War protest joins movement at Westlake Park
Local labor leaders threw their support behind the Occupy Seattle movement Thursday, boosting morale a day after 25 protesters were arrested.
Seattle Times staff reporters
About 250 protesters marched from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle Friday afternoon to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.
Led by two drummers and marchers holding a long yellow banner that said, "End the War Now," protesters left Seattle Central Community College and walked down Pine Street a dozen or so blocks to Westlake Park.
They were escorted by police on motorcycles and bicycles and arrived at the park shortly after 5 p.m.
"We are sick and tired of war," said protest organizer Jane Cutter, holding a megaphone. Several veterans, young and old, criticized U.S. military actions across the globe.
"I joined the war and it turned me into an anarchist," said one woman, who declined to give her name, but said she joined the Army in 1993 right out of high school.
The anti-war protesters held a rally at the north end of the park, while another 200 or so people at the south end were taking part in the "Occupy Seattle" movement.
The two groups inevitably mixed, with some at the anti-war rally holding signs such as, "Honk if you think people are more important than profit."
Police declined to estimate the number of people who took part in the rally. There were no arrests, and traffic was stopped briefly at some intersections.
Earlier in the day, a couple of dozen union members joined the "Occupy Seattle" protest rally at midday Friday.
Protesters loudly cheered after comments by Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council, who told the crowd, "Your fight is our fight. We are tired of the wealth in this country going only to the top 1 percent."She said working men and women support the efforts to "bring social and economic justice back to this country."
David Westberg, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 609, spoke of how many people are facing economic hard times.
"We are experiencing the same things these people are experiencing," he said referring to the protesters. "I have people who every day are just one paycheck away from poverty."
Local labor leaders have said union members would join the Occupy Seattle movement again on Saturday.
The labor leaders threw their support behind the Occupy Seattle movement Thursday, boosting morale a day after 25 protesters were arrested. Top union members visited Westlake to let protesters know they share a similar view: The economy isn't fair and more jobs are needed.
"It's their movement, but it's our message," said Kathy Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Labor Council, which represents 750 local unions.
The labor group also has asked members to drop off bottled water and ready-to-eat packaged foods at the council's office, Cummings said.
Mayor Mike McGinn on Thursday said protesters could have an "organizing tent" that could remain overnight, but said protesters would have to allow the park to be cleaned and promise to protect park property while allowing others access to businesses.
McGinn also said the city would allow protesters to stay overnight at City Hall Plaza, with "reasonable restrictions" on tents so that people could use the plaza during the day. City Hall has restrooms, he noted, while Westlake doesn't.
Protesters would be allowed to use the plaza for two weeks, the mayor said.
At one point, more than 200 people had joined the protest, which began Saturday and is part of the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York. Protests were also continuing in other cities, including Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia, Wenatchee and Yakima. In Portland, as many as 5,000 people marched to the downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday.
The movement is protesting, among other things, "corporate greed" and policies that protesters say benefit the wealthiest 1 percent of the country.
On Thursday morning, a day after Seattle police cleared Westlake Park of tents, only about 50 protesters remained. An estimated 30 had spent the night in sleeping bags, in boxes lined with aluminum foil and in other makeshift shelters that replaced the now-banned tents.
Numbers had grown to more than 100 Thursday evening, and protesters predicted about 70 would spend the night, partly due to less rain.
Dewey Potter, spokeswoman for Seattle Parks and Recreation, said protesters have been told that they can seek a permit for a food tent and a first-aid tent.
On Wednesday, Seattle police arrested 25 people for refusing to dismantle tents. Sixteen were detained at the West Precinct police station and then released, while the remaining nine were booked into the King County Jail, the City Attorney's Office said.
On Thursday, eight protesters were charged with obstructing a law-enforcement officer — a gross misdemeanor. All eight were released on the condition they do not return to Westlake Park.
A ninth protester who was arrested was released without being charged. A pretrial hearing was set for Nov. 14 in Seattle Municipal Court.
City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement that only those who refused to be arrested peacefully were booked into jail. He said he respected the First Amendment rights of the demonstrators.
Seattle Times' staff reporters Christine Clarridge and Jennifer Sullivan contributed to this report, which includes material from Times' archives. Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or email@example.com and Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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