What better place than Olympia to gather if the Washington State economy has put you on the street? Come to Olympia to assemble and petition for redress of grievance. Come and sit on the streets of Olympia as a demonstration and act of free speech. Come to Olympia and greet the legislators and the policy makers who will have to step over you, or walk around you, as they move around in their daily lives. The City of Olympia is criminalizing poverty in the downtown area, but the First Amendment comes in… uh… First! We have the right to sit, recline, sing, grieve, and beg for good public policy in Washington State. Come to Olympia.
If you get hassled by the Olympia Police Department for exercising your free speech rights, email the particulars: Where, when, police officer name to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will challenge the City and the Police Department to justify the violation of your first amendment rights.
I know that some folks get scared when they have to be close to houseless people. I encourage those folks to come down to the Artesian Well during daylight and introduce themselves to the people who move through that setting. There are lots of tattoos, piercings, and a fair amount of cursing, but there is also a lot of openness, music, support, and community. There are scary, dangerous folks everywhere, on the street, in the burbs, in the police force, but most of the folks everywhere are just human being like you and me. Make the effort to connect and see what happens. Stop thinking, “there but for the grace of God, go I” and start thinking “there by the grace of God, go I.” Really attempt to connect with the folks and see what happens. If they ask you or tell you to leave them alone, leave them alone. It ain’t rocket science.
I have no problem with an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. I am politely asked to share what I have in my pocket regularly and I share what I can. When I say, hey, wish I could, but I am short, I almost always get an “ok, thanks” type of response. I don’t want to be harassed when I say no, and it doesn’t happen to me. I suspect it doesn’t happen because I really engage with the people asking, I look them in the eye when I tell them I am short. I don’t avoid the folks. I treat them with respect and they respond in kind.
Although I am not keen on the whole idea of prohibition (I have some libertarian impulses) I think I am supportive of a ban on fortified wines in downtown. I hope for a day when there alcohol, drug consumption and possession are not a crime and when the money saved from the “war on drugs” is redirected to substance abuse treatment on request, fully funded. I guarantee you that this approach to dealing with drugs will be more cost-effective and humane.
Come to Olympia. I will see you in the streets.