Mayor Mike McGinn
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave., 7th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
January 12, 2012
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave., The Peninsula
Seattle, WA 98104
Occupy Seattle has been occupying your front doorstep at City Hall for three months now, the longest permitted occupation in America so I'm told, which is something we have to be proud of. Though some of Occupy's clashes with the police have been horrendous, Occupy City Hall, simply through attrition, has become a role model for occupy/anything, which is strange because we haven't really done anything other than outlast the rest. That's about to end as our permit will not be renewed and we have to be out by Friday night.
Since your invitation was open ended, I'm wondering what happened this week for the city to withdraw its permission for us to occupy our small slice of City Hall. It seems capricious, unless you also consider that the only other Occupy site in town, a house on 23rd, was also shut down this week. When the trucks come to remove whatever's left of our encampment at City Hall at 7AM this Saturday morning, that will be the last remaining Occupy site in Seattle since it all started in October. The message has changed from "we'll work with you" to "we'll squash you like a bug."
There's a reason we need a presence in city hall. Everyone in the movement is grateful for the lip service of Nick Licata's resolution 31337 in favor of the basic principles of Occupy Wall Street, which passed the city council unanimously and was signed by you, but a quick scan of the contents reveal that nothing you support has actually been done. When exactly has the City of Seattle actively addressed and come up with plans to immediately modify the "sustained unemployment, growing income disparity, banking system failures, stalled earning power, unjust tax systems, and corporate influence in politics" that this resolution calls for? Maybe I missed it when some bankster was arrested for fraud or some politician volunteered to refuse to accept any corporate contributions, or when any sweet tax deal on a local corporation was rescinded. I certainly wasn't there when our rights to free speech were expanded instead of contracted. I know it's only been three months, but that's been long enough for numerous other cities to declare that corporations aren't people. Why hasn't Seattle?
That's why we need to Occupy City Hall.
Mr. Mayor, please step out on your balcony and look down at the plaza. What do you see? You see the Puget Sound in between skyscrapers, the cranes, the courthouse, the county administration, the jail, and the walkway in the sky from the jail to the courthouse, with Rainier right behind. What you don't see is the homeless shelter in the basement of city hall. You don't have to be reminded of the underprivileged unless you look to your left at the peninsula, where there's a hopeless frankentent of tarps and twine belonging to the 99%, a homeless shelter on higher ground. That's what we're doing here. The homeless movement and the 99% are joined at the hip and they are ours. We have nowhere else to go. We're here to remind you. You need to be reminded. That's what we need to Occupy City Hall.
I've been told our permit is not to be renewed due to, among other things, lack of activity. As a peacemaker, I should consider it a compliment that I've kept things calm. As a member of the Occupy movement who is willing to work with the system to achieve our goals, goals I believe we both share, our relationship has served as a gauge between the forces of revolution and the powers that be. The very little steam that has been let out at City Hall has kept the pressure down. That's why we need to Occupy City Hall.
Look down now and you see some homeless people who've moved up in the world, from the streets to the peninsula, taking on the sacred duty of simply reminding you that the Occupy Movement has not gone away, we're just the hardy ones willing to camp out all winter, and like a garden, the movement is growing roots, strong roots, roots strong enough to support a mighty political tsunami that will rock this country to its core when it's reborn this spring with greater focus, lucid organization, common goals, and bigger numbers. Is that what it takes? Do we have to gather greater numbers than the entire Seattle Police Department to convince you that policing isn't the answer we're looking for?
Nobody has gone away. We've just retreated to get our bearing, to refocus and learn from our mistakes. The Occupy Movement is a rapidly evolving social experiment unprecedented in history. Never before have so many smart techies kept the waters roiling with activity throughout the globe and, well, it's winter, so we're staying indoors, but online, right now, the decisions are being made that will make the rebirth in spring a miraculous thing. The biggest question will be how to translate the initial Wall Street rhetoric of the movement to specific local action. We camp out on your doorstep and demand you show us any any actual evidence of systemic change in the City of Seattle that has come about due to the Occupy Movement.
Nobody is in control. Occupy is anarchistic at its core, full of splinter groups, like mine, or the anarchists recently thrown out of their house on 23rd, groups who can't claim to represent the movement, only to be part of it, mingling with the homeless, the hopeless, and the insane, the 99% is nothing if not LARGE, crackheads with torches and Iraq war vets with PTSD who are pissed off and willing to fight for the 99% with all the skills they attained as servicemen, and the peaceful, thoughtful, free speech advocates fighting for change within the system, butting heads with the frustrated, enraged, testosterone charged revolutionaries who see conflict and violence as the only way to achieve our goals. We haven't come to any conclusions. Nobody knows what's going to happen except we're not going to stop.
Mr. Mayor, the holes in the public safety net are so large that all but the fat cats fall through. We ask for economic equality. We lose our free bus zone. We've had enough.
There is a Navajo story of the two wolves within us - good and evil, hate and love, always battling - and the one that wins is the one you feed.
Every time the Seattle police force does battle with the Occupy Movement, it feeds the anarchists who thrive on conflict. Letting us peacefully camp at city hall feeds the other wolf.
Our disappearance from City Hall will mean the Occupy movement has no location in Seattle. This is unacceptable, and like Whack-a-moles, we're sure to show up somewhere else. Let's say we occupy Westlake again tomorrow. What would you do? Send Chief Diaz after us again and simply repeat history, only this time with more American soldiers in the tents?
You asked me to act as liaison between Chief Diaz and the Occupy movement. If I believe that all conflicts are worth avoiding, how do I do that? Call Diaz on my speed dial and beg him not to pepper spray me, tell him that if he just backs off, we'll all respect him in the morning?
If the movement has no place to call home, no place it is "occupying," it will inevitably be brought up at every General Assembly (currently being held at the convention center at least twice a week), and yes, it is random, it is what spur of the moment democracy looks like, and if the re-occupation of Westlake isn't immanent, you can bet that SOMETHING is. The movement is full of committed individuals who are not going away until practical results are achieved. They're not going to wait for the findings of an oversight committee. You're sitting on a powderkeg. Do the right thing and you can be a hero. This is what revolution looks like.
Though our success at City Hall might seem only symbolic, it's working. I'm connected every day to dozens of occupy sites around the globe who are looking at Seattle as a role model for positive relationships between the occupy movement and city governments. They are simply astonished that an occupation has lasted this long.
We have several other sites we're looking at. I have no doubt another permit is immanent. Will you please call off the hounds and give us enough time to secure a new location before moving?
Lobbyist for the 99%