Above: Protesters disrupted the City of Olympia council meeting Tuesday evening. One woman, above, spoke for nearly seven minutes, without a council or television audience. The meeting reconvened in another room. Protesters wanted Mayor Cheryl Selby to continue the public comment period beyond the 30 minute limit, instead of waiting for another public comment period near the end of the agenda.
The chamber was packed with those who wished to speak about the recent rail blockade of a Union Pacific train from leaving the Port of Olympia with a load of ceramic proppants. Others wanted to speak against the Olympia Police Department, and for the city to take a stronger stance against the Port's shipments of ceramic proppants, as well as a range of other viewpoints and issues.
By Janine Gates
City of Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby’s opening remarks at Tuesday night's council meeting, combined with Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan’s public comments, set off what was just the beginning of yet another wild public meeting.
The council chamber was packed, with an overflow crowd in the lobby watching the meeting on television monitors.
It's a dysfunctional relationship, and the lack of communication between the Port of Olympia, City of Olympia, Olympia Police Department, and the community continued into yet another week.
There's enough blame to go around, said one young protester who took over the City of Olympia council chamber podium during a disruption of the meeting.
It’s been rough, especially since the Union Pacific train was blocked on November 11 by protesters taking direct action to prevent it from leaving the Port of Olympia with 15 cars of ceramic proppants, a product used in hydraulic fracking.
The raid by law enforcement on the encampment in the early morning hours of November 18 has left many asking questions, and wondering about future shipments, resulting in packed meetings for both public entities.
Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts denounced the Port of Olympia and its acceptance of ceramic proppants during a council meeting on November 22.
Olympia city council was off last week, but in the meantime, last Monday’s Port of Olympia meeting resulted in port commissioners tabling meeting discussions with the city. Commissioner Downing said he was open to a meeting with the city through established channels, which would be between Olympia city manager Steve Hall and port executive director Ed Galligan.
If anyone thought that Galligan had signed up first to speak at Tuesday evening’s council meeting to extend an olive branch to the city, suggest a joint session to discuss mutual issues, or begin dispute resolution, forget it. He didn't.
Then, shortly before 8:00 p.m., after Galligan and other members of the public spoke during public comment, Galligan, Port Commissioner Joe Downing, and an entourage of port staff and supporters left the chambers, along with some members of the public.
Some community members who had been in the audience re-entered the chambers, loudly stating that they wanted Mayor Selby to continue the public comment period. She refused. Business had already continued onto the next item on the agenda, but they persisted, repeatedly shouting, “Can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil!”
Mayor Selby made a motion to recess and reconvene in a few minutes. Television cameras were cut off. As one protester continued to speak at the podium with a hot mic, Mayor Selby, councilmembers and staff reconvened and quickly voted to continue the meeting upstairs in Room 207.
Councilmembers, staff, representatives of The Olympian and Little Hollywood, as well as those scheduled to speak to agenda items, were ushered to the room where business on the agenda continued. The room was already set up for a council meeting just in case it was needed.
After the meeting, Mayor Selby was asked about what happened earlier, and what rule she used to move the meeting. She said that she followed protocol to be used in the event of disruptions to business meetings, developed by city attorneys last spring.
During the time council was not present and television cameras were off, one woman spoke articulately for nearly seven minutes:
“...I would like to respond to Chief Ronnie Roberts' statement...it was a nicely crafted message and I can tell you put a lot of work into it. First, I do want to thank you for calling out the port, but that's about it. I don't appreciate sly words...the way you finagled your language makes it sound like you're actually with us when you're not. The way you come up with fluffy ways to hide the fact that you were directing OPD...to hide the fact that your police officers were there brutalizing folks....
I've seen Ronnie Roberts blame the port, the port blame Ronnie Roberts, the city council blame the public. There's blame everywhere. And lastly, where's OPD and city council standing up and taking responsibility for their role in all of this?
I don't appreciate your words about protesters' confrontational behavior, Ronnie Roberts, when your police force was initiating confrontational behavior. How about the cops in riot gear confronting peaceful protesters? It was obviously done in the shadow of the morning when people waking up in Olympia couldn't witness this shit....
People are still coughing because of the unknown chemicals used....Your statements about people being injured is completely false...so your actions do not align with your words.
You want to talk about community values...People have bruises and wounds and are still healing, not to mention healing from the trauma they faced from being brutalized in the middle of the street in their town, in their city, at 4 o'clock in the morning....If you didn't want to be a part of this, why were you there?
....The police here is part of the city government - we have every right to be critical about what they do and they need to be accountable for their actions.”
Above: Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan addresses City of Olympia councilmembers on Tuesday night.
Port of Olympia executive director Ed Galligan’s comments are as follows:
The Executive Director is the highest level staff position at the Port. With that position, comes personnel responsibilities I take very seriously. Those responsibilities include maintaining a positive and safe working environment. This is a duty that I know you take very seriously within your organization, as well.
While the intention may not have been there, and I believe Chief Roberts to be an honorable man that was sharing genuine frustration after an exhausting and stressful event, his comments two weeks ago have had significant negative consequences which have reverberated through the Port of Olympia.
When Chief Roberts said, “It angers me to have to put our officers in combat gear to face off with members of our community over something I don’t believe in myself,” my staff heard that statement as blaming them for the criminal activity that required police intervention.
I am here to voice my concerns and those of my 50 hardworking Port of Olympia colleagues, 31 members of the Local 47 Long Shore, port customers, and local law enforcement. None are to be blamed for the acts of vandalism, trespassing, and harassing behavior of others in this community.
The port has had rocks thrown through our office windows, graffiti spray painted on the walls, lit flares thrown over marine terminal fences, threatening phone calls, and most recently, a port maintenance employee was accosted by protesters while driving a port vehicle through downtown Olympia to purchase supplies at a local merchant. Employees at the Port do not feel safe in their current work environment. They question whether or not they will be protected by the City of Olympia police for the next incident after the remarks made by Chief Roberts. My staff does not deserve this treatment. I hope you agree with that sentiment – and that this treatment is not a tenant of Olympia’s community values.
My desire is to work together towards understanding the roles, constraints, and intent of our actions.
I am committed to fulfilling my role as the executive director of the Port of Olympia. I cannot stand idly by as it is implied, or expressly stated, that those who are doing their job at the Port of Olympia are to be blamed for the criminal actions of others.
In my 11 years of service to the Port of Olympia, port and city staffs have served Olympia by working well together, finding mutually agreeable and positive solutions to many challenges over the decade. We’ve worked together in a professional, collegial and enjoyable manner.
Speakers during public comment addressed a variety of issues, but several spoke to the Port of Olympia’s contract with Rainbow Ceramics and participation in the fossil fuel industry.
Former port citizen advisory committee member Clydia Cuykendall said she supports hydraulic fracking and would like to know the council’s opinion on Chief Roberts’ statement.
Others supported the protesters who blocked the train, such as Bourtai Hargrove, who strongly suggested that, lacking federal direction, the responsibility for climate progress may well fall to municipalities like the City of Olympia and Thurston County.
“It’s a big responsibility,” she said.
Zoltan Grossman, a faculty member at The Evergreen State College said, “The world is watching Olympia....”
For more photos and information about the Port of Olympia, ceramic proppants, the rail blockade, and last week's port meeting, go to Little Hollywood, https://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com, and type key words into the search button.
To read Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts' statement, go to http://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2016/11/olympia-police-chief-denounces-port-of.html
To read the blow by blow of last week's contentious Port of Olympia meeting, go to http://janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com/2016/11/risky-business-olympia-port-commission.html