Cleanup of an 11-day protest in downtown Olympia over the shipment of fracking materials cost the city about $40,000, according to City Manager Steve Hall. Port Commissioner E.J. Zita wants the Port of Olympia to foot at least part of that bill.
The city hauled away 15 tons of garbage and debris from the protest site in five 30-yard dumpsters on Nov. 29. The landfill bill alone cost about $1,800. Weapons – knives and sharpened pieces of metal – and used syringes were found in the debris, Hall said.
The city also painted over a large amount of graffiti on nearby buildings.
The Olympia Police Department’s overtime cost the city about $21,000, and the city spent another nearly $18,000 to pay on-duty police officers responding to the protest.
The $40,000 estimate covers only the city’s portion of the response.
Union Pacific Railroad police and the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office entered the camp itself, but the protesters were already gone. The railroad paid for cleanup of the tracks, Hall said.
Zita explained at a Wednesday afternoon Port of Olympia Commission meeting that the agency has in the past reimbursed the city of Olympia for its response to protests. About a decade ago, the port paid the city $70,000 for its response to a protest over military shipments.
“The city keeps turning up for us, even though our cargo is against their policy,” Zita said, referencing a 2014 Olympia City Council resolution opposing the Port of Olympia’s decision to allow fracking sands to be shipped through the port.
But Commissioner Bill McGregor said he is opposed to reimbursing the city. He argued it would be ridiculous to expect the entity being protested to pay the police bill.
He also criticized the police response, saying that protesters should have been arrested.
“I think that’s a travesty,” McGregor said. “I think we need to arrest people when they do those kinds of things.”
Commissioner Joe Downing didn’t say whether he’d ultimately support the port reimbursing the city, but, he said, law enforcement agencies that want reimbursement need to ask for it.
He added the port does pay taxes, so it’s reasonable to expect an Olympia Police Department response.
“I think that police protection is not a gift,” Downing said. “It’s more like a mandate than a gift.”
Downing said he hopes to find ways to avoid such protests in the future.
Meanwhile, several local officials have spoken out against the protest.
Arnold Cooper, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe, sent a letter on Dec. 1 to the Port of Olympia Commission and the Olympia City Council stating that the tribe does not support Olympia Stand, the group that organized the protest.
“Please be aware that Olympia Stand does not represent the interests or agenda of the Squaxin Island Tribe, nor is Olympia Stand affiliated with the Tribe,” the letter reads.
“Additionally, the Squaxin Island Tribe does not associate with advocacy groups that use force, intimidation, or cause damage to personal or public property. The Tribe does not support the blocking of the Port of Olympia by Olympia Stand and other protesters, nor does it condone harassment of police or other government officials as a means to further its purposes.”
Members of the Olympia City Council again voiced their disapproval for the protest at a Tuesday night meeting.
“How can we as a community re-learn how to do non-violent, non-destructive protests?” asked Councilman Jim Cooper.
He noted that the protest was supposed to be about an environmental issue – fracking – yet the protesters left 15 tons of waste on city property.
“Stick to your message and learn how to do this correctly,” Cooper said. “Because this isn’t helpful.”
Councilwoman Jeannine Roe added that the Olympia residents who supported the protest should have helped to clean up, and Councilwoman Julie Hankins said that Olympia needs to have a discussion about what is and isn’t acceptable.
Last week, the council urged the Port of Olympia to reconsider its policy of allowing fracking sand shipments. Port officials have said on several occasions that the agency’s hands are tied by federal regulations.
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