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Attempted takeover of Olympia hotel by homeless activists ends in 10 arrests

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 2/3/2021 Alfred Charles, KOMONews.com Executive Producer
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Ten homeless activists were arrested in Olympia on Sunday after the group allegedly occupied a downtown hotel, assaulting at least one employee and prompting guests and staffers to shelter in place for several hours, authorities said.

Olympic Police Department Lt. Paul Lower told KOMO News that employees of the Red Lion Inn & Suites, located at 621 Capitol Way South, began calling for help at 11 a.m. after several people, one of whom was wielding a hatchet while others brandished batons and knives, entered the facility, saying they were taking the hotel over.

One unidentified hotel worker who tried to stop the occupation was hurt although the nature of the victim's injuries was not immediately disclosed.

City officials said in a written statement that the incident was carried out by 45 members of a group called Oly Housing Now, and as many as eight were detained while three were said to be facing felony charges in connection with the incident. 

During a virtual court proceeding on Monday, one of the victims said that at least one of the protestors “wanted to terrorize and dramatize us and they succeeded.”

During the online hearing, additional protesters decided to interrupt the virtual court proceedings by joining the Zoom meeting where it was being held.

Caption: Olympia officials spoke Monday afternoon to provide an update on an attempted takeover of a downtown hotel Sunday.

“Olympia has led on responding to homelessness, on coordinating shelter and other basic needs," Mayor Cheryl Selby said. "The tactics used today by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable.”

According to the city, 40 rooms at the hotel had been reserved by guests, who were forced to remain inside their rooms during the incident. Hotel employees fled to the basement during the assault.

"The regular guests that have been here have been stuck in their rooms all day and then the employees have been locked in the basement all day," said a woman whose mother works at the hotel. "She said there were people hiding in the stairways and stuff like that."

Caption: An Olympic homeless activist group tried to take over a downtown hotel.

Lower said several law enforcement officers, including the SWAT team, the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Patrol, responded to the facility, which had been known for several years as the Governor Hotel. 

Authorities said before the occupation, Oly Housing Now had paid for 17 rooms in order to provide rooms for homeless people. 

The protestors plan, according to police, was to buy a night's stay in several of the Red Lion's rooms and then have homeless people stay in them. Instead of leaving the next day, however, the protestors decided to take over the hotel and told the activists to stay in their rooms.

Officers went from floor to floor to remove the activists and to safely escort hotel workers and guests from the premises, authorities said.  

Ten of the activists were eventually arrested -- five for burglary, one for assault, two had prior felony warrants, one for obstructing police and one on drug and trespassing charges. 

"As OPD clears the hotel, the City’s Crisis Response Unit is connecting those unhoused people to services," the city statement said. "They will not be allowed to remain at the hotel."

KOMO News reporters Nick Popham and Kara Kostanich contributed to this report.

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