Olympia City Council member disagrees that forcible occupation of hotel was 'domestic terrorism'

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An Olympia, Wash., city council member disagrees with Mayor Cheryl Selby’s designation of last week’s forcible occupation of the Red Lion Hotel to demand housing for the homeless as an act of domestic terrorism.

“While I 100% believe people, particularly hotel workers and guests, could reasonably fear for their safety during the action by housing activists at the Red Lion last weekend, I 100% reject the notion that this was an act of terrorism,” Olympia Councilmember Renata Rollins said in a statement to Fox News on Friday.

“Terrorism is the use of targeted political violence rooted in the supremacy of one group over others, along race, religious, or ethnic lines,” she added.

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Shelby had made the designation Tuesday after a group of approximately 45 people “armed with items such as hatchest, batons, [and] knives” barged into the Downtown Olympia Red Lion Hotel around 11 a.m. PT on Sunday “apparently in preparation for a confrontation,” the city announced in a press release.

Rollins, who co-founded a homeless advocacy group, said the group’s “underlying motivation was clearly the belief that housing is a human right — a belief more Americans share every day as millions fear evictions, while those already on the streets face a cruel impossible lottery attempting to escape homelessness in the for-profit housing market.”

A 2019 poll from Hart Research Associates that found 85% of Americans believe that ensuring everyone has a “safe, decent, affordable place to live” should be a top priority, Rollins noted.

“The gulf between how things are versus how Americans believe they should be speaks volumes about how poorly our systems function to serve the majority and protect basic human rights for all,” Rollins told Fox News. “Was the action misinformed? Yes. Sloppy? Also yes. But good intentions, poorly executed, does not terrorism make.”

Olympia Council members Yến Huỳnh, Dani Madrone, Clark Gilman, Lisa Parshley and Jim Cooper did not immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News. 

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City officials said the Olympia Police Department (OPD) received reports that employees felt under threat from the group and at least one employee was allegedly assaulted, according to a press release. Police obtained a search warrant for conspiracy to commit burglary, burglary and trespassing, and a SWAT team was called to the scene.

“This created an active crime scene that necessitated a police response appropriate to the scale of the actions of these terrorists,” Shelby had said.

Olympia Strategic Communications Director Kellie Braseth said in a statement to Fox News that Shelby’s response to the hotel occupation “were her words and hers words alone, and she was not speaking for the City Council.” 

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Oly Housing Now released a list of demands and planned to stay indefinitely until Thurston County committed funds for permanent housing. The group wanted the county to apply for funding that’s being offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to pay for “non-congregate” shelter.

Rollins said at the time that the group’s demands were for policies that the city was already practicing, and Thurston County already put millions of federal aid into the homeless response, according to the Olympian.

“The group’s demands made no sense,” Rollins said. “They read like they were copied and pasted from some other community’s struggle because whoever penned them had no context for what’s actually going on in Olympia and Thurston County.”

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She added that the event “wasn’t activism” but “nihilism,” and “it caused so much unnecessary preventable harm.” At least seven people were arrested in connection with the occupation, reports said. 

Fox News’ David Aaro contributed to this report.

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