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On courage, compassion and cover-ups

I witnessed 30 officers from multiple agencies respond to a sit-in over public restroom access at Heritage Park as if it were a bomb or hostage situation.

The scene was absolutely ludicrous. Cops had guns out—some were in riot gear—while Just Housing protesters sat in a restroom quietly demanding the basic dignity and safety of a place to relieve themselves at night.

In an attempt to justify the over-the-top all-points-bulletin countywide cop response, WSP’s public relations department is claiming we “barricaded” officers in the restrooms.

You can read over and over about police lies and cover ups, but it cuts a different way when it happens in an action you and your loved ones are part of.

Let me say: The barricade is a lie. The cops entered the restrooms and closed the doors behind them in order to separate the sitting demonstrators from dozens of community supporters. It was creepy and their actions made me stomach sick. The barricade is a lie.

When sitting demonstrators were shut in the bathrooms alone with police, the supportive community gathered in close to witness for our friends’ safety. The barricade is a lie.

When police opened the door to forcibly remove the sitting demonstrators, we stood aside. The barricade is a lie.

Friends and family: The barricade is a low-down dirty lie that Rolf Boone of The Olympian reported unchecked. It’s absolute slander against the courage and compassion shown in the face of outrageous police escalation.

Forty of us gathered that night. The next night at 6 pm there were more.

The Olympia city council has been debating public restrooms downtown for four years with no results. Let that sink in. We have people sleeping outside in cold and isolation and the authorities haven’t been able to get us a bathroom. How are we going to solve the larger problems our community faces?

The regular channels are failing the people. So actions like this will continue.

State and city facilities both exist.  If only they would simply unlock the doors.

Renata Rollins is one of the core organizers of Just Housing and a former downtown Olympia ambassador.

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