By Amanda Hunt

PJALS and Washington Community Action Network worked together to get 20 Spokane residents to Olympia to Occupy the Capitol at the end of November We went to speak to our legislators and to encourage legislators to take a “balanced approach” to the budget and to raise revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes.

We met with Senate Majority leader Lisa Brown and Representative Andy Billig, who were welcoming and excited we were there. We also met with 6th District Representative Kevin Parker. When asked to raise revenue and not cut programs, he asked us “Why are you doing this to yourselves? Why don’t you request to send the Department of Ecology to the voters instead?” I am personally concerned with the fact that he thinks we should spend less on environmental issues when there are many tax loopholes to close. We met with 6th district Senator Michael Baumgartner and delivered the “Facing Race” Racial Justice Report Card to him. Members of the 4th district had quite the animated conversation with their representatives and Senator. Mariah McKay demonstrated how to speak directly and assertively to lawmakers.

We all wrote our personal stories ending in “I am the face of the 99%” to give to our legislators. Everyone received 99% balloons. The state troopers would not let the balloons in the capitol, so we tied them to the railing outside. During the rally, numerous speakers shared their personal stories. A doctor shared the story of his patient’s struggles, a child who suffered a massive seizure. This brought everyone to tears.

We marched into the capitol and around the rotunda, chanting loudly. After a few minutes of making our presence known, we were interviewed by a journalist from the Spokesman Review, who wrote an excellent article about how we were there to ask our legislators to consider a balanced approach to the budget and to raise revenue.

Next, we went to try and get into the Ways and Means Committee meeting. Several Occupiers were able to get into the meeting and interrupted. Two of the individuals were carried out by state troopers. Business as usual was interrupted.

We then concluded the day with singing modified Christmas carols around the Christmas tree in the Rotunda. The carols included “Tax the Rich” to the tune of “Let it Snow.

The following morning we dressed up as the “1%!” This was a very creative and fun way to deliver our messages to our more conservative representatives. We delivered the “demands” of the 1%, which included keeping tax breaks for the rich like tax free plastic surgery, no sales tax on private jets, etc.

While the legislators have a tough job in balancing our state’s budget, we also have a difficult journey ahead of us. We need to continue to ask our legislators to close tax-loopholes and raise revenue, in order to save lifeline programs for struggling families in our communities.