I got up this morning, showered and put on my tartan tie. Then I headed down to the State Capitol, where I needed to be in order to attend a meeting between State Senate Telecommunications Committee staffers, Public Utility District representatives, Telecom lobbyists and ISP lobbyists. The focus of the meeting was to be clarifications to the law that allowed PUDs to wholesale data services over their fiber optic networks, allowing ISPs to take advantage of an “open network” that would remain non-discriminatory in their business practices. The original law stated that PUDs could only sell to wholesalers, and not “end users”, but some of them have a different interpretation of the law, and have been directly competing with ISPs and Telcos for customers using dubious inter-local agreements between municipalities and other entities.
After parking on the diag, I walked across campus to the Cherberg Office Building, where the meeting was to be held. Before I could get into the building, however, I noticed a small group of police talking to some crunchy hippie type people near the entrance to the old State Library. The people were there as part of an anti-war protest, and had used Kryptonite bike locks, placed around their necks to make a human chain, and had affixed themselves to one of the entrace doors above the fountain. The police seemed to be talking to them, but otherwise they didn’t seem to be causing any distraction. I believe they had just been discovered, and the majority of additional protesters (supporters) had not yet showed up. Having a meeting to go to, I walked to the entrance near the sundial (the only one open, due to increased security), and was told they building was “in lock down, we can’t let anyone in without an ID badge.” Of course, I didn’t just turn around, I asked them “What about my meeting, I’m supposed to be in hearing room 2 at 10:00 for the PUD meeting?” One of the security guards said “Oh, yeah, I think that’s ok then.” And they let me in.
Proceeding into the hearing room, where approximately three dozen others were taking seats, I noticed a police car arrive and park, (blocking three cars) near the window. As the meeting wore on, the shouts and sporadic chants of the crowd grew thunderous. A few minutes later, we hear someone scurrying about in the staff section of the hearing room, and I determine that the security guard is closing and locking windows. Apparently they waited to secure the windows during their “lockdown” until the warning was given that the police may use pepper spray to try and get the protesters to break up.
All throughout the meeting, I could see additional police arrive, and Legislative staffers were gathering on the stairway landings of the portable temporary building that houses the House and Senate while the Legislative building is under repair and renovation following last year’s earthquake.
As my meeting adjourned, I went outside to take a closer look, and to observe the actions and tactics of the police in this matter. I noticed that a large crowd of protesters (with signs and handouts) had gathered near the sundial to help support the seven or so who had locked themselves to the building.
The police had acquired a large “dremmel” type rotary tool, with what was probably a diamond tipped cutting disk. They proceeded to cut the bike locks off from the necks of protesters, one by one, as sparks showered directly onto the heads of the protesters. A few shouts from the crowd and the police provided a wool blanket to shield them. People were still heckling the police, my favorite comment from one of the protesters being, “Hey, we’ve also got some people who stole the election, and are illegally occupying the White House, can you go and remove them too?”
Soon after that, I hear a request emanating from near the police crowd who are nearly surrounding the protesters that had yet to been unchained, “we need water!”.
One local Olympia punker, riding a bicycle, threw their water bottle up there, thinking they’d done some good for the protester, their fellow human being.
The result of this humanitarian gesture? The police used the water to cool the shaft of the overheating cutting tool. I could tell the protester felt used by the police.
I didn’t see the need to remove these people, they weren’t blocking, were on the State Capitol grounds, (a traditional place of protests), and they weren’t harming themselves, nor could they harm others, considering they couldn’t even move. I’m sure they would have left within a few hours after lunch, as it wouldn’t have been comfortable in that position. Of course, I also don’t see the point of protesting at the State Senate, who has no power to decide these matters.
I am worried about the country I live in, and its future. And I’m worried that I have to be worried.