OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Washington State Patrol began removing and arresting some of the hundreds of protesters who planted themselves inside the state Capitol building Monday night.
Protesters occupied the building's rotunda most of the day, venting their frustration with proposed state budget cuts.
By night, protesters clashed with troopers trying to vacate the Capitol, resulting in a handful of arrests. Protesters who refused to leave were forcibly escorted and/or carried out. Several people were also given trespass warnings. If they return to the Capitol grounds within 30 days, they could be arrested.
In addition, three protesters were tased trying to push their way back into the building. The doors to the Capitol were locked earlier in the evening. In one scuffle, a trooper was bitten in the arm by a protester. A Department of Enterprise Services employee was also injured in a seperate incident.
As the Washington State Patrol locked doors to the Capitol, protesters inside chanted, "Let them in!"
Protesters had vowed to stay in the Capitol, and many had brought sleeping bags with them.
Earlier in the afternoon, another rowdy protest temporarily halted a House budget panel meeting called to review Governor Chris Gregoire's proposed sales tax hike to fix a $1.4 billion budget shortfall.
Security escorted at least one of the protesters out while some continued yelling and others banged on doors outside of the room. The hearing resumed by 3:40 p.m.
Gregoire wants the legislature to send a temporary, half-cent sales tax increase to the statewide ballot as early as March, with the levy pinned to "buying back" cuts that could be made to areas like education and public safety. The proposed budget also calls for close to $2 billion in cuts, reductions to local governments and fund transfers, leaving $600 million in the bank.
Monday's protests defined the opening day of a 30-day special session that is to focus on budget cuts.
It’s very possible the legislature could go through the entire special session without an agreement because there is no consensus about what to cut. Most Republicans say Gregoire’s proposal for a sales tax hike is off the table.
“Before we have the trust of the public in terms of tax increases, we need to prove that we’re going to spend their dollars well,” said Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm.
State officials expected more than 3,000 people from various groups, including Occupy Olympia, to rally at the Capitol building Monday.
“These people will die without the help that they get now. It is that dramatic. I don’t think people realize that lives are in jeopardy here,” said Carol Van Buren of Save our Services.
Albert Postema, of Snohomish, was wearing a rope noose tie to signify what he said was a "collective economic noose around us."
Postema, a produce and nursery stock farmer, said that he went to his first Occupy protest in New York in September. He said he considers himself a conservative but is concerned about "economic and political corruption."
"The poor and underprivileged have been taking the brunt," he said. "How do you make cuts when others have been so greedy?"
Members of the state teacher's union were also at the Capitol to protest cuts to education. A number of groups also planned to hold a candlelight vigil at the Capitol Monday night.