By Ian Finkenbinder
At the time of this writing the dedicated protesters of Occupy Seattle are preparing to lose their space. Dozens of tents have already come down and work groups have moved their essential materiel off-site, preparing for the inevitable official action that will take place tomorrow afternoon at Seattle Central Community College.
Occupy Seattle lost its injunction preventing SCCC from evicting the encampment, with the presiding judge insisting that the First Amendment protects free speech, but does not protect round-the-clock protests. The Occupation was served with a 72-hour eviction notice that takes effect this Friday.
A core group of Occupiers are prepared to stand by to symbolically defend the space from being retaken by police and school security officials, with support from students in the form of a “Solidarity Circle” taking place at 2:30 PM. It is unclear what action police will take in order to remove the protesters, however an e-mail which some are interpreting as a veiled threat against continued occupation was blasted out to students and faculty in the Seattle Community College District. Chancellor Jill Wakefield writes:
“Throughout the last few weeks, we have kept appropriate authorities and agencies apprised of the situation on the campus. Starting Friday, we will be working more closely with them to determine appropriate next steps. Some of the campers have already left the grounds. Everyone wants to see this situation resolved peacefully, but it is up to Occupy Seattle to make this happen.”
This ominous-sounding paragraph has been taken by many, this reporter included, as a threat of police force should Occupiers attempt to stay in the space on the south end of Seattle Central. Perhaps it should be reminded to the powers-that-be that this has been a non-violent movement from the get-go. Any violence that occurs will not occur on the behest of protesters, but will instead be the prerogative of the authorities “in control” of the situation tomorrow.
In essence, Occupiers are merely attempting to uphold their right to freely assemble. Should pepper spray, police batons, or tear gas be used, or any other extreme action be taken, it will not be “up to Occupy Seattle to make this happen.” It is squarely on the shoulders of the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Central Community College’s administration how tomorrow’s action proceeds.
[UPDATE] From The American Federation of Teachers, Seattle Local 1789
AFT Seattle calls for non-violence as Occupy Seattle departs Seattle Central Community College
On October 29th, Occupy Seattle occupied Seattle Central Community College. The American Federation of Teachers, Seattle Local 1789, welcomed the protestors, recognizing that the students and employees of the Seattle Community Colleges are the 99% and are losing ground economically due to the wealth and income gap in the U.S. “The concentration of wealth in the hands of few, the 1%, has resulted in less revenue at both the state and federal level as well as a lesser commitment to the public good,” says Karen Strickland, president of the Seattle Community Colleges faculty union, which represents nearly 1000 faculty in Seattle.
Occupy Seattle has been evicted from the campus by the College Administration and will be relocating over the weekend. As the people from the encampment depart, AFT hopes that both the Seattle Police Department and members of OS will commit to a peaceful event. We recognize that some protestors may choose to remain as an act of civil disobedience; we recognize that the SPD has the legal authority to remove those in violation of the “no camping” emergency rule. Should this occur, we appeal to SPD to conduct this operation in a way commensurate with reason and humanity, and refrain from using pepper spray or other chemicals on non-threatening protestors who are exercising their rights to peaceable assembly and freedom of speech.
AFT Seattle believes that the presence of Occupy Seattle has positively impacted the campus community, fostering critical conversations that would otherwise not have happened. Students and faculty have engaged in powerful dialogue about the state of our economy, society, and democracy in informal conversations, teach-ins, and formal course curricula. Faculty and students have been mobilized to go to Olympia to challenge the proposed 13% additional cut to community colleges, which profoundly affects our mission to serve students. Moreover, the presence of Occupy Seattle has made visible the realities faced by many in our Capitol Hill neighborhood, such as homelessness, substance abuse and mental illness. Just like the de-funding of public higher education, these are problems that have been exacerbated by the current economic instability in the U.S.
While AFT Seattle recognizes that some students and faculty have been uncomfortable with the specter of tents, port-a-potties and a community encamped on the south lawn, it is also clear that meaningful change in our economic system won’t change without discomfort. The Occupation has elevated the needs of the 99% and demanded that we take seriously the causes and the consequences of increasing economic disparity in our city, state, and country. Promoting economic justice is a goal that is core to the mission of the Seattle community colleges.
As Occupy Seattle departs the campus over the weekend, faculty of Seattle Central will conduct teach-ins. As the eviction deadline approaches, student organizers, along with members of the local faith community and labor leaders, will be present to support a non-violent resolution to the Occupation
AFT Seattle will continue supporting the goals of the Occupy Movement, most recently passing a resolution calling for AFT Seattle, the SCCD and other employers and unions in the state to establish business practices that commit to economic justice, such as banking at credit unions or socially responsible banks and purchasing goods from socially responsible companies.