Officials in Olympia, Washington, have condemned leftist militants who used hatchets, knives, and batons to forcibly take over a downtown hotel Sunday.
And Mayor Cheryl Selby went so far as to call their actions "an act of domestic terrorism," the Olympian reported.
What's the background?
Those inside the Red Lion hotel began calling 911 around 11 a.m., saying a group was attempting to forcibly take over the hotel, the city's statement said. The group members were dressed in black and were threatening staff, KING-TV reported, citing court documents. Police were told that the employees felt threatened by the group — and the station said an employee was assaulted but didn't suffer injuries.
The group was identified as Oly Housing Now, a homeless activist outfit, and its members had gas masks, helmets, and goggles, apparently in preparation for a confrontation, the statement noted. Police estimated about 45 members of the group were inside and outside the hotel. The group had occupied the fourth and fifth floors and were placing black tarps on the windows as police arrived, cops told KING.
At the time of the occupation, about 40 hotel rooms were booked with guests — and those guests sheltered in their rooms during the occupation, the statement said. Hotel employees sheltered in the basement through the afternoon and part of the evening.
But before the occupation, a woman identified as its leader booked 20 hotel rooms saying they were for a wedding party, KING reported, citing court documents — which also said the takeover was meant to pressure the city to provide housing for homeless people staying in those booked rooms.
"We were going to say we're not leaving and see if we could get FEMA or whoever to start putting out and getting us housing," Chris Alford — one of those staying in the rooms — told KING. She added to the station that people she did not know paid for them.
Police added to the station that a Thurston County judge granted a search warrant for first-degree burglary, trespassing, and conspiracy to commit burglary. By 6:30 p.m., Olympia police with the Thurston County Sheriff's Office and Washington State Patrol's SWAT team entered the hotel and began making arrests, KING reported.
Here are a pair of clips showing the action outside the hotel. (Content warning: Language):
Olympia PD not messing around tonight. Several arrests so far as they clear the occupied hotel. Businesses were tol… https://t.co/Ks9fDNXBQW— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@(((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio)1612147547.0
They are now chanting to Olympia cops to “choke and die.” https://t.co/EnMh9esHbu— (((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio (@(((Jason Rantz))) on KTTH Radio)1612151800.0
The station said the SWAT team conducted a room-by-room search and employees and guests were escorted safely out of the building.
Ten people were arrested Sunday night, KING said, citing police — who previously reported that 12 had been arrested. Seven of them appeared before a judge Monday and faced a number of charges including burglary and assault, the station said, citing court documents.
What did city officials have to say about the occupation?
City council member Dani Madrone said at Tuesday's meeting that she was "appalled" by the hotel occupation, the Olympian reported, adding that others used words such as "reckless," "uninformed," and "infuriating."
Council member Renata Rollins — who advocates for homeless people — called the group's actions "short-sighted, ego-driven, and counterproductive," the paper said.
"The group's demands made no sense," she also said, the Olympian noted. "They read like they were copied and pasted from some other community's struggle because whoever penned them had no context for what's actually going on in Olympia and Thurston County. This wasn't activism; this was nihilism. And it caused so much unnecessary preventable harm."
Mayor Selby said the occupation organizers "exploited and victimized the very group they claim to want to help" and "should be held accountable to the furthest extent of the law," the paper reported.
"This created an active crime scene that necessitated a police response appropriate to the scale of the actions of these terrorists," she added, according to the Olympian.