Jason Rantz: In Washington state, radicals are using homeless as pawns in hotel takeovers

Protesters in state of Washington attack reporter, steal equipment

KGMI radio journalist Joe Teehan on being attacked by protesters in Bellingham, Washington.

A new strategy has emerged from housing radicals in the Seattle-area: holding hotels hostage with fringe demands to government officials.

The subterfuge starts simply enough. They pay for rooms for one night under false pretenses, refuse to leave, and post a press release to Twitter with their demands, hoping to put pressure on city officials to relent. But this time it quickly got out of hand.

I live and work in Seattle. I cover these groups on my KTTH Radio show and podcast and I appear on Fox to talk about these issues. These stunts are occurring more often than in the past. More worrisome, they’re getting considerably more dangerous.

The latest drama unfolded on Sunday night, January 31 when roughly 35 activists, dressed in black bloc, armed with a hatchet, knives, and batons from Oly Housing Now occupied the Red Lion Governor’s Hotel in Olympia, Wash. They demanded the county stop sweeping encampments and pay for hotel rooms for the homeless people they exploited with false promises of indefinite free shelter. It’s abusive.

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Olympia Police confirmed in a Monday afternoon press conference that one hotel staffer was assaulted and threatened with a knife as the activists stormed the lobby, declaring that they were taking control of the hotel. Seven employees took refuge in the hotel’s basement as they called police for help.

The scene in Olympia, Wash. on Sunday, Jan. 31.

Based on the descriptions of the activists — from black bloc and weapons to aggressive activism informed by a radical ideology — there is little doubt to me that Antifa locals played a part in the occupation.

Officers and SWAT from the Olympia Police Department and Washington State Patrol swarmed the hotel just after 6:30 pm local time. Some local businesses were warned 20 minutes earlier to close down early.

I was there as dozens of officers secured the location, went room to room, and started making arrests.

Flash bangs were deployed, pepper balls were shot, fights broke out, and unhinged activists taunted police, one even assaulting me in an attempt to stop me from filming them.

As police entered the hotel, what started as a small group of four or five activists grew to about two dozen after word spread on Twitter. It got tense as the night dragged on. Radicals spent the evening shouting vicious threats and insults at officers.

The Red Lion hotel in Olympia, Wash. on Jan 31.

“F— your sister, f— your wife … I hope you all f—king die. Rest in piss!” one agitator shouted.

One agitator repeatedly called the police Nazis, while reminding them she knows their names, where their kids go to school, and where their wives work. 

“If there is a G-d, I pray to G-d that you all die a horrible f— death!” another shouted.

As I filmed, one agitator punched my phone to get me to stop. (It’s rarely safe to film when in these crowds.)

This is not the first time this tactic has been used.

Affiliated activist groups have attempted to occupy hotels in Pierce County, Wash., demanding county officials pay for the rooms to house homeless people, stop any sweeps of encampments, tax developers at higher rates, and develop more affordable housing projects.

Tacoma Housing Now attempted the same type of occupation in Fife, Wash. at a Travelodge motel. It was much more successful, spanning Christmas Eve through December 30, 2020.

Caught off guard, law enforcement and city officials were much more permissive of the occupation, likely paving the way for Sunday night’s events in Olympia.

The radicals — a coalition of Antifa, anarchists, and housing activists — paid for 16 rooms for one night on Christmas Eve. They brought in approximately 40 nearby homeless people, some, they said, with COVID. They refused to pay for any other nights, and they had demands.

“We paid for the first night and now we’re demanding that the city and county pay for the other nights we’ve been here,” spokesperson and local Socialist leader Rebecca Parson defiantly told KING 5 News.

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They used Twitter, to ask for reinforcements to show up and offer “eviction defense! … we need at least 70 people there to prevent eviction.”

Antifa activists with It’s Going Down, which supports “anarchist, anti-fascist, autonomous anti-capitalist and anti-colonial movements,” promised to send “50-70 people ready to defend if needed.”

The occupation grew.

But instead of removing them with force, law enforcement and city officials negotiated behind the scenes to get the occupiers to leave peacefully. But the hotel’s manager, already struggling to survive the COVID-economy, went to the media for help.

“They are keeping me hostage. No one is out to help me,” manager Shawn Randhawa told the Tacoma News Tribune. “It’s complete lawlessness in the city of Fife.”

On December 30th, police finally moved in and cleared the occupation.

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Whether it’s Antifa marching on streets and trashing neighborhoods or housing activists occupying hotels, some locals are growing tired.

At the Olympia occupation, one young woman — a passer-by — shouted down activists to defend the police.

Throughout the night, the agitators grew more audacious, tearing down police tape, stepping onto the street after officers repeatedly told them not to, and approaching officers with the intent of starting a conflict.

At one point, an agitator appeared to try and grab an officer’s weapon. The passer-by stepped in, telling the agitators that cops will rightly act if they’re threatened. She said she’d pull her weapon out too if faced with the agitators. They shouted her down and got in her face as a result.

Despite resident fatigue, these direct actions continue because meaningful consequences are as rare as a politician brave enough to speak out.

Even when arrests occur, charges are almost never filed or suspects are offered to plead down to mere slaps on the wrists. And there’s little political pressure to condemn the actions.

Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby only mustered up tepid criticism, calling the occupation “unproductive.”

Yeah, that’ll stop them.

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The fact remains that until police consistently use overwhelming force to stop the lawlessness, in coordination with local city attorneys or prosecutors to punish the criminals and politicians to strongly condemn the crimes, these actions will only continue.

At some point, these direct actions will only get more violent and potentially deadly. When that happens, we will look back and say it all could have been avoided.

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