As Dominic reported, Occupy Seattle faced at least four threats of arrest from the Seattle Police Department tonight. Those threats, so far, have proved to be meaningless. I arrived at the camp expecting, based on reports on Twitter, to find police busting heads. Instead, a couple of police cars were parked on either end of Westlake Park, their headlights pointing in at the protesters. A few cops were lined up under the awning, not looking particularly excited to be there. An announcement went over one of the police cars' loudspeakers: The park was closed, the officer said, and everyone still in the park was trespassing and could be subject to arrest.
After the announcement, things exploded for a while. The general assembly was passionate about who to blame for this. One protester screamed that Mayor McGinn ”shook my hand” earlier today after his speech. ”Is he with us or against us? What the fuck does this mayor stand for?" There were calls for the assembly to make its "last stand" by lining up around the supply tent, with a smaller contingent preparing to head away to the City Hall encampment that Mayor McGinn offered to Occupy Seattle but promising to come back the next day and reoccupy the site at Westlake. Protesters announced that the turnout on Saturday had strengthened their resolve, and that Saturday had proved that they were now "too big to fail." Shit got very, very tense.
And then, nothing happened for a little while longer. Rumors circulated the camp—one thing you learn very quickly when hanging around Occupy Seattle is that rumors are always circulating the camp, and it's impossible to source where those rumors came from—that McGinn had assured the protesters that nobody would be arrested tonight. Other rumors circulated that the mayor had no idea what his police department was doing. A representative from the mayor was said to be on his way. People started to calm down.
Suddenly, a fourth announcement about trespassing in the park came from a parked police car. That's when things almost turned very bad.
Protesters started circling the police car, screaming at the officer inside to either arrest them or shut up already. Listen: These kids are tired from sleeping on concrete in a noisy downtown environment for days on end, and they've been rained on for a great deal of that time. Of course some of them started to lose their minds a little bit; if you're honest with yourself, you know that you would, too. I thought one angry young man was going to punch the windshield of the police car before his friends, preaching nonviolence in gentle voices, talked him down from his rage and away from the car. I found the mayor's representative, but he shuddered and refused to talk to me when I identified myself as being from The Stranger.
It became clear to all but the most sleep-deprived of the protesters that all the police were doing was making intermittent announcements just to keep them from getting a good night's sleep. It's an escalation of infinitesimal, ever-more-annoying steps: First they took the tents away and made them sleep on the ground. Then they took even their most primitive structures away from them and told them they could lie on the ground with tarps directly over them. They took away their umbrellas. They refused to allow them to sleep in the one dry spot in Westlake Park. And now they were trying to heckle them into dissolution. What a bunch of passive-aggressive bullshit. What a shameful lack of respect they're showing these protesters. To their credit, Occupy Seattle realized the SPD's gambit and refused to take the bait. In their general assembly, which many conservative sites are mocking as a useless way to make decisions, they all agreed to get some rest in order to be refreshed for tomorrow. Many of them tucked in under their tarps and went to sleep. Others stood in front of police cars, blocking the headlights with their bodies so that the rest of their friends could sleep without the direct light shining on them, and sang a happy song. They seem to have survived another night.