Seattle Central to oust Occupy protesters
Occupy Seattle is running out of time at its current headquarters on the Seattle Central Community College campus after a college board voted Wednesday to oust them.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Occupy Seattle is running out of time at its headquarters on the Seattle Central Community College campus after a college board voted Wednesday to oust them.
Later Wednesday, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered that no eviction could occur until after a hearing Dec. 2, according to documents provided by the protesters.
More than 100 campers have been living in tents on the campus since Oct. 29, and college administrators say health-department concerns, human waste, lawlessness, drug use and a sense that students are unsafe prompted them to approve an emergency rule against camping or protesting overnight.
"We're not set up to accommodate a camping group such as this," said Seattle Central President Paul Killpatrick. A student recently dropped out, saying she felt unsafe going to class, he said, "and I agree. It is not safe to be on our campus."
Killpatrick said he supports Occupy Seattle's political message, but a report Friday about an attempted sexual assault at the site was "the last straw."
Before Judge Lisa Sutton granted Occupy Seattle's request to temporarily block the eviction, the college said it planned to issue a 72-hour eviction notice to the encampment early next week. Administrators stressed they wanted to work with protesters on a plan for leaving.
Like groups elsewhere, Seattle's Occupy movement is staying in the media spotlight by clashing with police and other authorities. A permitted City Hall site where limited camping is allowed has been mostly vacant for two months.
The college never welcomed protesters with open arms. They moved to campus after Seattle police forced them out of Westlake Park, where they had been trying to occupy Seattle's central shopping district.
The college board's decision comes as Occupy Seattle gears up for a weekend of national demonstrations against consumerism on Black Friday, the year's biggest shopping day. Among the local plans: a road trip to protest at the Renton Walmart and a noon-to-5 p.m. event at Westlake Park, where protesters will mix with hordes of shoppers.
Protesters and students packed a Seattle Community College District Board of Trustees emergency meeting Wednesday. During the 15 minutes of public comment, almost every speaker supported the encampment.
"I'm really concerned about how these people — mostly young people — have been demeaned since coming here," said Colleen Roman, a 51-year-old Central student who said she had recently been laid off from her job. The protesters are fighting the same state budget cuts and other problems the college opposes, she said, adding: "I feel like they're out there in the cold for me."
Demonstrators told college administrators they are working on sanitation and safety problems. "To simply dismiss us because of a handful of flaws ... would be rather foolish," said another protester, Thomas Patton.
But members of the college governing board said the encampment has become problematic. The emergency rule the board approved unanimously Wednesday will be in effect for 120 days. In the meantime, the board is working on a more permanent ban.
Despite logistical disagreements about protest methods, the Occupy movement has supporters on the liberal Capitol Hill campus. Even as they voted to evict protesters, board members and administrators stressed that people could still protest on campus.
Community-colleges Chancellor Jill Wakefield said she wants to do away with on-campus camping while maintaining people's First Amendment rights.
"At Central's core is a culture of activism," she said.
Zack Robertson, the Central student-body president, said the student government agreed with administrators: "Although we are largely supportive of the movement, we are very concerned about its presence on our campus."
But his allegiances were obviously mixed: He was the only one at the table with a "99%" sticker on his jacket — a symbol of the movement's assertion that money and power resides with the top 1 percent.
Staff reporter Brian M. Rosenthal contributed to this report. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.
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