The facts are indisputable.
A group calling itself Olympia Solidarity targeted small business owners downtown because they were using safety teams to address chronic trespassing in the doorways of their businesses at night.
The letter the downtown business owners received from Olympia Solidarity was both clear and threatening: If the businesses did not meet OlySol’s demand to cancel their contract with the private security firm by a set deadline, there would be consequences.
Though shaken and angered by the threats, the business owners refused to give in to Olympia Solidarity’s demands. The consequences included flooding one business with phone calls for an entire day to tie up their lines, and disrupting a non-profits’ fundraising event. On at least three occasions, members of the safety team, while on patrol, were confronted, surrounded and intimidated by as many as 20 masked individuals. Concerned for its employees’ safety, the security firm cancelled the contract with the business owners.
Let me be clear: Those who bully those they disagree with and who terrorize those they seek to drive out are wrong. Full stop. They are wrong whether they use these tactics under white sheets in the South or under black masks on the streets of Olympia.
I applaud our City Council for condemning these tactics. As Council member Lisa Parshley so clearly put it when denouncing the behavior and calling for civil discourse: “This is not what our community is about. This does not solve a single problem.”
Those who seek to justify Olympia Solidarity’s tactics minimize its acts of intimidation as merely “protests” by chanting youth. They grant them pardon because they see OlySol as a champion of the homeless and poor. But real solutions for the homeless and poor will never come from bullying others.
Like many communities across the country, Olympia is faced with increasing challenges of homelessness and poverty. Olympia’s downtown is on the front line of the impacts of these challenges. Still our downtown businesses have invested more resources than ever before to create and maintain a safe and welcoming environment for the public. This in turn feeds the tax base that creates the revenue the City of Olympia needs to address homelessness.
In this new year, there is much work to do together to positively impact the homeless crisis in our community and ensure safety downtown.
In 2019, the city will launch a community-driven planning process to create homeless response strategies. Please watch for opportunities to participate.
The Olympia Police Department is working closely with the downtown community to address criminal nuisance behavior, and we remain committed to enforcing all applicable laws that are violated by groups like Olympia Solidarity.
We also will continue to use all available resources to keep our Capital City’s downtown safe and welcoming for all.