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Spin Control: First week of the session featured tarpees and tourniquets

OLYMPIA – Environmental protesters set up “tarpees” on the lawn between the domed Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice during the first week of the session. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)
OLYMPIA – Environmental protesters set up “tarpees” on the lawn between the domed Legislative Building and the Temple of Justice during the first week of the session. (Jim Camden / The Spokesman-Review)

One never knows what one will stumble across at the Capitol when the Legislature is in session.

The first week of the session opened with ersatz teepees on the lawn between the domed Legislative Building and the Supreme Court building. It ended with about 100 people trying to protect their right to bear arms on the same steps that had been occupied a few days earlier by a couple of hundred people trying to protect their right to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

Technically, the conical structures on the lawn were “tarpees,” the first round of protesters said – they were shaped like teepees but had skins made of tarps. It’s also worth noting they were held up by milled lumber and fastened by brass decking screws.

One wonders what the Lakota and other Plains Indians – whose teepees were buffalo skins supported by lodge pole pines – would have thought of the tarpees, particularly the design modification replacing the flap at the top that allowed the smoke to flow out with a perch for protesters to sit on.

The tarpees were erected by Native American activists who want the state to respect the treaties that have been signed over the last century and a half, protect the Puget Sound, deny permits for a liquid natural gas facility being built in Tacoma and close down the net pens where Atlantic salmon are being raised. One of the structures stayed up until early Thursday morning. After several warnings by local law enforcement and state troopers, the one remaining tarpee was ordered evacuated. Janene Hampton, of the Colville Okanogan Tribe, refused to leave; she was arrested for trespassing, booked and released.

Thanks to nearly constant rain and lots of feet walking on the grass, the lawn where the tarpees had been set up pretty much turned into a quagmire by week’s end and was cordoned off in hopes that the grass would grow and no one would sink up to their ankles in the muck.

Meanwhile, in the hallways

Not all the unusual visitors were outside. On Wednesday, which was the first day without the pomp and circumstance of either Opening Day or State of the State Address Day, medical personnel set up dummies on tables in the hallways between the House and Senate doorways, stopping passers-by with the question:

“Can you stop the bleed?”

They weren’t being figurative, inquiring about some aspect of the state’s budget that is running through money faster than expected. They were talking about real bleeding and offering a quick course on the correct way to apply pressure to wounds and use a tourniquet.

Their tourniquets, with sliding cinches and Velcro fasteners, are light-years beyond the old Boy Scout manual first-aid tourniquet that consisted of your belt and a stick.

With stations set up all over the building, they gave lots of demonstrations as the day went on.

The doctors and nurses are hoping the Legislature will back efforts to teach training on stopping bleeding like we now teach CPR, and add supplies of gauze and tourniquets to first-aid boxes around the Capitol, and in other government buildings.

But it’s comforting to know that if the backstabbing and bloodletting gets too intense this session, we have people trained to respond.

Hey, what about us?

President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would consider oil and gas drilling off the Pacific Coast brought predictable pushback from Washington officials, many of whom have challenged almost every policy change from the new administration.

But the administration seemed to be begging for even more blowback when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided to knock Florida coastal waters off the list of places where more drilling leases will be considered.

Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both fired off letters to Zinke, and Murray followed up with a tweet. Gov. Jay Inslee joined California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a letter that asked the feds to leave the West Coast states out of any plans for more offshore drilling.

On Friday afternoon, Inslee said he had a phone conversation with Zinke, in which he contended West Coast folks deserve the same consideration as folks in Florida. The secretary “did not provide that commitment, unfortunately,” Inslee said.

The state “stands ready to provide any information about our coastline’s pristine natural beauty and the economic backbone it provides our communities,” Inslee said in a news release.

That may not be the information to prompt a change of heart. Now, if there was a chance that Republican candidates in 2018 or 2020 could reap some benefit from revising the list, that might help. But that’s not the kind of promise three Democratic governors and six Democratic senators from the West Coast states are likely to offer.