OLYMPIA – Sixteen protesters were arrested in Washington’s Capitol outside the governor’s office Thursday in the third day of demonstrations over proposed cuts to state spending.
Fifteen, including three from Spokane, were cited for disorderly conduct and released a short time later. One was also cited for assaulting two Washington State Patrol troopers during the arrests, and jailed.
Karen Washington, a home health care worker from Spokane among the 15 cited and released, said she was part of a busload of protesters who came to Olympia in an effort to persuade legislators to end tax exemptions and collect more revenue rather than adopt an “all-cuts” budget that slashes programs.
The protesters streamed into the Capitol at lunchtime and marched through the halls outside the Senate and House chambers, chanting “Whose house? Our house” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
Washington said she was one of about 15 protesters who went into the House gallery during a floor debate on legislation in an attempt to talk to the representatives below. When the first protester stood to speak, the group was ordered out by state troopers but not arrested.
They went into the gallery because “we knew they wouldn’t be able to hear us” inside the House chambers, she said. The thick wooden doors and the marble-lined walls muffle the sounds inside.
Even legislators sympathetic to the protesters’ issues say it’s unlikely that any tax increase can muster the required two-thirds majority in both houses. But Rep. Timm Ormsby, D-Spokane, said the demonstrations taking place in the midst of budget debates “create a positive tension on the Legislature.” They also help the demonstrators make the connection between what’s happening in their lives and what’s going on in Olympia, he said.
About an hour after being ejected from the gallery, Washington stood in the stairwell outside the governor’s office. She said she and other protesters had talked to some individual legislators about calling for tax hikes rather than program cuts, but don’t feel like they’re making much headway: “The legislators listen and say, ‘Yes we know, but…’ There is no ‘but.’ This is about people.”
About that time, demonstrators began to crowd toward the governor’s office and Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste ordered them to move back or face arrest. Washington joined other health care workers in the crowd, was arrested and was led away without incident.