Street clashes, arrests as bank leader speaks
Despite a cold, relentless November rain Wednesday night, several hundred Occupy Seattle protesters marched to the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle, where JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon was a keynote speaker at an awards ceremony for the University of Washington's Foster School of Business.
Seattle Times staff reporters
He was a perfect target for the Occupy Seattle movement.
The top 1 percent of the top 1 percent was in town: Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase.
And despite a cold, relentless November rain Wednesday night, several hundred people marched to the Sheraton Seattle Hotel downtown, where Dimon was keynote speaker at an awards ceremony for the University of Washington's Foster School of Business.
They stood outside and chanted slogans, while people inside sipped cocktails and looked down from a reception area with curiosity.
"Banks got bailed out; we got sold out," the protesters shouted, their words echoing off the downtown streets. "Shame on Chase," was another popular chant.
Sixth Avenue in front of the hotel was closed to traffic for less than an hour as protesters tried to block hotel entrances by locking arms and standing two deep. Police used pepper spray to clear a side entrance near the corner of Pike Street and Seventh Avenue so hotel patrons could enter or leave.
"This whole bank thing is just crazy," said Mary McIntyre, a bar owner whose eyes were teary after she had been pepper-sprayed.
She said she was in the process of taking her money out of another big bank and putting it into a credit union.
Many protesters criticized banks such as Chase, which received $25 billion in government bailout loans in 2008, while thousands of homeowners were foreclosed upon.
They also pointed out Dimon's salary and compensation last year: $20.8 million, while wages stagnated for most of the nation's workers and as unemployment soared.
After an hour, at about 7 p.m., the number of protesters began to dwindle, but there were still more than 100 staking out the hotel. There were no immediate reports of arrests Wednesday night.
But Wednesday afternoon, Seattle police arrested six people, five of whom had sprawled across the floor inside a Chase Bank on Capitol Hill.
Outside, officers launched pepper spray, shoved protesters out of the way and yanked others from under a police van during a tense 30-minute confrontation.
The melee broke out as the arrested protesters were led, handcuffed, into a police van.
As the conflict between police and protesters moved up and down Broadway, about 100 protesters chanted about officers' actions and about the issues of concern to their movement — corporate greed, big banks and the growing disparity between the incomes of the nation's rich and its poor.
JPMorgan Chase took over the failed Washington Mutual in 2008 and subsequently laid of thousands of WaMu employees. About 3,400 WaMu employees in the bank's downtown Seattle headquarters lost their jobs, and Chase vacated most of WaMu's downtown Seattle office space when it took over.
Phil Neel, an Occupy Seattle member, said the five protesters who occupied the bank in the afternoon did so intending to be arrested.
Beforehand, the group held a brief rally and marched from its encampment at Seattle Central Community College north toward the bank. Then, as a larger group surrounded the bank, the five protesters, who had entered the building earlier, got to the floor.
Neel, 23, of Seattle, said the goal was to shut down the bank for the afternoon, and that is what happened.
He called banks "the churches of capitalism" and said "we're defiling that holy ground in a sense."
After the protesters inside the bank were arrested, youths surrounded the police van and started pounding on it. Police yanked the protesters lying in the street out of the way, a move that spurred other protesters to shove officers.
Soon, officers doused the crowd with pepper spray; one woman sat at Broadway and East Thomas Street while other people poured water in her eyes so she could see.
The fight between police and protesters continued south on Broadway, then back north. When protesters reached the corner of East Harrison Street they stood in a circle; some held hands and hugged. Then the group marched south, back to Seattle Central Community College with police following closely behind.
Protest organizers then told the group to head west down Pine Street, toward Westlake Park, where they were to rally in advance of the evening protest at the Sheraton.
Jeff Hodson: 206-464-2109 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published Nov. 2, 2011, was corrected Nov. 4, 2011. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the direction the protesters were marching from Capitol Hill to Westlake Park. They were marching west.