Occupy Everett has new mission

EVERETT — It started with evening councils under streetlights and tents pitched on the grass at the Snohomish County Courthouse.

Eight months later, Occupy Everett still maintains one tent near the courthouse — although no one permanently occupies it.

The movement is now more about doing something to solve local and national problems, not just calling attention to them, said member Michael Lapointe, of Everett, who agreed to talk about the group, which has no designated spokesperson.

“In general, we’ve had great support from the community,” he said.

“We’ve refocused. We’ve got the attention, and now the system needs to be repaired or replaced.”

The movement is back in the spotlight after mass May Day rallies in Seattle and elsewhere around the world turned violent.

Lapointe, who went to the Seattle rallies, said people who are part of Occupy Everett have always been nonviolent.

The initial Occupy Everett meeting in October drew more than a hundred people to a coffee shop called the Firewheel at 2820 Oakes Ave. That group has shrunk to a committed nucleus of about 20, although others dip in and out, said another participant, Anthony Vicari.

They set up an encampment at the county plaza outside the courthouse. Late last year, Occupy Everett took it down, and in March the group negotiated a new agreement with the county that allows one tent. Occupy Everett pays $50 a month for electricity, and nobody camps overnight.

The tent has drawn complaints from at least a few people. In one letter to The Herald, an Arlington man complained he’d never seen anyone at the tent and called it an eyesore and a joke.

Occupy Everett members bought and turned the Firewheel into a nonprofit — although it’s not officially affiliated with the movement. Members gather there and at the tent.

Others are working against bank foreclosures and toward getting money out of politics.

Some members attend local marches and protests, including the May Day marches in Seattle.

Tuesday, Lapointe went on the march from Westlake Center to the Space Needle and back and says those peaceful marches were hijacked by anarchists.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn had issued an emergency order that authorized police to confiscate items that could be used as weapons. Lapointe said he saw things get heated when a police officer grabbed a stick topped with a flag from a man and threw the flag on the ground.

That stirred up the crowd. Later, there was shoving, and someone in the crowd threw a bottle at an officer’s head, Lapointe said.

“I was disturbed by it,” he said.

Vicari said that Occupy Everett events elicit car honks and thumbs-up from drivers. That makes him think many people approve of what the group is doing. Still, it’s been difficult to get people to show up.

And Everett isn’t Seattle; it’s more conservative, and people here seem to be “controversy-averse,” he said.

Vicari sees a bright future for the movement here.

“We are all over the place,” he said. “We are on the move.”

And the tent isn’t going to be at the courthouse forever, he said.

Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; dsmith@heraldnet.com.

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