Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

End the Criminalization of the Homeless!

On Tuesday evening March 5, 2013, seven of us were arrested for trespassing in the parking lot of the abandoned Washington State Fish and Wildlife Building on Washington Street, near the Farmer’s Market in downtown Olympia. In addition I was arrested on the charge of assault for allegedly assaulting State Trooper Wiley. I did not assault anyone.

The context is as follows. In mid January, 2013, the City Council of Olympia further criminalized homelessness by banning camping on city owned property. This ordinance went into effect in early February. There has been widespread community opposition to this law.  In addition, on March 1st, 2013 the main homeless shelters for men were closed because the evening weather had risen to 38 degrees. There is no shelter for homeless men in Olympia. In response, the Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP) began an encampment at the Artesian Well in downtown Olympia where we provided food, a 24 hour bathroom, discussion, music and an enclosed tent with clean mattresses.  6 people slept there Friday night, March 1st; 14 people slept there, March 2nd, and 22 people slept there on Sunday, March 3rd, showing the clear need for shelter and more affordable housing. I attended the encampment every day, fully supported it, attended some meetings there, as a member of OMJP,   although was not a major organizer of the encampment.

We were ordered to vacate several times, principally by Steve Hall, the Olympia City Manager. Based on a Sunday, March 3rd meeting at the Artesian Well, we drafted a letter requesting the city provide a temporary shelter for two weeks that we offered to staff with experienced people while longer run shelter was being worked out. We offered to close our encampment by Wednesday morning, March 6th if this offer was accepted. In a Monday meeting with Gene Hoover, a long time homeless advocate, the city manager, Hall,  totally rejected our offer and said he would use the Olympia police to clear the encampment at 5 P.M. even though the encampment had been clean, peaceful and clearly served a need.

Before 5 P.M., Monday we took down the tent and moved it to the unused parking lot of the Washington State Fish and Wildlife building.  We rented another bathroom. 16 people slept there that Monday night and were served food. On Tuesday, May 5th, we were given an order by the Washing State Police to leave the parking lot by 6 P.M.  Six people who were in or near the tent we had constructed at 6 P.M., were arrested for trespass.

I had finished teaching at 4:30 that afternoon, March 5th.  I then spoke to a few students in my class about the significance of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s death as we were studying Venezuela that week and Hugo Chávez had just died.  I consider Chávez a great leader who did a lot to reduce poverty in Venezuela and who was very misrepresented by the mainstream media. I stopped at home after my teaching and then got to the Homeless Encampment about 6:20 P.M., Tuesday.

Upon entering the parking lot, I was told by Washington State Patrol Officer Wiley, that if you assault me I will take you down and arrest you.  As can be seen from the enclosed YouTube video, I did not move any closer to Officer Wiley, did not touch him and tried to move around and away from him. I also removed my hands from my pocket as he requested.  Wiley grabbed my arms, twisted them behind my back and said I was under arrest. I did not resist at all. The plastic handcuffs were very tight.

Here is YouTube video, see minute six, fifty seconds.   There are also other videos that show my total innocence as well as the statements of many witnesses.

I was then put in a State Patrol Car together with another person who was arrested for trespass and taken to Thurston County Jail around 6:45 P.M.  I was not t booked until 4:30 A.M,   the following day, Wednesday,   nor allowed a phone call until then. With many other prisoners, including the others arrested for trespass, I was held in the holding tank. Bail was set at $1500 on my two charges: 4th degree assault punishable by up to a year and a maximum fine of $5000; and 2nd degree trespass, punishable by up to 90 days and up to a $1000 fine.

After being booked, I then changed into jail clothing and was sent to a dormitory in the Thurston County Jail at about 4:45 A.M., Wednesday, March 6th where I put my mattress on the floor. All the beds were full. We were awakened for breakfast shortly after 5 AM. After eating my breakfast, I was informed that my bail of $1500 had been raised and I was released at about 5:45 A.M. on March 6th.

I went to court on Tuesday, March 12th with the other six defendants, four of whom are homeless, and two who have homes.  All of us pleaded not guilty.  My next court appearance is set for Tuesday April 16th at 1:45 P.M. at Thurston County District Court.

This encampment and my participation in it are part of an ongoing campaign in Olympia to overturn the increasing criminalization of the homeless and for ongoing shelter and housing for all, where all people are treated with dignity. Housing is a human right. We are living in a country where there is mass unemployment of over 20 million, and an obscene inequality of income and wealth. The cause of this is an unjust system built to further the profits of the few at the expense of the many– locally, nationally and globally.  The main public housing program and policy in this country is locking up more people and building more and more prisons.  Sadly, the Olympia, City Manager and City Council are so far part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Enough is enough! Let us unite and act in ways big and small to make sure no one is homeless, that there is quality housing, education and healthcare for all, that we stop criminalizing and incarcerating the immigrant and the poor and particularly young Blacks and Latinos, and where there are livable wage and meaningful jobs for all.  Let us tax the wealthy, cut military and prison spending and use the money to serve human needs.

Let us create an Olympia and a country that puts the needs of those with the least resources first rather than one where the government is a government to serve the corporations and the privileged.

Statement by Peter Bohmer After His Arrest, March 14, 2013.

Peter Bohmer has been an organizer and participant in the struggle for social and economic justice since the 1960s.  In recent years, his political activities have taken him to Venezuela, Cuba, Greece and a number of US cities.  He teaches political economy and has been a faculty member at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. since 1987.

More articles by:

Peter Bohmer is a faculty member in Political Economy at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He has been an activist since 1967 in movements for fundamental social change.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail