Occupy protesters at the Washington statehouse on the first day of the special session.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington state troopers arrested four people and issued 30 trespass warnings on day one of Washington's special legislative session. The legislature reconvened Monday to address another $1.4 billion budget shortfall. Some protesters disrupted official business.
It was a day of theater on the Capitol campus.
On the steps of the statehouse, improv as crowds gathered for music, speeches and chants. Inside, on the House floor, a more formal script.
"The House will be in order. The clerk will please call the roll."
That order didn't last long. A group of unionized teachers waited for the House to adjourn for the day, then unfurled a banner from the fourth floor balcony and started chanting, "Tax the rich, fund our schools."
Seattle history teacher Jesse Hagopian -– costumed in a yellow shirt that read "I am a teacher" — was cast in the lead role. He led the chanting and was escorted from the House gallery by state troopers.
Outside he held up a pair of plastic handcuffs.
"What I'm prepared to do is make a citizen's arrest of the state legislature for breaking the state law," Hagopian said.
Hagopian charges Washington lawmakers are failing to live up to their paramount duty to fully fund basic education. In a bit of foreshadowing, he said he was prepared to be arrested himself.
Next a group of students and Occupy activists occupied the Senate's public galleries.
Their chants of "we are the 99-percent" fell on a mostly empty chamber, although a few Democratic senators applauded, took pictures and a couple even stuck around to hear what the protesters had to say.
The main theme of the protests is budget cuts have gone too far and lawmakers need to turn to taxes.
Governor Chris Gregoire has proposed a half-penny sales tax increase. There was plenty of support for that proposal. But it was not universal.
Doug Nielsen is a unionized state employee. He stood on Capitol steps with a sign that read "No Sales Tax."
"We shouldn't be taxing ordinary people in a regressive tax that's counter-stimulus," Nielson said. "How's that going to fix anything? It's because the one-percent still control this capitol building."
Supporters of the sales tax idea say nothing else could raise as much money as quickly. A few feet away from Nielson was a man in a wheelchair wearing a VFW hat. He held a manila folder, said simply: "Cut Deep Now."
You might say Douglas Kerley was cast in the role of foil to the "no more cuts" protesters.
"We need to cut the size and scope of government tremendously," he said.
For the last act, the action moved indoors again -– to a legislative hearing room and the House budget committee. As a staff member briefed lawmakers, an interruption from off stage.
From the back of the room emerged yes, you guessed it, Seattle history teacher Jesse Hagopian — from the House gallery protest. He marched to the front of the room.
"We therefore issue this citizens' arrest warrant of the state legislature," he said.
Soon though it was Hagopian who was under arrest for disorderly conduct. A phalanx of state troopers hustled him out the back of the hearing room.
The Washington State Patrol reports that troopers used a TASER on three protestors. In another incident, a state patrol sergeant was reportedly bit by a protestor while a capitol campus employee received a rib injury.
An estimated 3,000 people demonstrated at the Capitol Monday.
Copyright 2011Northwest News Network