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Westlake Center Security Threaten Violence, Intimidate People Near #OccupySeattle

October 15, 2011

Alright, I did it. I went down to Occupy Seattle today (Saturday, Global Reset Day) to see with my own eyes just who is occupying Westlake Park.  Most- I’d wager 99%, ironically- of the people in the park were White, older, middle class people. That’s not a judgement, just a simple observation. There was a lot of talk about Corporations not being people (which I agree, but apparently the Supreme Court does not), some songs were sung, chants were chanted and so on. Thing were peaceful. There were bicycle cops around, but not an overwhelming police presence.

I opted to go with a friend of mine, and I’m glad, because what I witnessed across the street at Westlake Mall- well, let’s just say I need to be able to turn to someone next to me and say, “did you just see that shit?!”- and she did too.

We opted to avoid the park altogether initially, and headed for the balcony at Westlake Mall.  We wanted to get a bird’s eye view to be able to gauge, as I said before, who was there, how many people were there (about 500 at the time we were there. My friend thought 300. A bystander said “definitely less that a thousand), and what the overall tone was.

I took my camera out and put it around my neck, and snapped a few pictures of

Fuck what ya heard, I came to talk SOLUTIONS

the crowd, zeroing in on one woman standing off to the side, saying to my friend, “she might be the smartest person down there”.


There were about half a dozen other people on the balcony with cameras and phones, taking pictures. Then came along a Westlake Mall Security Guard.  He told the people to our right, to stop taking pictures. As he got closer, we listened and waited, expecting him to say something to us. But for some reason he went around us, even though my camera was in full sight, and then tried to stop the people to our left from taking

Security Guard #1, selectively enforcing alleged policies and non-existent laws

pictures, saying, it was the Mall’s “policy” not to allow people to take pictures.  There was no signage about this policy, and everyone he spoke to were pretty damn incredulous.

Following that, security guard #1- the one who was trying to prevent people from taking pictures, said to a young woman behind us, that photographing protesters at Occupy Seattle was, and I quote, “against the law.” Well that got my attention right away.  I immediately turned around and ask him how taking pictures of people was breaking the law.

He insisted that taking pictures was a violation of their rights- as in, the protesters’ rights.  In response I said flatly, “no it’s not, people in public spaces have no presumption of

I am the law around these here parts. Nevermind that I don't actually KNOW the law. -#1

privacy.”  That seemed to fluster him and he walked away.  he spent a lot of time on his radio, upset that people were still taking pictures. He even spoke to the police about it. They did nothing. Because there was nothing for them to do.  The security guards were accusing people on the balcony of breaking the law by taking photographs, but in fact, they themselves were violating our civil liberties by trying to interfere and intimidate people with you’re-breaking-the-law-talk.

We weren’t protesters trying to Occupy the Westlake Mall Balcony. We were there to observe, much like anyone on the balcony when something is happening in Westlake, like festivals, celebrations, parades and so on. No one is trying to stop people from taking pictures of those events, but I digress.

Then, a bit of a skirmish broke out about 25ft away, still on the balcony.  Yet another Westlake Mall Security Guard- we’ll call him #2- was confronting a man with a camera- the only Black man on the balcony with a large camera.  The security guard repeatedly put his fists in the man’s face, and was laughingly threatening to punch him in the face.  My friend and I just turned to each other and exchanged the “did you see that shit” look.  For his part, dude being threatened by the Mall cop was calm, but he also stood his ground. The security guard (#2) put his hands on him.  He tried to block his path; he seemed to want an altercation to break out.  By this time, my friend and I moved in that direction, and I was turning my camera back on and switching the settings to video.  At the same time, SPD officers stormed up the balcony steps, one with a red mace can

See my shiny badge? That means I'm specialer than you. Watch me flex my powah as I violate YOUR rights!- Dumbass #2

in hand.  Without trying to actually figure out what was going on, they made a beeline for the Black man, ready to take him down.  He remained peaceful.  He called for the rest of us to film what was going on, which we did.   He left the balcony with his camera and his companion, and that was the end of that part of the incident.

[vsw id=”Td0URe7106I” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

The protest itself didn’t get my blood pumping.  We spent a minimal amount of time walking through the crowd, seeing who we could see, seeing if we knew anyone, and reading the protest signs before we left.

What left a lasting impression on the ride out of downtown, was not Occupy Seattle, it was what happened on the balcony of Westlake Mall, and the conduct of their security guards making up policies and laws and trying to intimidate people.  I’m still not quite sure why none of them said anything to me, as I had my camera out the entire time and was taking video and pictures.  Maybe they were targeting people they thought would scare easily.

Maybe his spidey senses got all tingly when he walked by us and he thought twice, idk, but we thought it very odd that he never said anything to us about what we were doing- which was what the other folks were doing.

A little tip for the owners/managers of Westlake Mall: your security guards are a legal liability. If you don’t want people standing on your balcony, then close it. If you truly do have a policy about picture-taking on the balconies, then put up some signage and enforce it across the board. When your security guards only target certain people at certain events, that’s called discrimination. How much are you willing to pay for that?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2011 5:22 pm

    I live a couple of blocks from Westlake, I’m a generally inconspicuous looking person, so I’ve not personally had any issues with the security at Westlake. However, the guards there do seem to have a deeply entrenched ‘mall security guard’ complex. I’ve seen them stand all the way out on the corner of pine in 4th on the public sidewalk in front of Starbucks and try to intimidate people. I’ve also watched them pester and harass people for virtually no reason all out in front of Westlake on the plaza. The especially like to rush around speaking excitedly into their little walkie talkies and give you rude looks. I really wish the property there would work harder to get professional, seasoned security and not inexperienced, unknowledgable people on a power trip.

    In this case I don’t think they are trying to squelch free speech as much as they are trying to look and act important and push people around. This is just another opportunity for the desperate employees to do that.

  2. October 15, 2011 5:27 pm

    It was all good until he started talking about laws. And until they outright threatened the Brotha. Most everyone they talked to stopped taking pics and put their cameras away, even though they didn’t want to. That was there choice. Had they said something to me, I would have continued to take pictures. I tend to ignore silly ppl when they speak. Particularly when they try and boss me around.

  3. Naomi permalink
    December 19, 2011 11:33 pm

    I used to work at Westlake as a security guard, and I can tell you that the security officers that work there have an extremely high turnover rate, are inexperienced and probably scared. They receive minimal training and probably don’t have anything to defend themselves with. The whole time I worked there I didn’t even have cuffs or pepper spray which was standard for all officers.

    They should have received training for de-escalating situations.

    Oh, and as far as the picture taking goes, it is a policy of the mall that people can’t take pictures of the building itself (just in case they are a terrorist and are planning on how to take the structure down and need photos as a reference… seriously), but it’s okay to take pictures of other things from the balcony. Or at least that was the policy 4 years ago when I worked there, it could have changed. You have no idea how many happy tourists I had to make sad and confused by telling them they couldn’t take pictures of each other in the mall.

  4. P.H. permalink
    May 1, 2013 4:01 pm

    I was on the balcony of Westlake Mall checking out the May Day 2013 action, but I was too early. I got the same harassment. “No pictures on a day like this.”. When I asked if he stopped everyone with an I-Phone he said if they weren’t taking tourist pictures – “tourist pictures generally have family members in them”. Not only are the cops at Westlake lawyers but they are art critics too! Taking a shot of TV crews, street folks, horse policemen on their mounts, and the nice sunny day is NOT a tourist shot. Who knew!

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