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Letters to Works In Progress: stand corrected

Re: latest issue, page 12 photo caption; “The only known photo of the…blah, blah….”

Come on guys, do your homework.

First, the pictured crowd, estimated then at about 3000, is seen in the Legislative Building rotunda the afternoon of Tuesday, January 15, 1991. The so called “take over” came a while later when someone opened a door to the floor of the House chambers (the House was not in session at the moment) and a large part of the crowd poured in to “take over” the Leg. The Senate side went untouched. There was a debate for some time over how the crowd was able to throw open the door allowing the group to flood through. Generally, the doors were not well guarded at the time and security was pretty lax as compared to current practice.

There are scores of photos in State Archives of the crowd in the House chambers taken by then House Democratic Caucus staff photographer Randy Wood. These are public documents anyone can ask to view and copies obtained. Maybe that’s something of interest for a future issue. Just ask to see House photos on and around that date. They’re all on black and white proof sheets printed from 35mm negatives.

Someone in the crowd carried in an Iraqi flag and hung it over the railing of the south gallery. In the collection of pictures Wood took that night the flag shows up in the background in some. An ultra conservative House member, Rose Bowman of Lewis County, went on something of a rampage trying to obtain copies of the photos that showed the flag, presumably with which to make some kind of political hay. She never got them. House Chief Clerk, Alan Thompson, immediately confiscated the proofs and negatives (black and white back then) and locked them away in his office for a few weeks as the nonsense blew over. They were eventually returned to the photo staff, then eventually were committed to State Archives.

The crowd decided it was going to stay all night. State Patrol showed great restraint through the event. They simply stood by to make sure no one got hurt or damaged property (one drinking glass was broken; someone left $3 and a note of apology) and turned up the lights and heat as high as they’d go to make things uncomfortable for the protesters. By about 8:00 a.m. next morning all but five had left. Patrol simply carried the few stubborn ones out of the chambers and gently set them down outside the building. No one was arrested. The chamber doors were, of course, locked for a while and extra security was posted outside both chambers for a few days to prevent another take over event.

A few legislators met with the crowd in the House chambers that evening. One, I believe, was State Sen. Karen Frazier, then a member of the House, representing Olympia and much of Thurston County. She shows up in Wood’s photos. There perhaps were others showing in the pictures.

How the hell do I know all this? I was there. Well, sort of. I was working as a session employee in the photo lab shared by Democratic and Republican staff photographers (yes, there were both at the time, another long story) and processed and proofed most of Wood’s film. I probably made a few prints too. I don’t think I went into the House chambers that night but certainly knew first hand from Wood and others the blow by blow recitation.

“Most demonstators leave statehouse” archived Associated Press story can be found at the web address:,1608972&hl=en

Suggest you call up Sen. Frazier and ask her about her experience with the event. Bet she would think it pretty funny someone would be asking after all these years.

State Archives, call and make an appointment to see the photos.

Paul Peck, Olympia


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