Twitter trolls et al:

To quote Jon Stewart, “Settle down.”

I spent an hour and a half down at Occupy Seattle tonight, and the rumors of its eviction by the City are stupidly exaggerated. There are more than twice as many protesters in Westlake Center as spent the night there last night. The tenting ground is packed densely with little nylon shelters, from hasty tarp and line structures to elaborate REI showpieces.

There are no police officers there from SPD. Not cops “covering the streets,” not “out in force,” not “several.”

In fact, not even “one.”

There were a couple of security guards. One nearly walked into me, not because he was acting aggressive but because he was texting something to his girlfriend. The private guards occupied the biggest tent, a white pavilion sheltering snacks and costumes for tomorrow’s Target stores publicity event, the props for which cover half the park’s pavers.

The corporate P.R. machine and the anti-corporate protesters coexist peacefully; the Honey Buckets brought in for tomorrow’s event were perched on the invisible border separating the bustling nylon shanty town and the echoingly empty filming area. The crappers were turned hospitably toward the campers.

While I chatted with the guards, a nattily attired, fortyish gent with an Igloo cooler over his shoulder approached to ask if the security personnel or I wanted a hot cup of coffee (what I like to call the “Seattle handshake”).

Rumor Control, with typical accuracy, had pegged the violent eviction of the protesters at 2300 hours, but 11 p.m. came and went without a murmur of dismay. Everyone there agrees on the Central Issue — “something is wrong in America” — whether or not they agree on much else, or even anything else.

Alex, a full-time student who leans libertarian and sports a crisp herringbone tweed cap, has signed on to the Internet Communications Team. Once site power and their own wifi point are established, Alex plans to live-stream the daily general assemblies.

Alex goes home at night and preps for classes. He’s pulling a 16-hour load at SCCS, but he was still on-shift for Occupy Seattle as of 2300 tonight.

Up until 2008, Alex built houses in Maine. When the housing market crashed and his framing business folded, Alex was ineligible for unemployment because he’d been self-employed.

“I’m fed up with being out of work,” he said, “fed up with the injustices: banks being bailed out when I can’t even get unemployment. Those of us who can do something about it should get the chance.”

This is Seattle. When we have a “battle” here, you can bet it’s not instigated by the locals. After asking several protesters on site what they’d heard about Occupy Seattle getting its permit yanked, a mid-30s Quillayute gentleman named Tony finally pointed out the obvious.

“Only in Seattle,” he said, “do people worry about securing the proper permits to protest.” Then he muttered something about “passive-aggressive capitol of the world.”

Which is not to say that there was no rousing of the rabble going on. A chinchilla-eyed young lady passed out song lyric sheets, reminding attendees that singing “really helps to empower.”

I do not like crowds. I know what they can do, and it usually ain’t pretty, but the people in those flapping shelters downtown don’t put my hackles up at all. They’re comfortable in the rain, they say what’s on their mind, they articulate their positions, some are veterans, some are collegians, some are artists, some are contractors.

There’s not the kind of tension that you feel before people get stampeded in a herd or red-caped into a mob. In a way, it almost doesn’t feel like a protest. Young homeless drifters mix with middle-class (ha! That’s where the middle class went — they’re downtown with signs!) professionals, slumming college girls and smiling couples toting baby slings. The scent of quality pot rises over the tents. People feed each other, talk back and forth, and check their email on locally hijacked wifi points. Shiny nose rings wink through the night. It has the feel of what their parents — or perhaps grandparents — would have called “a happening.”

And then someone starts yelling a slogan that strikes a major chord with the assembled 99 percenters. The shout is taken up by others, echoing down the hollow canyons of downtown Seattle’s nighttime skyline, and for all the giggling, there is a serious undertone of urgency to this demand…

“Cof-fee NOW! Cof-fee NOW!”

For all the sense of celebration and optimism concentrated in that square, no one is quite sure that any specific goals will be accomplished. In the long run, they agree, the urgency of generalities may outweigh anyone’s specific issue agenda.

“It doesn’t take much,” Tony said, “it just takes people doing something. It takes the magic out of living when you don’t have to do things for yourself.”

“I’d like to think there’s a solution,” Alex said, adding that he thinks Occupy Seattle is time well spent, even when it conflicts with his study schedule.

“No time constructively spent on something like this is wasted,” he said. “You might look back and think you might have done this or that differently, but it’s not time wasted.

“We’re all part of the ninety-nine percent.”

And what would Alex say to the one percent?

“I’ve got relatives who are in the one percent. I’d say ‘nothing against you personally, but things have got to change.'”

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  1. @nickynumquid says

    Great article… Thanks for clearing it up. Keep up the good work.

  2. WOOOOO! OCCUPY SEATTLE IS DOING GREAT! Thanks for the update info, Jax- it’s hard to get information when one can’t get to the park.

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