Olympia police chief says hotel workers felt threatened by homeless activists

Homeless activists were forced out of an Olympia hotel where they had booked a block of rooms as a protest. Now even some who support their cause say they went too far.

The activists booked 17 rooms at the Red Lion Inn in Olympia Sunday, where a clerk said he was assaulted and employees were held hostage.

There are still conflicting accounts of what happened.

One thing everyone agrees on is that a group of activists booked rooms at the hotel, better known in the city as the Governor Hotel. At some point the people inside called police, followed by a confrontation.

This unassuming hotel in the heart of Olympia became ground zero Sunday night for a group of Oly Housing Now activists. Law enforcement from across Thurston County converged on the hotel to remove the activists, who the hotel staff said were armed, violent and holding them hostage.

“We received a 911 call that a large group of these individuals had entered the hotel,” said Olympia Police Chief Aaron Jelcick. “They were carrying sticks, clubs.”

Ten people were taken into custody. They began making court appearances today.

At a virtual news conference, Jelcick said the hotel workers feared for their lives.

“The staff members there were terrified,” Jelcick said. “They very shortly thereafter fled to the basement and locked themselves in a laundry room.”

“People (are) literally dying out here,” insisted an activist who declined to give his name, but says he was one of those inside the hotel Sunday night.

He insists no one working there was in danger.

“There was no hostage situation here,” he said. “The whole reason they made up this hostage situation, that they didn’t feel safe, is so they could have a reason to kick people out.”

Elizabeth Blake says she is homeless. She talked to a clerk who described what happened.

“People apparently reserved 17 rooms and completely destroyed them,” said Blake.

She books rooms here regularly. She says what happened Sunday night is making it hard for her and her homeless friends.

“Because that’s making it look bad on us that don’t do that,” she said.

Several people complained that police were heavy-handed, but the Olympia Police chief says they brought the force they needed to make sure they could get people out of the hotel safely and find services for those who needed them.

Thurston County officials say they have spent $40 million to address homelessness since 2013.