OLYMPIA –– The Olympia City Council voted Tuesday night to pass a resolution that authorizes Olympia police to use chemical dispersion methods in crowd control efforts.
“Using chemical dispersion tools would be appropriate,” said Cheryl Selby, mayor of Olympia. “To give our officers more tools they need to control crowds with less lethal force, it was originally written with only two exceptions...this will add a clarification that will cover a third exception and so we can give cops what they need to still control crowds that have shifted from peaceful protest to mob-like behavior.”
The chemical dispersion agents are the third such exception to a city prohibition on less-than-lethal agents law enforcement can use on mobs and violent crowds who destroy property or set fires. The resolution passed by the city council took effect immediately.
The vote comes days after Olympia police officers were said to have been instructed to stand down from responding to property damage calls. Business owners downtown told JOLT earlier this week that a pack of vandals smashed five business’ windows late Saturday night into Sunday morning. There were no arrests made despite the fact that six windows were broken at The Pet Works on Fourth Avenue East and Adams Street.
The store’s manager, Raven Yamada, told JOLT she lives across the street and could hear the commotion of “like 30-40 people” as they chanted “Rent should be free,” “ Landlords suck,” “This land is stolen,” and “ACAB”, which Urban Dictionary defines as “all cops are bastards.”
Unlike the peaceful protest held on Saturday afternoon, these events weren’t connected to the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Yamada. She added she doesn’t call those involved in the demonstration “protestors.”
“I want to call them vandals who are taking advantage of a vulnerable and high stress situation,” Yamada said. “I’m very frustrated. I heard that [Mayor] Cheryl Selby told the police not to get involved when people are doing these things.”
Yamada said while she secured the store at around 1:30 am Sunday she called 911 to report someone was “exploding mortars” in the road but the police did not respond.
“I talked with an Olympia police officer who said he was told not to protect property,” Yamada added. “If anything, I’m more frustrated that [as of 5:30 p.m. Monday] the cops haven’t even called to check in on us.”
Other businesses experienced window damage on Saturday night, too –– Octapas Café and McCoy’s Tavern, nearby Olympia Coffee Roasters, Rumors Wine Bar and Commencement Bank all had windows broken over the weekend. Rumors and Commencement Bank are both located several blocks from the Fourth Avenue businesses.
Olympia police officers were unavailable for comment.
Madeline Shannon contributed reporting to this story.