"We Turned into a Homeless Camp. We Scared Away the Occupiers."

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee November 28, 2011

As Occupy Seattle protesters descend on Olympia just days after being booted by Seattle Central Community College, (SCCC) a dwindling group of protesters are still camped out at City Hall, awaiting an influx of protesters that might not come.

The City Hall camp's occupier-of-record, Michael Dare—the group's official permit holder—was one of the few people to take Mayor Mike McGinn up on his offer to bring the Occupy protests to City Hall, which was resoundingly rejected by the majority of Occupy Seattle. Now, with Occupy's main camp facing eviction from SCCC, Dare and his group of less-than-a-dozen protesters suddenly look like the practical activists.

Dare spoke with PubliCola about why he's one of the few holdouts down at City Hall, and some of the problems the movement is facing.

Dare—an old-school lefty who's worked on Hempfest, was previously a writer for the LA Weekly, and had his life turned into a TV movie starring  Scott Bakula—says he's been with Occupy from "day one" at Westlake Plaza, and describes himself as a "rudder" and "not a leader" at the City Hall camp.

After clashes with police at Westlake sent most of the protesters packing up to Seattle Central Community College on Capitol Hill in October, Dare and another small band of Occupiers took the city up on its invite to camp on City Hall Plaza. "None of the other occupy movements were invited to city hall," he says. "The movement has splintered. There are those of us who think we're traitors " for accepting the mayor's offer.

Dare now describes the small City Hall camp has become "more of an operations center than a protest site" after Occupy City Hall got off to a rough start. "We turned into a homeless camp [at City Hall]. We scared away the occupiers," he says, adding: "The homeless are part of the 99 percent."

Upon reflection, Dare thinks that may have sent the troops to SCCC. "None of us signed up to run a homeless camp. That was a major distraction."

Dare says his group at City Hall is now focused on "lending support" to the SCCC camp, which is preparing for eviction from SCCC. "There's a bunch of rabble rousers who, whether deliberately or not, are potentially screwing it up for everybody," Dare says.

We asked the capitol hill camp what they thought of Dare's assesment and have yet to hear back.

Following the group's eviction, Dare says he's ready to absorb more Occupiers into his camp. "I’ve been expecting that to happen," he says."I personally would welcome them to camp in the plaza. The question would be whether they can live with the rules of city hall."

Dare says his small band of protesters is packed up and out of City Hall Plaza by 7am every day, and doesn't return to until 8 pm. "If they can live with that, they can come to city hall," he says.

When asked how long he plans to stay at City Hall, despite the fact that he has fewer than dozen protesters in his group, Dare says, "The mayor’s offer for us to Occupy city hall is open ended. We’re here until this ends and things change. I’m certainly ready to make it through the winter. I’ve got a very nice tent."

And when does Occupy City Hall declare victory?

"It's a lot easier to define what we're opposed to than what we're for," Dare says. "As long as we have a common enemy it's not that important to [say] what we want. It's a lot like the viaduct. You figure out what to do to replace, and then systematically take it down. Which is precisely what we have to do with government."
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