Some budget protesters spend night at the Capitol
A rally to urge state lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes, rather than cut back health care, social services and education, started with hundreds of protesters, then turned into a sleepover for about six dozen in the state Capitol Wednesday night.
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
Protest inside Washington State Capitol
Joshua Welter of Washington Community Action Network
OLYMPIA — A rally to urge state lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes, rather than cut back health care, social services and education, started with hundreds of protesters, then turned into a sleepover for about six dozen in the state Capitol Wednesday night.
"Our goal today was to disrupt business as usual because obviously we've marched and rallied, and we're still seeing more and more cuts," said Fatima Morales, a spokeswoman for the Washington Community Action Network, which helped bring together more than three dozen advocacy groups.
Called Community Action Day, the rally marked the second day of the Washington State Labor Council's week of action in Olympia.
Washington state is facing a $5 billion budget deficit. Earlier this week, House lawmakers rolled out their budget proposal that included mostly cost-cutting measures. Senators will follow next week with their budget proposals.
Lawmakers have argued that closing tax loopholes and raising taxes would be difficult because a two-thirds vote in both chambers is required under Tim Eyman's Initiative 1053.
During the day, Wednesday, about a dozen Washington State Patrol officers kept an eye on the protesters, telling them to keep the noise down and stay off the grass.
By Wednesday night, the number of protesters dwindled from about 400 to the six dozen people who spread out air mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor of the Capitol rotunda intending to spend the night.
By 7 p.m., Washington State Patrol officers weren't letting any more protesters into the Capitol building. An hour later, they asked the protesters to leave the building but did not insist.
"If you are choosing to stay in the building to wait for us to arrest you, we are not going to do that," said Washington State Patrol Lt. Mark Arras to the protesters at around 8 p.m. "Please help keep our house clean, please work with us, and we will work with you."
The protesters continued to chant and clap.
Wednesday's rally began in the rotunda of the state Capitol where members of groups such as OneAmerica and Unite Here Local 8 chanted, "Hey hey, ho corporate greed has got to go," and waved banners and signs that read "End Tax Loopholes."
The protesters then marched into the John L. O'Brien Building during a House Ways and Means Committee meeting still chanting and clapping.
Morales, who planned to spend the night in the Capitol herself, said the overnight stay was to maintain pressure on lawmakers.
"The goal of staying overnight is for us to be a constant presence to show lawmakers that we mean business — that we'll be here in the morning, we were here before they left," she said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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