OLYMPIA – State officials asked Occupy Olympia protesters Friday to remove dozens of tents from a lakeside park, saying the makeshift community they’ve established is unsustainable.
The Department of Enterprise Services said there are escalating public safety concerns at Heritage Park. The Washington State Patrol has listed a variety of reported problems at the site, and authorities have arrested one person for assault and three people for possession of drug paraphernalia.
“We will work with those who want to express their views in the appropriate time, place and manner,” Joyce Turner, director of Enterprise Services, said in a statement. “But the current activity at Heritage Park is no longer sustainable.”
Occupy Olympia has formed itself into a miniature city, with regularly scheduled meetings, food services and first aid. A state-managed bathroom facility is in the park.
Protesters said they are formulating a response. Monte Katzenberger, a member of the group from nearby Lacey, Wash., said there have been no serious injuries at the park and that the group has a four-person security team monitoring the site during nighttime hours. He said the removal of shelters would be more of a safety concern because it would force the protesters to continue their stakeout without protection from the elements.
“What they are requesting us to do will cause more harm,” Katzenberger said.
The state has been trying to avoid any disputes or confrontations with protesters. The Occupy Wall Street effort has led to similar stakeouts in cities around the country, some of which have had skirmishes with authorities. Officials at Seattle Central Community College say they are getting fed up with the movement’s encampment at the school, estimating that the demonstration is costing it $20,000 a week.