Occupy Portland protesters arrested inside Wells Fargo Bank
Protesters in Portland made it into a Wells Fargo Bank branch Thursday and managed to plant themselves there briefly before being hauled away by police -- the most visible incident in a noisy but largely peaceful march through the city's downtown bank district.
Two street marches in Seattle, meanwhile, were poised to get underway in the afternoon near the University of Washington to protest state budget cuts that have chiseled jobs and strangled higher education.
The mood in the Pacific Northwest -- a region with a deep tradition of street protest theater -- was raucous, celebratory and so far, except for a bit of shoving, lacking the kind of clashes with police that have erupted in recent days.
Occupy Portland activists with drums and hand-scrawled signs paraded in tight circles outside the offices of Chase Bank, U.S. Bank and others, but many financial institutions appeared to have locked their doors and hired extra security to guard the windows.
"Due to Occupy Portland the building has been locked down until further notice," said a sign on the door of Chase Bank.
At one point, a U.S. flag was pulled down and re-raised upside down. "We shut down the banks today because they shut down our economy," a speaker at a rally at Portland's Waterfront Park said before at least several hundred marchers set off through the streets.
Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said 25 people were arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct earlier in the day when they refused to move off the east end of Steel Bridge. At the Wells Fargo Bank branch, he said, several people -- TV news reports put the number at about 10 -- were taken into custody when they managed to get inside the bank.
"They sat down in some kind of protest, and refused to leave," Simpson said in an interview. He said police mainly were focusing on keeping marchers out of the street. "We're trying to contain it to the sidewalks as best we can and get people moving."
In Seattle, some confusion arose as two separate marches were planned at mid-afternoon, one commencing from the remnants of the Occupy Seattle encampment at Seattle Central Community College and moving toward the University of Washington, one originating near the university under the auspices of local labor unions and the Washington Community Action Network.
Occupy Seattle organizers said that, whatever the routes, the goal was a joint city-wide rally to highlight issues of importance to students.
In both Northwest cities, rally organizers were emphasizing the need to avoid violence and keep peace with the police. One Portland activist addressed the appeal via Twitter to the Portland Police Bureau --which regularly tweets its own news of the protests.
"Be patient," the post urged. "For no other reason than patience = overtime. Overtime = Awesome holiday shopping."
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Protesters outside a Wells Fargo Bank branch in Portland ,where several were arrested. Credit: Don Ryan / Associated Press