Occupy Seattle protests take over Westlake Center

Photo courtesy of Chad NelsonSince the Occupy protest movement started in Wall Street in late September, it has spread to over 1000 cities across the nation, including Spokane and Seattle. Occupy Seattle began two weeks ago and has gathered hundreds of young people to its cause.

The protests involved in this national movement have agreed upon a document stating their purpose and demands, which highlights perceived injustice of a government that they say is corrupted by money.

Occupy Seattle’s websites says that the main goal of the protests is to “focus elected officials and the voting public on the majority’s desire to take out government and country back from the big money interests that currently hold undue sway over decisions affecting us all.”

However, protesters have also used the Occupy Seattle forum as a way to present displeasure with corporate bailouts, unemployment rates, and taxes favoring the rich.

The Occupy movement’s style of protest is predominantly peaceful, though rallies and lawful occupations – setting up small tents in public buildings to draw attention to their messages.

The Occupy Seattle protesters originally planned to move into the Westlake Center but were shut down by police. They then set up in Westlake Park, sleeping without tents when tents were banned, but were evicted from there when the Mayor said that he intended the park rules to be enforced. Currently the majority of the group is sleeping in the City Hall and protesting in the Westlake Center, though some are remaining in the park without tents.

On Wednesday, many students from the UW joined the protest group, marching against the university’s acceptance of more international and out-of-state students to gain money from the extra tuition. Other college students had their own reasons for joining; Mark Engle, student at UW, believes money has distorted politics and wants to see a reform. Engle was part of successful protests in Berlin, and he believes in the power of peaceful protest to bring about change.

There were initial fears that the widespread arrests of over 700 protesters which took place in Occupy Wall Street would continue into Seattle; at first the small police force kept mostly to the background, but more recently 35 protesters have been arrested and charged with trespassing and other misdemeanors for refusing to remove their tents from the Westlake Park.

Occupy Seattle makes decisions in full democratic style, meeting in a group called the General Assembly. After the General Assembly voted on the terms, the protesters issued a proposal to Mayor McGinn stating that they wanted tents in the City Hall and unlimited access to the meeting rooms on the first floor. They also demanded a written statement from McGinn saying that the protest group could occupy the City Hall indefinitely, and for the mayor to meet with representatives elected by the General Assembly to discuss further terms.

The Occupy movement has spread so wide and so fast that it has drawn comments not only from President Obama, but from international leaders as well. An Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the wave of protests reflects a serious crisis that will ultimately topple American capitalism.

The group meets for General Assembly every day and protests at varied venues besides their continued occupation of the City Hall and the Westlake Center. For example, on Saturday the 22 at 2 pm, the group is marching to protest police brutality.

More information on the group, its origins, its message, and upcoming protests can be found at http://www.occupyseattle.org./