides.

Protesters have talked to some legislators, but don't feel like they're making much headway, Washington said. “When the legislators say 'Yes we know, but —' There is no 'But.”

More photos below.

WA Lege Day 87: Protesters settle in for night

OLYMPIA — About 100 protesters chanted into the evening in the Capitol Rotunda, ignoring a request to clear the building when it officially closed at 7 p.m.

There's no threat of arrest. The Washington State Patrol is prepared to stay the night if the protesters do. And some clearly plan to, because they've unrolled sleeping bags on the rotunda floor, right up to the seal of George Washington. Could be a long and noisy night.

WA Lege Day 87: Protesters don’t like either budget

OLYMPIA – As several hundred protesters chanted about corporate greed and demanded tax increases, House budget writers gathered to decide which of two plans to cut billions from state programs they would endorse.

The state’s budgeting process, which is facing serious time constraints as the Legislature slogged through Day 87 of its 105-day session, featured competing spending plans in the House. Republicans unveiled their alternative budget Wednesday afternoon, proposing more cuts from health insurance and disability programs but spends more on public schools.

To read the rest of this post, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Wa Lege Day 86: Rain dampens protests

Protesters gather on the north steps of the Capitol Tuesday at noon.

OLYMPIA — Tuesday is the start of several days of protests over proposed cuts in the state budget. Organizers had promised to bring a couple hundred to the Capital from around Olympia, but it seemed that the protesters at the noon rally could be counted in the dozens.

One problem may have been the weather, which was sometimes rainy, sometimes windy, and often times both.

Weather may not get much better the rest of the week. Unclear what that means for future demonstrations.

Groups promise large protests next week

OLYMPIA — A coalition of labor unions, church groups, social service workers and progressive organizations plan to bring thousands of protesters to the state capital next week for a series of escalating demonstrations against budget cuts.

They'll try to put pressure on state legislators, who are still struggling to write a general operating fund budget for 2011-13, to end some tax exemptions for businesses rather than cutting money for social services, health care and education.

They're calling it a Week of Action, although technically  against what they contend is “an immoral budget”.

It will start Tuesday with what organizers say could be a few hundred people from the Olympia area by a group calling itself Parents Organizing for Welfare and Economic Rights.

On Wednesday a group calling itself the Alliance for a Just Society will be bringing people from around the state to Olympia to demand adequate funding for education and health care.

As part of the demonstrations, mental health care workers in Western Washington will stage a one-day strike on Thursday, not against their employers but against the state, which provides the bulk of their pay.

“We will come to Olympia to picket the Legislature,” Jonathan Rosenblum of Service Employees International Union 1199 said. Arrangements will be made with employers to provide adequate care for patients with acute medical needs. They'll be joined by home health care workers and some of their clients, and some church groups.

On Friday, the Washington State Labor Council, state employees unions and community activists will stage a demonstration that they say could bring as many as 6,000 to the Capitol for a rallly.

A common thread will be the demand that the Legislature consider closing some tax exemptions — the demonstrators prefer the term loopholes — for businesses. “Our economy was trashed by billionaires and bankers,” Greg Devereaux of the state employees union said. But the Legislature is going balance the budget by cutting programs for the poor and for students, he said.

Some leaders of the upcoming demonstrations suggested a few tax exemptions that should go — breaks for corporate jets or country club dues — but nothing that would come near closing the $5.1 billion gap between projected revenues and the cost of all current programs. Some said they wouldn't touch the state's biggest tax exemption, the lack of a sales tax on  food and prescription drugs.

Ending tax exemptions would be difficult this year, legislators of both parties have said, because they are considered a tax increase and an initiative voters passed last November that requires a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.


FBI protest — of sorts — in Oly

Protesters carry a sign to the steps of the state Capitol.

OLYMPIA — About 50 people marched through the Capitol campus this evening to protest FBI “sweeps” of activists in Minneapolis and Chicago.

As protests in Olympia go, it wasn’t very big. And the signs, like the one above,left a bit to be desired, from a literary standpoint. Thanks to a bullhorn, however, it was at times loud.

They used some of the more common chants, like “The people, united, will never be defeated.” 

They ended with a verse from the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” You know, the one about going down to the demonstration,”to get my fair share of abuse.”

Which is a bit ironic, because no one here got any abuse. The state troopers watched from a respectful distance as they chanted from the steps of the Insurance Building, and the north side of the Legislative Building.

Medicaid money, protesting Israel: Wassup June 2

Gov. Chris Gregoire is in “the other Washington” today, where she’s talking with a Pentagon panel about states and feds working together if there’s a WMD-type incident. Other familiar faces on the panel are Maj. Gen. Timothy Lowenberg of the Washington National Guard, and former U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt.

Gregoire is also talking with federal officials about Medicaid funding amounts, which have yet to pass Congress but which form the ending fund balance in Washington’s 2009-11 biennial budget. Without the expected payment levels for the money, known as Federal Medical Assistance Percentages or FMAP, the state would have the rough equivalent of pocket change to carry over into the next biennium. 

In Spokane this evening, the Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane will be protesting Israel’s strike on the flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. They’ll be holdilng signs at Wellesley and Dviision (near Northtown) between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Elsewhere in Washington state, Democratic state Sen. Craig Pridemore is out of the congressional race to replace U.S. Rep. Brian Baird in  southwest Washington’s 3rd District. In an account in the The Olympian by Jordan Schrader, his withdrawal is partly a result of his inability to keep pace in raising money because of the “intense” pace of the special legislative session. If Pridemore thought the spec sess was intense…gotta wonder what he’d think of life in the U.S. House.

His departure leaves two Democrats, Cheryl Crist and Denny Heck, and two Republicans, David Castillo and Jaime Herrera, running hard.

And on a lighter note, Jon Stewart returns to take a look at the Gulf oil mess:

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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