Following a remarkable display of civil disobedience, seventeen protesters were arrested Thursday outside Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire’s office. In the footage below, you can see the troopers physically carry one of the activists out of the gallery.
About 400 citizens were in the building, and the overall protest was reportedly orderly and civil, but these arrests highlight the growing desperation in the anti-cut movements, and in the population at large.
As Glenda Faatoafe, a home care provider protesting healthcare cuts puts it, austerity measures are truly a matter of life and death. “They are killing our clients,” says Faatoafe, “I have a client that has to be turned every hour. He’s going to die. Do you want that on your conscience? Apparently, [lawmakers] do.”
House lawmakers will vote this week on Washington’s version of austerity, a $4.4 billion slashing frenzy for the 2011–13 budget cycle.
These are not the first, nor are they likely to be the last, protesters willing to go to jail in order to oppose the dramatic cuts disseminating from nationwide Capitols. Thirty-three demonstrators were arrested outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office last month, and were charged with “disorderly conduct” for refusing to move away from the stairway in front of Cuomo’s office.
In the now legendary and overwhelmingly peaceful Wisconsin protests, authorities did still arrest nine demonstrators, some of whom the police claim were trying to charge into the state Assembly.
Internationally, this kind of brave display of civil disobedience is more prevalent. The risk of imprisonment wasn’t enough to stop over 10,000 people in Hong Kong from taking to the streets to oppose their government’s cruel treatment of the poor. In that protest, 113 activists went to jail, and in the UK, 200 people of the more than 250,000 people occupying London’s streets were arrested.
For these people—this poor majority—going to jail is literally their last line of recourse. As Chris Hedges stated outside the White House while protesting the Afghanistan war, this course of action is “all we have left at this point…. The normal mechanisms by which democratic participation are rendered possible in this country have been closed shut, and if we don’t do this, we die. This is what’s left of hope in this country.” In that nonviolent protest, Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and more than a hundred antiwar activists were arrested.
It’s clear that the working poor are no longer willing to pay for the mistakes of the privileged elite. The Washington State Labor Council released the following statement about Friday’s event: "Washington’s working families are tired of being blamed and punished for the damage done by Wall Street banks and corporations.” The group is asking citizens to demand their lawmakers "put people first."