Police received multiple 911 calls from employees at the Red Lion around 11am on Sunday saying numerous individuals were entering their lobby armed with batons, knives and axes,
One employee was assaulted as they tried to close the doors and the rest fled to the basement, according to an Olympia police spokesperson.
Twelve people have been arrested
Hotel employees who had been sheltering in the basement have been rescued.
Police in Olympia were clearing The Red Lion Inn after around 35 homeless people moved in
Protesters, pictured by Jason Rantz, host of Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, demanded better housing conditions for homeless people, insisting that COVID put them at risk
The drama began on Saturday night, when activists paid for 17 rooms at the hotel, and announced they were staying until Thurston County committed funding for permanent housing.
The group, numbering around 35 people and calling themselves Oly Housing Now, then occupied the lobby and the 17 rooms.
The group had occupied the fourth and fifth floors and were placing black tarps on the windows, according to police.
Employees in the basement continued to shelter in place, and guests in about 40 rooms not associated with the group did the same, while officers obtained a search warrant for the building.
Emma Deitz, one of the leaders of Oly Housing Now, told the paper she has been volunteering with a group called Olympia Anarchist Mutual Aid that brings supplies like propane heaters, blankets, hand sanitizer, and food to people living in tent encampments.
She said that the combination of rain, cold, and rats make conditions there intolerable, and said Oly Housing Now formed specifically for this weekend’s protest.
Deitz said her group wants Thurston County to apply for funding that’s being offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for ‘non-congregate’ shelter for people who are aged over 65, and vulnerable to COVID-19.
Oly Housing Now also released a list of demands for the city of Olympia that include providing sanitation, restrooms, and other ‘resources to meet the COVID-19 CDC hygiene recommendations.’
The city currently supplies several encampments with port-a-potties and dumpsters.
They also want additional ‘impact fees’ on luxury and commercial properties in the city, to fund the homeless programs.
Keylee Marineau, the Homeless Coordinator for Thurston County, told the paper she went to the hotel on Sunday and talked with organizers.
She said the county is looking into the federal funding program.
‘We’re actively pursuing avenues to understand how the homeless-specific funds for FEMA work,’ she said.
The Red Lion Inn in downtown Olympia was the seen of this weekend’s unrest
Police moved in as darkness fell on Sunday, with SWAT teams on the site.
Lt. Paul Lower, with Olympia Police Department, said his officers were going floor-to-floor.
‘We’re still processing the building and anticipate more arrests to come,’ he said.
The hotel was already housing several homeless families, using vouchers provided by Family Support Center, a local nonprofit.
Trish Gregory, executive director of Family Support Center, said there were 27 families staying at several local hotels in the city, including the Red Lion Inn.
‘Family Support Center is currently spending approximately $80,000 per month to provide hotel rooms to families with children who otherwise would be forced to sleep outdoors,’ she said.
Cheryl Selby, mayor of Olympia, called the protest ‘unproductive’.
‘Making sure our unhoused residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been Olympia’s priority for more than a decade,’ she said.
‘Olympia has led on responding to homelessness, on coordinating shelter and other basic needs.
‘The tactics used today by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable.’