Seventeen pro-union protesters were arrested outside the Washington state capitol yesterday after they blocked the governor's door and got physical with state troopers .
The protesters were part of a group angry over proposed budget cuts. The altercation began when the protesters blocked the governor's office and chanted "We want to see her!" When troopers ordered the crowd to disperse some didn't, instead locking arms and holding fast:
Sixteen of the protesters were cited for disorderly conduct and released. The seventeenth protester was taken into custody and booked into jail on suspicion of assaulting two troopers.
Before the arrests, hundreds of people were already on the scene Thursday morning. Many of them spent the night on the hard marble floor of the main legislative building.
The Washington State Labor Council said the protests would focus on proposed cuts to state-funded health services, and demonstrators urged lawmakers to close tax loopholes rather than making cuts in the budget.
Members of the Service Employees International Union, which represents caregivers for clients with special needs, claimed there are some 567 tax loopholes in Washington state that could be closed to prevent drastic budget cuts.
As the legislative day began Thursday, state troopers dragged about a dozen protesters from the House gallery after they started reading aloud what they called "personal histories" of disabled clients affected by budget cuts. There were no arrests in that incident.
Meanwhile, another large protest group numbering in the hundreds massed at a downtown Olympia park and marched to a Chase Bank branch.
The demonstrators claimed that Chase Bank is receiving millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state that it inherited after taking over Washington Mutual. Protesters called for the elimination of the tax breaks.
Later, a group of protesters gathered in the Rotunda and ended up marching toward the governor's office, where the shoving match and arrests took place.
"This is our house, and I'm not backing down, not one bit," shouted one demonstrator. "My house, our house, everybody's house. And this is how we get treated. No more."
About 50 protesters spent the night in sleeping bags on a hard marble floor of the state Capitol in Olympia.