On June 6, the City of Olympia presented Downtown Strategy Workshop 3. For 60 attendees, the latest vision of a future downtown would have been presented, encouraging public input for further revisions.
The plan has evolved using citizen input from Olyspeaks surveys, hearings, informational and stakeholder meetings. Hundreds of ideas and thoughtful analysis have been offered up by Olympians who chose to participate.
A few minutes into the introduction, a dozen people barged in, shouting and making deafening noise. They paraded for several minutes, ignored anyone’s attempts to stop them, and made communication impossible. The meeting was canceled.
Although the disruptors seemed to protest some aspect of the plan, they only alienated those present, prevented anyone from finding out about the plan, eliminated an opportunity for citizen participation, and wasted a lot of money. Their arrogance and disrespect was uninspiring.
Over the years, my neighborhood association has opposed the city at times and supported it others. If what we wanted was legal, possible, and fundable, change happened. It took a lot of time. City staff was fair and helpful. They work hard to do what the public wants, while following the law.
How can we deal with disruptors? They made it clear that nothing but physical force could make them stop. The anger attendees felt was palpable, and could easily have erupted into violence. If police had tried to overpower the disruptors, that too would have been ugly. How can we prevent naive, one-issue boors from derailing democratic process?