SCCC & Occupy Seattle – Missed Opportunities

I attended the Seattle Community College Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday that evicted (or, rather is trying to evict), Occupy Seattle from our school and was very disappointed in my college. I was at least glad they weren’t sending in the police with pepper spray to tear down their tents and send them off in the freezing rain the day before Thanksgiving as I feared, and would be given time to leave. I am also glad Occupy Seattle sued to prevent the eviction and a Judge has delayed their eviction at least until they can argue their case in court next Friday.

Lights Out

To add to the surrealness, the lights were out when I first got to the meeting due to a downed line somewhere that was also responsible for no traffic lights at the intersection of Broadway & Pine and lunch in darkness at Taco del Mar. Our main campus, fortunately, was not affected. I was also “greeted” by an overly aggressive security guard, wanting to know why I was there, which did not set me off on the right foot. It was a public meeting and I’m a student at SCCC (which, come to think of it, he should know that as I actually do recognize him after nearly a year of going to school here).

Board Hears from Dr. Killpatrick

Sadly, SCCC President Dr. Killpatrick and the school administration have seemed hostile to Occupy Seattle ever since they moved up from Westlake in October. Which seems very ironic to me, as the issues the Occupy Wall Street and our local chapter bring forward are very relevant to our discussion at school a day earlier on lobbying Olympia next week to try to prevent another 13% budget cut of SCCC’s budget (after very serious cutbacks this year).

SCCC VP Dr. Brown & President Dr. Killpatrick - Budget Discussion

It’s a shame no real attempt was made for a dialogue between SCCC and Occupy Seattle, or rather, it’s  a shame the attempts by at least one of the teachers, Karen Strickland, weren’t listened to.

Karen Strickland on Budget Panel

That we even have the meager offer of Governor Gregoire to put a measure on the ballot of a half percent sales tax to restore some of the draconian state budget cuts has a lot to do with the Occupy movement. It’s also a situation that, even as the early panelists at that meeting who put it forward as our main hope acknowledged, isn’t enough and is a regressive tax. If we have any real hope of change and our legislators being bolder, it will be due to actions by Occupy Seattle and the unions (as well as letters, calls, e-mails, etc from the rest of us; and lobbying by SCCC and others). There’s money there, if we start insisting all these big companies getting out of paying their taxes start paying. There is no reason we should be cutting funding for kids, the elderly, health care and schools instead of having wealthy corporations pay their share.

Seattle Community College Board of Trustees

Sadly, the board had really already made up their mind, and were looking for an opportunity to evict Occupy Seattle, which came from a sensationalized account of an attempted sexual assault on our local Fox affiliate, Q13, that was played at the hearing. I don’t want to make light of the assault, nor the concerns of the young woman student who testified, nor say that Occupy doesn’t have to come up with a better security plan. It’s just that this was what the board was looking for, to prove their painting of the demonstrators as dirty and dangerous was correct (along with health department reports, which the camp is trying to comply with).

That some of the real homeless have joined the camp and become members of the Occupy Seattle community is one of the issues.  I actually think they should be commended for that and agree with the post of the Antifa working group of Decolonize/Occupy Seattle (which I believe is short for Anti-fascist) that in general the homeless belong. Nothing highlights the disparity of our society more, and why this happened probably has a lot to do with 15 shelters closing and throwing out about 300 people into the cold in October as the Occupy Seattle was getting going at Westlake. Thankfully the shelters reopened a couple of weeks later, though I imagine some of them came to Occupy Seattle and stayed. I doubt the homeless who are causing problems were from the shelters though.

The Antifa working group’s post does come with the realization that they can’t handle people too seriously messed up with drugs, no matter how nice they are when they’re not using. I think there has been a learning curve and one thought is for them to talk to people at Nickelsville and other tent cities who must have come up with some kind of plan early on, both for the safety of themselves and the surrounding community, and because they are under constant scrutiny from people who see the very fact that they’re homeless as a threat. Where possible, they could try to hook people with mental illness and drug problems with people who can help, and DESC comes to mind. It’s just that, unfortunately, the whole safety net has been seriously slashed. Very much part of the issues that the Occupy movement has taken on. I just don’t think they’re in a position to deal with those with the most serious issues along with changing and challenging the economic order that creates the situation.

Lost in all of this, for the most part, has been the opportunity for real communication between my fellow classmates and the members of Occupy Seattle. SCCC a school with a mission to educate all, and draws from a diverse student body, probably more from working class or poor backgrounds than most 4 year colleges.  Immigrants, students who many have struggled through high school, returning students like me on worker retraining or VA benefits. In short, the 99%, with even more of a common cause with the Occupy Wall Street movement than schools like US Berkeley, UC Davis and Harvard that are actively protesting on Occupy issues, if they understood.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been much of a dialogue, and between administration warnings, news reports, and a few actual bad encounters, many of my classmates are either hostile or fearful of Occupy Seattle.

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