As Occupy Seattle joined labor organizations in a peaceful march and rally taking over the University Bridge on Thursday, a group representing more than 150 Capitol Hill businesses have come out with an ultimatum for the organizers of the movement’s Emerald City headquarters: Clean up or get out.
“We would like to see Occupy Seattle address the health and safety concerns around the encampment immediately,” wrote Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and Broadway Business Improvement Association executive director Michael Wells in a letter sent to Occupy organizers and Seattle Central Community College and provided to CHS. “Surrounding business owners and residents would like to see immediate results.”
The letter, below, lists eight concerns highlighted in a November 11th King County Public Health report on conditions at the camp. Some elements like keeping dogs from urinating and defecating near the camp could be easy to solve. Others like “effective hygiene facilities” or elimination of “food borne illness risk factors” might be unsolvable for a camp plunked down in the middle of an urban community college campus. It also acknowledges that many of the small, independent businesses support the movement.
Occupy took up residence at Pine and Broadway at the end of October establishing a “good neighbor” set of rules in the process. SCCC told the protesters their camp would not be allowed but the administration said it could not legally bar the Occupy group from establishing its base on the state property as the Washington Administration Code did not explicitly prohibit the action. As the camp moves into its third week, CHS has reported that the school is again exploring its legal options and is consulting with the State Attorney General’s office about how to legally remove the camp.
But the path to Occupy Seattle’s removal from SCCC might not require AG Rob McKenna’s office to step in. Seattle could look to the “public safety closure” model that has been deployed in other cities including the recent overnight sweep of the original Occupy Wall Street camp in New York.
With the letter from the chamber and the health report, there is increased pressure on City Hall to step in and find a solution. CHS has learned that Seattle Central officials and the mayor’s office met this week to discuss the situation.
There is also the opportunity for the Occupy camp to tackle the complaints and try to take care of the eight areas of concern. But it’s a stiff challenge and getting stiffer as cold and rainy weather sets in. Wednesday night, Seattle Fire responded to a report of an illegal fire at the camp. Maintaining a healthy, safe place to live outdoors in a city plaza and keeping all of its campers in line might be more than Occupy Seattle campers can handle.
Meanwhile, the pressure on the camp from area businesses is mounting.
The Puget Sound Business Journal ran this letter from the company that manages the Broadway Performance Hall:
Whatever sympathy we might have had for Occupy Seattle was lost by us on the night of November 4 when one of the protesters slung a metal garbage can at one of our client’s contractors (yes, another small business owner) in an unprovoked and identity-mistaken attack. In the sixteen years we have operated here, through demonstrations against various wars and of course WTO, this is the first time anyone from us has actually been assaulted here over a political aim.
Meanwhile, Seattle Weekly interviewed a Broadway boutique owner via Twitter Thursday about her Occupy Seattle complaints and posted the result here. The owner asked not to be identified out of concerns for her safety.
UPDATE 4:25 PM: Seattle Central has posted two reports from King County Health following inspections of the Occupy Seattle camp. We’ve posted SCCC president Dr. Paul Killpatrick’s statement on the reports and the documents below.
As you know from my previous communications about the Occupy Seattle encampment, my primary concern remains the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff, and the surrounding Capitol Hill community. I take these concerns very seriously. And we have clearly expressed our concerns in our scheduled meetings with representatives of Occupy Seattle.
Since Occupy Seattle moved their base of operations to our campus on October 29, the encampment has nearly doubled in size, and now numbers an estimated 150 residents and a dozen large dogs in 2,000 square feet on the South Plaza lawn.
This week we received two reports (attached) from the Seattle-King County Health Department after we requested that the Department investigate health risks in response to complaints and concerns received by our college. The first report made after visits on Wednesday and Thursday, November 10 and 11 cited “multiple issues,” including accumulations of garbage, poor food handling, discarded syringes and needles, fire safety hazards, dog feces, and disposal of wastewater.
On Wednesday, November 16, I received a second report, following a November 15 site visit. This report states that “issues remain mostly unaddressed” and further notes, “Overall there seemed to be a lack of communication and organization within the group regarding health and safety issues that may concern the encampment as a whole and the community that they are impacting by their occupation.”
Following the second report, we presented copies of both letters to a representative of the Occupy Seattle camp. We also stated that the deficiencies cited by the Health Department in the first report had not been corrected. We again clearly stated that these concerns must be remedied before any subsequent Health Department visit, which could occur at any time. We also suggested that the two reports be shared at the next meeting of the Occupy Seattle General Assembly.
We will continue to monitor the situation regularly and will keep the college community informed with further updates.