Gov. Inslee, 'tear down this wall'
Last updated 1/26/2021 at 4:27pm
Protests are nothing new in Olympia. Each year, thousands of protesters converge on legislative sessions to rally for special causes, object to government activities and generally just remind lawmakers who they work for.
I cannot recall a time that the Capitol Building, other legislative office buildings and the state library weren’t available for public access. Indeed, each year I wander the Capitol campus during session to personally deliver a newspaper to those who represent us in Olympia, a simple reminder that we’re here, and that constituents are reading.
Times have changed, but not necessarily for the better.
I spent Sunday and Monday, Jan. 10 and 11, at the Capitol. Like many journalists, I anticipated major protests over the lack of government transparency, the continued coronavirus-related closures of businesses and more. I expected some police presence. I even expected some National Guard presence as the governor had called up units last week.
But what I saw was more than I expected.
The scene was more like a dystopian clip from “Red Dawn” than the seat of a modern state government.
Crime scene tape and chain link fencing lined the Capitol campus. Washington State Patrol troopers in body armor – some with tactical rifles – were visibly massed on street corners around some of the nearby buildings. Dressed in camouflage, National Guard troops unloaded from private busses with rucksacks, billy clubs and shields.
Meanwhile, commercials over local radio stations repeated government messages to listen to experts, wear masks, keep their distance. Graffiti marred buildings and streets.
Troopers took up posts at vehicle checkpoints on roads leading into the Capitol complex. Guardsmen stood at the ready – one window in the Helen Sommers Building, home to the state Department of Enterprise Services, had already been smashed by Black Lives Matter protesters.
By Monday, a garrison of nearly 1,000 strong had been stationed on the Capitol campus to “protect” the people’s property from the people. Many of the troopers and guardsmen formed a phalanx at the main entrance to the Capitol building, directing the handful of protesters who turned out to not cross crime scene tape haphazardly strung between trees and traffic cones.
There was no public access to the legislative session this day.
Inside, Democrats in both the House and Senate voted to lockdown the campus over the objections of every Republican. They claimed the lockdown is necessary due to the coronavirus and the recent incursion on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
But this is Olympia. We the people have always had access to our lawmakers, their offices and the galleries.
Democrats claimed they will be transparent during the 105-day session, digitally transparent anyway. But how transparent can it be when you can’t see who’s pulling the levers. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
The coronavirus and the possible threat from protesters are just excuses to shield what’s really going on behind the “wall.” After having spent a couple days on the “outside,” I don’t like what’s transpiring in Olympia.
State government is at its best when monitored closely, not at a distance. Anxiety is diminished by transparency.
Gov. Inslee, ‘tear down this wall.’
– Roger Harnack is the publisher of Free Press Publishing. Email him at [email protected]