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Protest, Zap, Disrupt! Campaign Against Displacement Expands

Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) has moved forward with its campaign against anti-homeless security contracts held between downtown Olympia businesses and the private security firm, Pacific Coast Security (PCS). A couple dozen business owners, property managers and building owners contract with Pacific Coast Security in a scheme facilitated by “business advocacy” group, Olympia Downtown Alliance (ODA), called the “Downtown Safety Team.” PCS guards hired for this scheme perform nightly patrols from 8PM to 12AM and trespass and displace people sleeping in the alcoves or other parts of property owned by participating parties.  On September 5th, 30 OlySol members and supporters delivered demand letters to two businesses that contract with PCS, Harlequin Productions and Cooper Realty/Orca Construction, demanding contract cancellation. Letters were also issued to other participating businesses, property managers and building owners, noting that if their contracts aren’t cancelled they too could be subject to a campaign.

When after 14 days neither Harlequin Productions or Cooper Realty/Orca Construction nor any other participating party issued contract cancellation OlySol immediately resumed action. In the last couple weeks OlySol has done the following:

 

September 19th: Harlequin and Cooper Realty/Orca Construction Postering

 

Upon 14 days following the demand deliveries, OlySol organized a poster campaign targeting the two businesses. Posters discouraging consumers from patronizing the enterprises were placed throughout downtown and adjacent to the offices of Cooper Realty/Orca Construction.

 

September 29th: Street Theater and Leafleting at Harlequin’s Annual Gala

 

Harlequin Production’s annual gala is the theatre’s largest fundraising event. This year, the gala was visited by ten OlySol members and supporters. Leaflets were distributed to the gala’s attendees while a number of others staged an improvised and humorous skit portraying PCS guards sweeping people sleeping on the ground. The action was concluded with an anti-PCS song sung collectively by the group, eliciting the slamming of the propped open front door by an apparent gala organizer.

 

October 2nd: Cooper Realty/Orca Construction Phone Zap

 

Thanks to promotion from It’s Going Down and on social media, OlySol held a successful phone zap of Cooper Realty/Orca Construction, flooding the business’ phone lines for the day. Although less flashy, phone zaps are easily executed and can yield tangible effects by disrupting business-as-usual for targets.

 

October 4th: Picket at Harlequin Productions

Over 40 people dressed in a diverse array of costumes and otherwise funky attire staged a festive picket outside of Harlequin Productions. The picket occurred 30 minutes before the opening of a new show at the theatre. Demonstrators distributed pamphlets and leaflets about the security contracts, banged on drums and shouted chants. Some chants included, “Cancel the contract, or we’ll be back!” and “Stop the sweeps, stop the sweeps, PCS off our streets!”

 

October 4th: Mass Copwatch and Disruption of Pacific Coast Security’s Nightly Patrol

 

Immediately following the picket, the demonstration moved to confront PCS guards beginning their nightly patrol shift at 8PM in a comical and playful but highly disruptive direct action. Upon notice of the impending demonstration, PCS guards did an about-face and started to return to the office of the Olympia Downtown Alliance, where PCS guards take breaks and begin and end shifts. Demonstrators than marched around the block where ODA is headquartered before settling on the sidewalks adjacent to the two entrances of the building, occasionally taking notice of the two security guards lurking in the hallway. Around 10PM, with the protest dwindling, officers from Olympia Police Department and Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, including some clad in riot gear advanced toward the protest.  PCS guards were then escorted to police vehicles and driven away. The protest dispersed, satisfied with preventing PCS from performing nightly patrols for nearly 2 hours.

 

More Information:

 

Pacific Coast Security is headquartered in Tacoma, WA and provides services throughout the south Puget Sound region. PCS (like other private security forces) is distinct from but complementary to state-operated police departments. PCS guards have the power to trespass people sleeping or sitting in alcoves and alleyways but must call upon Olympia Police Department (OPD) to perform arrests of trespassed individuals. The recent increase in contracts between downtown businesses and Pacific Coast Security has been encouraged and facilitated by the Olympia Downtown Alliance (ODA). ODA is a self-described “business advocacy” organization whose actions constitute a significant political force for gentrification in the city. While ODA doesn’t directly financially subsidize contracts, the group provides technical assistance and other conveniences that incentivize businesses to contract with PCS. Disturbingly, nightly patrols by PCS guards have been effective in driving many homeless people out of the core of downtown and into encampments on the periphery of downtown, or further into the city’s eastern and western neighborhoods. Out of downtown, homeless residents have a harder time accessing necessary services.

The PCS contracts highlight the current contradictory trends regarding responses to homelessness in Olympia. On the one hand, as Olympia gentrifies there is strong pressure from the city government and business owners to displace and criminalize the hundreds of homeless people who call Olympia home. On the other hand,  persistent direct action and mutual aid organizing from homeless solidarity activists has forced the city government to concede on some issues. Recently, the city council passed resolutions to open limited legal camping sites and allocate funding for a day center and other services. As minimal as these reforms are, they have provoked outrage among Olympia’s local ruling class, hence business owners increasingly utilizing PCS security services. More recently, the city government has taken more repressive and criminalizing measures against the downtown homeless population. Firstly, attempts were made to evict three downtown encampments, all of which were indefinitely stayed due to the potential legal implications of the Martin V. City of Boise case of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Secondly, the city continues to enforce a variety of ordinances to displace people sitting or lying on sidewalks, sleeping in tents and living in vehicles. Tensions flared to new heights when Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Director Paul Simmons issued the unilateral decision to shutter the Artesian Commons, a local park and important home and hang-out for street youth in particular. These measures, but especially the park closure, has sparked marches, sit-ins, new mutual aid projects and a large and festive direct action that successfully temporarily re-opened the Artesian Commons, culminating in street confrontations and multiple arrests.

 

For more on recent resistance efforts, we suggest the following articles: https://itsgoingdown.org/olympia-anger-grows-as-city-comes-down-on-homeless/

https://itsgoingdown.org/olympia-wa-autonomous-crowd-reopens-the-artesian-commons-police-respond-with-force/

https://itsgoingdown.org/the-struggle-for-the-artesian-well-in-olympia-wa/

 

As conflicts over homelessness and access to public space heighten, OlySol is well equipped to intervene in the broader homeless solidarity movement in Olympia. With a track record of successfully combating stolen deposits, wage theft and refused repairs, a consistent capacity to mobilize community members, and politicize working-class people in the process, OlySol can help advance a viable, direct action-based strategic approach within the movement.

 

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Campaign to End Anti-Homeless Security Contracts Launched by Olympia Solidarity Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) has initiated a campaign against downtown Olympia businesses that contract with the private security contract firm, Pacific Coast Security (PCS). PCS operates nightly security patrol services to contracting businesses in an effort to displace and criminalize homeless people using alcoves and alleys as living space. Approximately 30 OlySol members and supporters delivered demand letters to the offices of both Harlequin Productions and Orca Construction/Cooper Realty. The demand letters outlined the unethical nature of the criminalization of homelessness that PCS engages in and calls for an immediate cancellation of all PCS contracts. The demand letter specified that if these businesses do not cancel their contracts within 14 days, further action will be taken. Additionally, approximately two dozen other downtown Olympia businesses that are known to contract with PCS, but aren’t currently being directly targeted in a campaign, were also delivered letters. These letters explained that OlySol was targeting two neighboring businesses and that if other businesses in downtown don’t stop contracting with PCS, any one could be the subject of a new direct action campaign.

Pacific Coast Security is headquartered in Tacoma, WA and provides services throughout the south Puget Sound region. PCS (like other private security forces) is distinct from but complementary to state-operated police departments. PCS guards have the power to trespass people sleeping or sitting in alcoves and alleyways but must call upon Olympia Police Department (OPD) to perform arrests of trespassed individuals. The recent increase in contracts between downtown businesses and Pacific Coast Security has been encouraged and facilitated by the Olympia Downtown Alliance (ODA). ODA is a self-described “business advocacy” organization whose actions constitute a significant political force for gentrification in the city. While ODA doesn’t directly financially subsidize contracts, the group provides technical assistance and other conveniences that incentivize businesses to contract with PCS. Disturbingly, nightly patrols by PCS guards have been effective in driving many homeless people out of the core of downtown and into encampments on the periphery of downtown, or further into the city’s eastern and western neighborhoods. Out of downtown, homeless residents have a harder time accessing necessary services.

The PCS contracts highlight the current contradictory trends regarding responses to homelessness in Olympia. On the one hand, as Olympia gentrifies there is strong pressure from the city government and business owners to displace and criminalize the hundreds of homeless people who call Olympia home. On the other hand, persistent direct action and mutual aid organizing from homeless solidarity activists has forced the city government to concede on some issues. Recently, a relatively progressive city council passed resolutions to open limited legal camping sites and allocate funding for a day center and other services. As minimal as these reforms are, they have provoked outrage among Olympia’s local ruling class, hence business owners increasingly utilizing PCS security services. Moreover, the city government is experiencing internal conflict on the question of homelessness. Many city council members are generally supporting more progressive legislation, while the unelected city manager and other city bureaucrats maintain highly reactionary positions and implement repressive and criminalizing measures. This internal political conflict came to a fore recently when Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Director Paul Simmons made the unilateral decision to shutter the Artesian Commons, a local park and important home and hang-out for street youth in particular. Read more about the park closure decision and resistance to it here: https://itsgoingdown.org/olympia-anger-grows-as-city-comes…/. Finally, these tensions are exacerbated by increasing homelessness in the region, fueled by skyrocketing housing costs, low wages and an erosion of social services.

As conflicts over homelessness and access to public space heighten, OlySol is well equipped to intervene in the broader homeless solidarity movement in Olympia. With a track record of successfully combating stolen deposits, wage theft and refused repairs, a consistent capacity to mobilize community members, and politicize working-class people in the process, OlySol can help advance a viable, direct action-based strategic approach within the movement.

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The Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) is a volunteer network that uses direct action to combat landlord and employer greed and abuse. We collaborate and organize campaigns with tenants and workers who have specific grievances against their former or current landlords and employers, such as stolen wages or denied deposits. By deploying direct action tactics (be it a picket, poster campaign or office occupation) against abusive landlords and bosses, OlySol can help win relatively immediate housing and workplace improvements for tenants and workers.

If you would like to keep updated on the Pacific Coast Security campaign, get involved in OlySol or want to learn more, please contact us!

Website: olyassembly.org/olysol
Facebook: facebook.com/OlySolNet
Email: olysolidarity@gmail.com

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Olympia Solidarity Network’s Campaign at Evergreen Vista Wins Repairs; Management Continues to Ignore Accessibility Concerns

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After approximately one month of organizing against Evergreen Vista management and its operator, Mercy Housing, Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) has forced a partial meeting of demands for improved living conditions for tenants at the Evergreen Vista apartments. Repair requests to individual units, previously neglected by management, are increasingly being executed. Progress has also been made on repairs to common infrastructures, such as stairways and outdoor lighting, though the latter remains far from resolved. However, OlySol’s other demand, for the installation of accessible garbage disposal at each building in the complex, has not been met. As Evergreen Vista and Mercy Housing have offered no indication that they intend to meet this demand, the campaign will continue.

The campaign was launched on March 22nd, when 25 OlySol members and supporters delivered a demand letter to Evergreen Vista’s property manager in her office. The demand letter outlined tenant grievances and demands for the fulfillment of all current work orders, the repair of common spaces and infrastructure, and the installation of garbage bins accessible to disabled tenants located at each building in the complex.

About two weeks following the demand letter delivery, OlySol distributed fliers to the doors of every tenant at the complex. The fliers included information about the campaign, OlySol’s contact info and legal resources regarding refused or delayed repairs. Around this time tenants began to report that work-orders slowly began to be met. Management also installed one accessible garbage bin adjacent to the centralized and inaccessible bin, and suggested that disabled tenants who are still burdened by the garbage disposal system complete a Reasonable Accommodation Request. While clearly taken in response to the campaign, these steps were seen as inadequate by tenants and OlySol organizers; one accessible bin is far from meeting the demand and requiring tenants obtain medical verification to access something as basic as garbage disposal is degrading and a near insurmountable barrier for tenants who lack health care coverage.

OlySol then escalated the pressure, hoping to speed up repairs and force management to fully meet demands regarding garbage and repairs to common infrastructure. OlySol members visited the Evergreen Vista’s manager’s neighborhood in Lacey, WA with anti-slumlord posters, while members of Seattle Solidarity Network (SeaSol) postered the offices of Mercy Housing Northwest’s offices and the home neighborhood of Mercy Housing Northwest’s president. Following these efforts, repairs began to also be made to common infrastructures, like stairways and outdoor lighting, though as of this writing, these repairs are incomplete. As further progress hasn’t been made on the installation of accessible garbage disposal, OlySol, with the support of SeaSol, is calling for a picket of Mercy Housing Northwest’s offices on May 10th, at 1PM.

Prior to launching the campaign, OlySol had been engaged in concerted outreach at Evergreen Vista for approximately two months. During this time about 15 different tenants had come forward with similar problems regarding management. These tenants frequently experienced refused and delayed repairs to the most basic appliances and structural components of their apartments. This included, but was not limited to, refrigerators, heaters, dishwashers, bathroom plumbing, doors, sinks, ovens and mold infestations. Moreover, almost every tenant OlySol has been in contact with has reported that the current garbage disposal system is inaccessible to disabled tenants and needlessly inconvenient. The complex used to have accessible bins outside each building at the complex, but has now opted for one large dumpster that is physically out of reach for children and people with mobility issues. Most egregiously, when tenants who can’t access the dumpster inevitably occasionally leave garbage bags adjacent to the dumpster, management has been known to identify the tenants who left the garbage and subsequently fine them. Finally, most tenants have reported general mistreatment from management. Not only has management blown off repair requests, they allegedly threaten to evict tenants over minor issues. For this reason, all tenants involved in the campaign have chosen to remain anonymous to shield them from any potential retaliation from management. As the campaign has proceeded even more tenants have come forward and shared experiences and offered input in the campaign.

Evergreen Vista is a low-income housing complex and is home to a high concentration of tenants who rely on forms of social assistance. Evergreen Vista is operated by Mercy Housing, a national non-profit and “affordable” housing provider. Mercy Housing and many similar non-profits, operate a kind of privatized public housing, reminiscent of government-subsidized housing programs these days. We speculate that these non-profits usually require tenants to be low-income, house a disproportionately high number of Section 8 tenants and often receive various subsidies and tax credits from the government, while still charging relatively high rents. Effectively, this model of affordable housing channels government subsidies into a booming non-profit housing industry that is generally notorious for poor living conditions.

In Olympia, the most urgent housing issue for most people is gentrification and rapidly rising rents. Thus, taking on slumlords and pressing for repairs and better conditions can seem like a distraction from the bigger issue of imminent displacement. But, there exists an important relationship between gentrification and slumlordism. As rents rise generally, working-class and marginalized tenants are increasingly forced to rent at already over-crowded complexes operated by slumlords. An increasing pool of tenants with nowhereelse to go further disincentivizes slumlords from maintaining units and allows them to monopolize rent prices in the “affordable” housing market. Thus, from this understanding, the fight at Evergreen Vista can indeed be seen as linked to broader fights around gentrification.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: Picket at Mercy Housing in Seattle

Date: Thursday, May 10 at 1 PM – 3 PM

Location: Martin Luther King Jr Way S Martin Luther King Jr Way S, Seattle, WA 98118

The Olympia Solidarity Network is engaged in a campaign against the management of Evergreen Vista and their large non-profit operator, Mercy Housing. Tenants have reported delayed or refused repairs, mold infestations and a garbage disposal system that is inaccessible to disabled tenants. We will be picketing at the Seattle Mercy Housing to exert pressure on Evergreen Vista management and in hope that work orders will be executed and the inaccessible garbage compactor will be replaced with an accessible garbage disposal unit outside of each building!

If you are coming from Olympia we will be meeting at the westside Grocery Outlet parking lot to carpool at 10:30am

RSVP on Facebook
For additional context check out our other recent blog posts.

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Evergreen Vista Campaign Update

Approximately two and a half weeks following our demand delivery to Evergreen Vista management we are pleased to announce that tenants have started to see some changes! The demand letter called for repairs to be made and for accessible garbage disposal to be installed. New maintenance staff have now been hired and work orders (many of which had been neglected for months) have started to be fulfilled. An accessible garbage bin (pictured below) has also been installed adjacent to the inaccessible garbage compactor for disabled tenants.

While we recognize these improvements, they fall short of meeting our demands fully. Many repairs, especially those to common infrastructures, such as outdoor lighting and stairways, have still not been made. Moreover, the demand for accessible garbage disposal clearly stated that accessible bins must be installed at each building in the complex. In a notice sent to all tenants, Evergreen Vista management also suggested tenants with mobility issues complete a Reasonable Accommodation Request form for any further issues with the garbage disposal system. We find the requirement that tenants acquire professional and medical verification for something as basic as garbage disposal degrading and a near impossible barrier for tenants who lack health care coverage.

Almost every tenant OlySol has been in contact with at Evergreen Vista apartments has reported that the current garbage disposal system is inaccessible to many disabled tenants and needlessly inconvenient. The complex previously had accessible bins outside each building at the complex, but has now opted for one large garbage compacter that is physically out of reach for people with mobility issues and children. Most egregiously, when tenants who can’t access the dumpster inevitably occasionally leave garbage bags adjacent to the dumpster, management has been known to identify the tenants who left the garbage and subsequently penalize them. It is for this reason that one of the demands we’re leveling on Evergreen Vista management in our current campaign is for the installation of accessible bins located at each building within this large complex. Access to basic sanitation, such as garbage disposal, is a human right.

For these reasons, OlySol’s campaign for improved conditions at Evergreen Vista will continue until the demands are fully met.

Here is a copy of OlySol’s letter to Evergreen Vista management and Mercy Housing about our intentions to continue the campaign.

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OlySol launches campaign for improved living conditions at Evergreen Vista Apartments

Olympia Solidarity Network has launched a campaign against the Evergreen Vista apartment complex’ management and their operator Mercy Housing. On March 22nd, 25 OlySol members and supporters delivered a demand letter to Evergreen Vista’s property manager in her office. The demand letter outlined tenant grievances and demands for the fulfillment of all current work orders, the repair of common spaces and infrastructure, such as outdoor lighting and stairways and the installation of garbage bins accessible to disabled tenants located at each building in the complex. The demand letter specified that if management doesn’t make progress towards satisfying these demands within 14 days, OlySol will take further action.

OlySol has been engaged in outreach at Evergreen Vista for approximately two months. During this time about 15 different tenants have expressed concern of similar problems regarding management. These tenants frequently experience refused and delayed repairs to the most basic appliances and structural components of their apartments. This includes, but is not limited to, refrigerators, heaters, dishwashers, bathroom plumbing, doors, sinks, ovens, mold infestations, etc.

Moreover, almost every tenant OlySol has been in contact with has reported that the current garbage disposal system is inaccessible to disabled tenants and needlessly inconvenient. The complex previously had accessible bins outside each building at the complex, but has now opted for one large dumpster that is physically out of reach for people with mobility issues and children. Most egregiously, when tenants who can’t access the dumpster inevitably occasionally leave garbage bags adjacent to the dumpster, management has been known to identify the tenants who left the garbage and subsequently penalize them. Finally, most tenants have reported general mistreatment from management. Not only has management blown off repair requests, they allegedly threaten to evict tenants over minor issues. For this reason, all tenants involved in the campaign have chosen to remain anonymous to shield them from any potential retaliation from management. As the campaign proceeds we expect intend to make contact with even more tenants at the complex, be it through door-to-door outreach or word-of-mouth amongst tenants.

Evergreen Vista is an affordable housing complex and is home to a high concentration of tenants on forms of social assistance. Evergreen Vista is operated by Mercy Housing, a national non-profit and “affordable” housing provider. Mercy Housing and many similar non-profits, operate a kind of privatized public housing, reminiscent of government-subsidized housing programs these days. We speculate that these non-profits usually require tenants to be low-income, house a disproportionately high number of Section 8 tenants and often receive various subsidies and tax credits from the government, while still charging relatively high rents. Effectively, this model of affordable housing channels government subsidies into a booming non-profit housing industry that is generally notorious for poor living conditions.

In Olympia, the most pressing housing issue for most people is gentrification and rapidly rising rents. Thus, taking on slumlords and pressing for repairs and better conditions can seem like a distraction from the bigger issue of imminent displacement. But, there exists an important relationship between gentrification and slumlordism. As rents rise generally, working-class and marginalized tenants are increasingly forced to to rent at already over-crowded complex operated by slumlords. An increasing pool of tenants with nowhere else to go further disincentivizes slumlords from maintaining units and allows them to monopolize rent prices in the “affordable” housing market. Thus, from this understanding, it is our opinion that the fight at Evergreen Vista is linked to gentrification.