The Occupy Seattle (OS) movement followed shortly on the heels of Occupy Wall Street, with an initial turnout of a small but resolute and energetic group of activists.
From the outset, the Seattle movement based itself on the 24-hour occupation tactic, with Saturday October 1 marking the start of the occupation at Westlake Park, in Seattle’s downtown commercial hub.
The Seattle branch of Socialist Alternative has actively participated and helped build OS since its inception. Our members have joined in the movement’s demonstrations against economic injustice and big-business politics.
We have also raised demands such as “Tax the Rich: Full Funding of Education and Health Care” and “A Sustainable Economy Democratically Run by the 99%,” which have received near unanimous support from the movement.
Our ideas of taking big banks into democratic, public ownership and the need for a mass political alternative to the two parties of big business have also found support in the movement.
As one of our members said in an interview with local King 5 News, “We are against the domination of big business and politicians of the two big business parties. And we want our voices to be heard.”
As the tent occupation grew, Mayor Mike McGinn, who had initially professed support, reversed his position and gave protesters a two-day deadline to remove all tents.
Although the occupiers held their ground, they were without tents, and had been reduced to sleeping under awnings, tarps and propped-up umbrellas. Within days, the police blocked protesters from using awnings, declared umbrellas “illegal structures,” and started targeting the use of tarps.
By mid-week, morale hit rock bottom. But the arrival of 800 students from college walkouts, organized by local left-wing activists, breathed new life into the movement.
As part of a divide-and-rule tactic, Mayor McGinn permitted tents at City Hall, which offered almost no visibility, little foot traffic, and space for no more than 25 tents.
Socialist Alternative argued strongly against City Hall. We helped initiate a coalition of left forces who supported our call for “The Night of 500 Tents” at Westlake for the coming Saturday. The proposal was passed with overwhelming majority in the OS General Assembly.
“The Night of 500 Tents” was an enormous victory, with an estimated 3,000-5,000 people attending during the day and approximately 500 occupiers overnight. Members from all Northwest branches of Socialist Alternative, including Bellingham, Olympia and Tacoma, joined the encampment.
The city was forced to retreat and Westlake remained occupied Saturday and Sunday night. The rallying cry of the movement on Sunday morning was “We declare Westlake occupied!”
As the movement progresses into its fourth week, through victories and setbacks, our members are engaging in conversations with scores of people at our literature tables at Westlake. We are observing increasing anger against corporate domination and openness to socialist ideas.
One of the young people who stopped by our table is now a member and is helping us with our intervention.
Our experience at OS confirms our perspectives of growing anger against capitalism. We have also had the opportunity to work with other left allies in the movement to be able to give it tactical and political direction.
Above all, we have been able to raise the banner of socialism with those involved in the movement.