by: Kevin McCarty Updated:
OLYMPIA, Wash. - Demonstrators, law enforcement officials and downtown businesses in Olympia are gearing up for a day of marches and protests marking May Day 2013.
The events include a “family friendly” gathering with music and food at Sylvester Park, an evening march from Percival Landing on the city’s waterfront and a “shut down the banks party” at two in the afternoon. The events are listed on a website called OlyMayDay.com.
And some planning to take to the streets said they’ve already been visited by federal officers.
“There were two agents, one with the FBI and one with the Department of Homeland Security”, said Peter Litster of Media Island International, a group that described itself as a non-profit center for activism. “They were looking for an individual who was tied to an investigation about May Day of last year.”
But Litster said he is a fairly new volunteer and did not know that person.
Litster added he believes the visits could be timed to persuade demonstrators to avoid public protests.
“People are intimidated by that kind of attention. Even if you’re not engaged in anything other than holding a picket sign on a street corner, you’re going to be intimidated when the FBI shows up and tries to tell you, ‘Oh, it could get ugly’”.
Olympia police and the Washington State Patrol both said they are prepared to respond in the event planned demonstrations turn violent.
That happened in 2008 when May Day marchers smashed windows and clashed with police. A half-dozen protesters were arrested.
But businesses in downtown Olympia are planning to open as usual tomorrow, hoping for the best.
“You can’t judge it on what’s been in the past or what you think it might be,” said Connie Lorenz with the Olympia Downtown Association. “You just have to go, ‘We’re open for business today.’”
But some say they will avoid parts of downtown just in case.
Magnus Johnson and his wife, Helen, take regular walks near Olympia’s waterfront, but say they might find a different route for May Day.
“Now we’re not sure whether we should walk down here tomorrow or not”, said Magnus.
Helen Johnson added, “Well, if (the demonstrators) can just keep it, you know, nice and cool, it’s fine. They have a right.”