Since the legislative special session began Monday in Olympia, protesters with the Occupy movement have been pretty successful in being heard and seen in and out of the rotunda. They've even been pretty good at shutting down some meetings.
Their beef is with the draconian cuts being made to the state's social services — without the help of any new tax revenue.
Lisa Brown, the state senate's leader, who represents Spokane, is no stranger to organized people getting heard. In fact, she teaches a class on such things at Gonzaga. So it's no surprise she empathizes with — even supports — the folks rallying in the state's capital.
Today, she put out a statement on the Occupiers:
Yesterday in the Senate Ways & Means Committee hearing, we saw a dramatic and heartfelt expression of the frustrations and fears of Washingtonians in the face of the economic crisis that has swept across the globe, our nation and our state.
These are desperate times. Many Washingtonians have lost jobs and can’t find work. Others, who still have jobs, are being paid less for their work while being charged more for health insurance. And many of them pay more in taxes than some of our largest corporations.
This is not fair or just, and the people know it. They have come to express their frustration over that injustice, and they have every right to speak out. As Americans with righteous convictions about our most fundamental and important values, I would even say they have a duty to speak out.
We want to hear them and we want to make sure their needs and values help shape our budget and our choices as we search for solutions to this crisis. But to hear them — to fully hear their concerns and to be able to address their needs, we need a civil, open process.
Yesterday our Ways & Means chairman, Sen. Ed Murray, argued for that process. I was pleased to see a majority of demonstrators seem to agree with him and disappointed that a vocal few did not.
I urge everyone concerned to come and make their voices heard. We want to hear them. But I also urge them to make their voices heard in a way that moves the discussion forward rather than shuts it down. Paralysis serves no one, and least of all those most in need of assistance.
I welcome the passionate expression of free speech, today and every day. And I look forward to hearing that expression and working together for solutions that truly serve the needs of our people and our state.
Illustration: Zach Hagadone