Partnership Politics and Police Power in Olympia

I have been working this past year on street politics issues with the City of Olympia.  One aspect of this work has been a push to get public bathrooms available in the downtown core.  There has been recurring commentary about the use of the downtown alleys for urination and defecation.  A relatively simple solution to the problem to the extent that it exists is to make sure that public bathrooms are available in the downtown area, especially after hours.  There are issues with security, maintenance, etc, but this is not rocket science, we can address these issues if the community makes a choice to have bathrooms available in downtown Olympia.  We were able to get the bathrooms at Heritage opened 24/7 when Occupy Olympia negotiated to move from Sylvester to Heritage, the bulls are running in Olympabut that was only a partial and temporary solution.  We need bathrooms throughout the downtown where folks can relieve themselves and we need a free comfort station where showers and hot water are available for folks who do not have access to 3 bedrooms and 2 baths in their rambler existence.

I have also been working with the City and the Oly Downtown Association on a collaboration between the business community and buskers to improve busking opportunities in downtown Olympia and to establish relationships between individual business owners and individual buskers and between the two communities.  Busking (performance in public space – music – mime (please no) – the harsh interrogation and twisting of balloons, spoken word performance, etc) tends to go rather dormant in our maritime NW winter environment, but we have hit the time of year when it starts to pick up and I have been plugging away with the City and ODA on administrative details over the winter waiting for the sun to appear and for daffodils and buskers to start popping up all over the place.

We had a couple of events and meetings going this past weekend where I expected to connect with the busking community and step up the partnership work a bit, but it took a nosedive for me on Sunday, April 15th at the Artesian Well when a public meeting of community activists was broken up by Officer Pearce of the Olympia Police Department.

I am not interested in hearing OPD or Officer Pearce’s side of things.  Here are the facts that I am pretty certain about:

  • A group of folks, probably around 20 to 25 human beings, were engaged in a peaceful and orderly meeting to discuss a range of topics, including housing, nutrition, urban gardening, busking and really really free market  economics.
  • The Artesian Well is well-known public space.
  • Folks at the Well from around 3:30 pm onward where not loud, obnoxious or disorderly.  At least one person was diligently cleaning the entire space, picking up cigarette butts and other detritus, essentially “policing” the area.
  • A single police cruiser with female officer arrived and parked illegally across several parking spaces early in the meeting time.  After sitting there for several minutes the female officer got out of the cruiser and filled a water jug at the Well, then got back in cruiser and left.
  • Around five-ish (police logs may be available to pinpoint the time) three cruisers pulled into the Artesian Well space and positioned themselves strategically, offensively?  defensively? (illegally parked again) in way that hemmed in folks who were taking part in the meeting.
  • The large group meeting had broken into smaller sub-groups at that time to discuss specific topics with a plan to reconvene the large group for reports back.  At least one of the sub-groups was sitting in a parking space when the three police cruisers took up stations.
  • OPD officers Pearce and Hirotaka (might have spelling wrong) approached the group and Pearce ordered that we move out of the City’s private property space.  Pearce stated that the parking spaces were for cars and ordered us to move into the narrow space against the wall to the north of the Artesian Well.  The sub-groups moved into the space as ordered.
  • I confronted Pearce and explained that this was a peaceful assembly in public space, that it was a political activity specifically protected by the first amendment.
  • Officer Pearce told me not to speak to him about first amendment rights because he knew all about that.
  • I told Pearce that I think he needed to hear about the first amendment stuff from me, that he did not know as much about it as he thought.
  • Pearce refused to rescind his order that we move out of the City’s private property and said when we left the area we should take the trash with us.  The space was clean and orderly.  Officer Pearce was literally talking trash to us.  The Really Really Free Market was open, banner up at the Well, but anyone familiar with that Market, as OPD should be because they regularly surveilled the market  at Bigelow Park last year, knows that when the Market is over the space is as clean or cleaner than it was before the Market opened.
  • Officer Pearce’s approach was aggressive from the very start. Hirotaka’s approach was not aggressive.  Pearce never wavered, remained aggressive throughout the encounter.
  • The meeting was effectively shut down by the arrival of the three cruisers and Officer Pearce’s aggressive behavior. We did not reconvene in the large group.

I think the meeting participants were pretty offended by the OPD actions.  Officer Pearce engaged in demeaning behavior and a raw demonstration of his power.

Relationships and trust between the busking community and the City and downtown business association have been damaged by the police action on April 15, 2012.

Here is my call:  Officer Pearce and  Chief Roberts should arrive on foot at the Artesian Well on Sunday, April 22nd at 5 pm and offer an unqualified apology to the busker and activist community for OPD behavior on April 15th.

Looking Back on The Limits to Growth

Here is the frame:  In 1972 a bunch of computer nerds were commissioned by the Club of Rome to complete computer modeling of finite resources, rates of consumption and population growth.  The output was a book called The Limits to Growth.   It caused a bit of a stir because the computer modeling predicted that global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030.  Wikipedia has a pretty well referenced page on the The Limits to Growth. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

The original study was criticized by lots of folks who thought that growth could somehow become sustainable, that more resources would be found, etc.  The methodology was criticized. This study was not popular with economic growth globalists.

The Limits to Growth has been revisited on a number of occasions.  Most recently an Australian physicist named Graham Turner completed a thirty year look back at the computer modeling and Turner’s study is published at The Smithsonian.   This kind of thing is like disneyland for nerds.  Graphs, charts, all sorts of variables to argue about.  It’s a wonderland for slide rule afficionados.  Needless to say, it’s hard to present on CNN, MSNBC, BBC in a way that has gets the message across.

Look at the graph and try to focus on one primary matter:  The thirty year slice of history from 1972 to 2002 shows that the numbers in reality have developed largely as predicted by the 1972 study suggested.   Click on the graph to jump to the Smithsonian story if you want.

The good news is on the blue line where pollution is predicted to drop hard.  So, it’s not all bad.  There is something to look forward to in the projection.

I think I would prefer to see the human population make some difficult choices and reduce consumption to change the trend lines, but it’s not a popular suggestion with the folks who make the decisions.  What do they call themselves?   Oh, yeah…  the deciders.

Scouring the News and Commentary for Signs of Intelligent Life

Lots of coverage of the republican primaries out there.  Few signs of intelligent life in that pile of smoking offal.  Going to move on.  There must be more important stuff going on. Mr. Fish strikes again

Oh, here we go:  Chris Hedges has a good piece in Truth Dig about the NDAA – National Defense Authorization Act – and what a dangerous piece of legislation the NDAA truly is.  Like the presidential authority to use drone weaponry to assassinate US citizens or our “enemies” anywhere in the world, this NDAA piece of legislation may look less scary to some in the hands of President Obama (I don’t know why that is?  He’s pretty aggressive.) than it might look in the hands of a President Palin, but once presidential authority is asserted, it is seldom relinquished, so you have to look ahead at how the NDAA would work with President Santorum or the like.  I don’t like.

Indefinite military detention.  Hmm…

On another front SCOTUS Inc. came out with another 5-4 decision that says if you are arrested for any offense, no matter how minor, the jail is entitled to strip search you for a close visual inspection.   A bid Thank You to the 4 who voted against, but you lost and so did we.

The plaintiff in the underlying case Florence v. County of Burlington was strip searched twice after he was arrested for failure to pay a fine. The fine had been paid, the arrest should not have occurred, but two strip searches later, Albert W. Florence (a black man) was released.  He was a passenger in his BMW when his wife was pulled over for speeding and the records search produced the erroneous arrest warrant matter.

hmm…    sometimes the authorities simply get it wrong, right?  Those things happen.   No harm, no foul, says Justice Anthony Kennedy.  At least no harm that he can see.

I monitor a  national police oversight listserv and caught this story regarding the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman shooting death that continues to build public outrage:  The Elusiveness of Police Accountability. 

There is something particularly scary about a cop wannabe packing a 9 mm weapon and patrolling a neighborhood.  Judgment, training, – there are a lot of things missing in this community security package.  Bu, the Atlantic Cities story tells the story of 18 yo Ramarley Graham, who was chased into his house by NY police and shot dead in the bathroom.  He is reported to have been unarmed and in possession of a small quantity of marijuana.  The point of the Atlantic Cities piece is that if Trayvon had been shot by a police officer instead of a cop wannabe, there would be a lot less news coverage of the event.  That’s probably true.  There is something really disturbing about the fact that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after dispatch advised to stop.  With Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin we appear to have two deaths that just didn’t need to happen.

We don’t know if Ramarley was wearing a hoodie when he was shot.  That seems to be scary attire.  I am wearing my hoodie every day now.

Here are some facts that I think are inescapable:

Justice is elusive.  Handguns are ubiquitous.  Armed men who think they need to keep the peace are dangerous to young black men.

My solution?  Reduce the number of weapons in the community.  Gun control.  Buy back programs.  Interference in the realm of handgun commerce.  A big government type solution to a big public problem.

Yep, a like a little big government from time to time, but I am not too crazy about the NDAA and Scotus Inc.