This afternoon, the Seattle police made good on their threat to arrest Occupy Seattle protesters if they did not pack up and remove their tents. The group, whose numbers have ballooned to about 200 protesters, was denied a permit from the City to continue occupying Westlake Park to promote their anti-corporate message and were warned at around 1:00 PM by the Parks Department to remove their tents from the park.
As the police approached around 2:00 pm, some of the protesters packed up their tents, but many did not, opting to remain in their tents to await arrest. The police circled around the remaining tents one by one and began removing the protesters inside, carrying some out on all fours to cheers from the crowd. (Among the first to be arrested was Pete, who told Publicola two days ago that interactions with the Mayor's office had thus far been "smooth sailing.")
The arrests took a rough turn when protesters began linking arms and forming a circular guard around several tents, forcing police to be more aggressive and push them away. Several protesters and cops were knocked down in the clash, prompting angry outcries from the Occupy Seattle supporters against police brutality but also calling for non-violent resistance.
Throughout the arrests, the Occupy Seattle crowd continued chanting against corporate greed ("Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!"), the overarching grievance driving all the Occupy protests. The protesters' reactions to the police ranged from hostile taunts ("Police, pigs, murderers!"), to friendly jests ("So can you see in 3-D with those glasses?) to attempts to highlight the class allegiance between working class police and the protesters ("We are the 99 percent—so are you!"). (The "99 Percent" riff is the Occupy Wall Street movement's tag line—a reference to the fact that one percent of Americans own 25 percent of the nation's income and 40 percent of the total wealth.)
Indeed, not all the interactions between police and Occupy Seattle were antagonistic. One young woman, wrapped in a green scarf and carrying a sign denouncing corporate actions as "economic terrorism," urged a policeman standing guard by a tent to rethink his occupation, telling him "we are protesting for you."
Another girl, 20 year old Keeja, chimed in, "Yeah, what do you like to do for fun? What are your passions in life?" to which the cop pantomimed swinging a golf club. (Keeja subsequently suggested that the cop switch to a career that more closely aligns with his hobby.)
Bystander Malcolm Taylor, a retiree from New Hampshire, was impressed with what he saw as the police's restraint. "In NYC or Boston, they would be hitting [those protesters] with batons and hosing them down," he explained.
Word is that the protesters plan on returning back to Westlake Park this evening, defying the City's orders.
The final tally of arrests (for this afternoon) is estimated to be around 10 to 15.
We have a request for a comment in to the mayor's office.
UPDATE: The Seattle Police released the following statement early this evening by Detective Jeff Kappel:
On October 5th Seattle Police encouraged demonstrators to remove tents from city property (Westlake Park). After numerous refusals to comply, officers arrested 25 demonstrators.
Of the 25 arrests, there were 21 adult males, two adult females, and two juvenile females.
Sixteen demonstrators were interviewed and released from the West Precinct. Those 16 cases will be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office with a request for charges of Obstructing a Public Officer.
Nine demonstrators were booked into the King County Jail for Obstructing a Public Officer.
Officers from various Seattle Police units were utilized for this event: uniformed patrol, mounted patrol, foot beat, bicycle and traffic officers.
The deployment of horses (the Mounted Patrol) allowed officers to move and move through the demonstrators in a peaceful manner.
Photos by Lummy Lin.