Olympia Police warn of possible disturbances on May Day

rboone@theolympian.comApril 30, 2013 

The Olympia Police Department warned residents Monday about possible criminal activity tied to this week’s observance of May Day, a day typically known for labor rallies and gatherings that has recently become overshadowed by violence and vandalism.

The Police Department issued a warning Monday, although “no specific threats have been made with regard to upcoming May Day activities,” the department said in a news release.

“We are working closely with our law enforcement and community partners to provide a safe and welcoming city for all our citizens,” Olympia Police Chief Ronnie Roberts said in a statement.

Police spokeswoman Laura Wohl said police are aware of a May Day event planned for Sylvester Park and a march later Wednesday that starts at Percival Landing.

Permits have not been secured for either event, she said.

Some of that information has come from a website called Oly May Day (www.olymayday.wordpress.com), which shows several posters for the all-day May Day activities planned at the park, including a “shut down the banks party” set for 2 p.m.

“We’re not going to stop peaceful demonstrations, but we will definitely be on top of any criminal actions,” Wohl said.

Police have been in contact with banks in downtown Olympia, especially the national banks, to help them “target harden,” she said.

Bank of America and U.S. Bank, both of which have branches downtown, said Monday that they are prepared for May Day.

“At this time we have no plans to close early,” Bank of America said in a statement. “We continue to consult with our corporate security team, other external advisers and stakeholders. We will monitor the situation closely both leading up to that day and throughout the day. Our top priority is always the safety and security of our customers and employees.”

U.S. Bank spokeswoman Teri Charest said the bank does not disclose specific security steps.

“We would hope they would be peaceful protests,” she said. “Should it escalate, we will act accordingly.”

Olympia Federal Savings President and Chief Executive Lori Drummond said they have encouraged employees to be cautious on May Day and to contact police if something unusual arises.

“We’re hoping it’s going to be a nonevent,” she said.

Olympia Federal Savings also owns the former Schoenfeld building next door, which was recently tagged with graffiti, including an anarchist symbol.

All of that has since been removed, Drummond said.

May Day was quiet in Olympia last year as the focus shifted to Seattle, where large rallies and marches took place but also some vandalism and violence.

But in 2008, May Day sparked several incidents in Olympia. Six people were jailed after protests during which vandals smashed windows at U.S. Bank and Bank of America.

Meanwhile, Olympia Downtown Association Executive Director Connie Lorenz said it will be business as usual for retailers downtown.

“I’m hoping for the best,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Port of Olympia declined to comment about May Day.

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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