On February 1st at 12 PM, the Olympia Poor People’s Union (PPU) set up a tent encampment on city property. The date of the action intentionally corresponds with the city’s implementation of an amended pedestrian interference code already in effect. The addition of Ordinance No. 6456n to the existing law criminalizes sidewalk sitting with a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. This act of civil disobedience, the encampment, was carried out in response to growing discontentment amongst Olympia’s poor people over the slow, systematic attempt at the dispossession of our city’s homeless, orchestrated and supported by some city officials and business owners.
In addition, significant portions of the population of Olympia have taken on a generally dismissive and apathetic attitude towards the plight of those in need. This is the inception of an ongoing effort on the part of the PPU to find a sustainable, dignified way to address the issue of homelessness in this area, rather than to ignore it or to punish its victims.
The PPU believes the rights to shelter, dignity; mental and physical health to be basic human entitlements; and that a community where all individual members are valued and their contributions recognized must be realized. The PPU believes that all people are entitled to these basic rights, and if these rights are not provided, we believe it is essential for us to take what is necessary for survival by the means available. The State thus far has proved inadequate in addressing our needs as human beings, and the situation has grown too urgent for us to wait for either institutionalized charity or bureaucratically hampered government aid. We thus are attempting to take matters into our own hands.
To be treated as human beings is our goal. As there is a stigma attached to being homeless, we will create homes of our own and show ourselves to be responsible, caring members of the community, as capable of taking care of ourselves as any other group of people. In our encampment, we will keep order, prohibiting drugs, alcohol, violence or theft. These are our only regulations. We will work towards creating sustainable, permanent housing for all who are in need and to create a space for those who are looked down upon to be integrated into the community, not out of charity or pity but out of acceptance, solidarity and mutual appreciation.
All Power to the People, -Olympia Poor People’s Union