Thursday, December 15, 2011

Selections from Occupy Seattle Weekly Issue 3

Issue 3, 11.20.11 - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Effective Marches, the Messy Business of Camping, and the Pepper-Sprayed Face of Dorli Rainey

The Good
This week was filled with fantastic events and demonstrations:  

  • Tuesday night’s extensively pepper-sprayed and photographed march in Belltown
  • Dr. Cornel West’s rousing speech at camp on Wednesday
  • Thursday’s labor-led march and occupation of the University Bridge
  • Fridays’ march to the Police Accountability Office with speeches by two of Seattle’s new pepper spray icons, 84-year old Dorli Rainey and Reverend Rich Lang
  • and the “Rise and Decolonize, Let’s Get Free!” concert and rally hosted by Hip Hop Occupies in Westlake Park on Friday night.
These peaceful rallies and direct actions kept Occupiers and allies motivated and square in the media limelight. Keep it up everybody!

The Bad
While Occupy Seattle’s demonstrations have been effective, camp hygiene has not. Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported on letters issued by King County Public Health and the Chamber of Commerce regarding the public health hazard they perceive that the camp has become.  The list of issues can be found here, but main groupings of concerns are: 
  • food borne illness risk factors
  • communicable disease risks
  • unstable structures with limited fire safety planning or access
  • reports of drug dealing and illicit drug use
  • sewage and waste water not properly disposed of
  • waste water disposal into storm drains
  • no effective hygiene facilties
  • uncontrolled dogs defecating and urinating
  • rodent activity
  • discarded/used syringes and needles on the ground
Some of these issues are almost impossible for OS to address – where else can water be poured out in a camp on a street corner but down a stormdrain? And how on earth do you build proper hygiene facilities without access to water main and sewer hookups?  

That said, there are plenty of things on that list that Occupy Seattle can take care of. It’s totally doable to create better pedestrian access into and out of camp, ensuring dogs go to the bathroom outside of camp and their poo is picked up, and do daily sweeps for trash and discarded signs.  Even though some of these issues (like needles and rats) already existed before Occupy Seattle moved in, it’s in OS’s best interest to take care of them for their own sake.

In the letter addressing the Occupy Seattle encampment, Michael Wells of the Broadway Business Improvement District and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce writes:

“While many of the businesses are sympathetic with the Occupy movement (75% of Broadway BIA members are small, locally owned businesses) these sanitation and safety concerns are very troubling…We would like to see occupy Seattle address the health and safety concerns around the encampment immediately.” 

Occupy Seattle should also find these health and safety issues very troubling: not only are they bad for the neighborhood, they’re bad for the campers.

11/17 - Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is preparing to file 1st degree trespass charges against five protesters arrested during an Occupy Seattle takeover of a Chase Bank on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, November 2nd. (Publicola, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog)

11/19 - The State Attorney General's office drafted an emergency rule that would create a 120-day window for removing the Occupy Seattle encampment from the Seattle Central campus.  The draft says the college needs to take action because of unsafe conditions at OS camp, including syringes and needles on the ground, drug and alcohol use, lack of hygiene facilities and other risk factors near the college child-care center. (Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Seattle Times)

The Ugly (But in the end, also good)

Josh Trujillo of the Seattle PI’s now iconic picture of Dorli Rainey just after she was pepper-sprayed by Seattle police at a peaceful demonstration

Seattle’s mace sodden Wall St. March earlier this week seemed to be a culmination in local police’s willingness to use extremely painful but so far nonlethal force against peaceful protestors. However, this pain and conflict brought with it a boon – the picture of 84-year-old lifelong activist Dorli Rainey’s pepper-sprayed face, and story about police brutality so blatant, well-witnessed, and unprovoked it was impossible to ignore.

This picture was soon followed by images of a young woman being sprayed directly in the mouth with pepper-spray by the Portland PD and a peaceful sit-in of UC Davis students assaulted with mace by police called in by the dean. Images like this bring desperately needed attention to the twin crises of police brutality and the suppression of 1st amendment rights, problems common to Occupiers across the country.

In Seattle’s case, we got another gift – an excellent spokesperson. Not only does Dorli Rainey appear to be a nice old lady, she’s also quite eloquent and has been an activist since she escaped from Nazi Germany as a girl. Thanks for that, Josh Trujillo and the Seattle Police Department.

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