Employees, guests forced to take shelter after group tries to take over Olympia hotel

Employees and guests at an Olympia hotel had to take shelter for several hours Sunday after a homeless activist group tried to take over and give beds to people experiencing homelessness. 

It happened at the Red Lion Inn in downtown Olympia, also known as the Governor's hotel. People inside the hotel started calling 911 about 11 a.m. Sunday reporting a group trying to forcibly take over the hotel, according to a news release from the city. 

Hotel employees said some of the roughly 45 activists were armed with hatchets, batons and knives and had gasmasks, helmets and goggles to prepare for confrontations. 

Workers had to shelter in the basement for several hours before police escorted them out of the hotel. One of the employees reported being assaulted. 

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At the time, about 40 rooms were booked with guests who had to shelter in their rooms for several hours.

Oly Housing Now had earlier reserved 17 rooms that were occupied by people experiencing homelessness when they stormed the building. 

Washington State Patrol and the Thurston County Sheriff's Office were called to assist Olympia police in clearing out the hotel. 

Olympia Police Lt. Paul Lower said 10 people were arrested:

  • 5 arrests for first-degree burglary 
  • 1 arrest for first-degree assault
  • 1 arrest for drug charges and criminal trespass
  •  2 arrests for felony warrants
  • 1 arrest for obstructing

"Making sure our unhoused residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been Olympia’s priority for more than a decade," Mayor Cheryl Selby said in a news release. "Olympia has led on responding to homelessness, on coordinating shelter and other basic needs. The tactics used today by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable."

"It is very challenging to face a homeless crisis and public health pandemic emergency at the same time. People are becoming desperate to meet their basic needs." Public Health and Social Services Director Schelli Slaughter said. "We are looking to find new solutions and resources in collaboration with our regional partners. We will continue to provide staff support to this situation and identify additional ways to support the needs of our most vulnerable residents."