Standoff Between City, Occupy Seattle Continues

Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle police are in a bit of a standoff with Occupy Seattle protesters, who the city has asked to relocate from Westlake Park to City Hall. The protesters don’t seem to be going anywhere, but it’s still unclear if or when Mayor McGinn will take a hard line and force the move.

Last night, police stopped by Westlake Park several times, warning protesters that the park had closed at 10 pm. Police didn’t make any arrests last night—or this morning, when officers returned to Westlake with Parks Department rangers on cleanup duty—and department sources say they haven’t received any information about when the city might finally crack down.

A statement issued by Mayor McGinn’s office this morning says officers who visited the park last night were ordered not to make arrests, and reaffirmed McGinn’s request that the protest move to City Hall. “We continue to make City Hall available, which is an appropriate facility for camping associated with protests,” the statement said.

According to one department source—who suggested officers’ late-night visits to Westlake may be an attempt to keep protesters awake through the night and ultimately drive them from the park—the city is getting pressure from businesses in the area, who have made “multiple complaints” about garbage, debris, and from businesses around Westlake Park, and have called protesters a “nuisance.”[pullquote]”We’re going to hug them instead,” the officer said of the protesters. “It’s a new tactic.”[/pullquote]

While officers did arrest 25 people in one sweep of the park last week, SPD seem to be waiting for direction from Mayor McGinn before making further arrests.

One officer contacted by PubliCola said they had not heard anything about a deadline for the protests to move to City Hall, but joked that the department was taking a new hands-off approach to dealing with the protesters: “We’re going to hug them instead,” the officer said. “It’s a new tactic.”

Mayor McGinn’s spokesman Aaron Pickus declined to discuss any deadline for Occupy Seattle to move, but said other groups are permitted to use Westlake Park, and that the city can’t play favorites by allowing protesters to stay in the park.

“We can’t favor one cause over another because we agree with them. What if A neo nazi organization set up in the park?” Pickus said. The protesters have been aware since we’ve told them the rules apply to this park and they’re going to need to follow those rules,” Pickus said. “We want to be patient .”