Chase 'Freedom' Not What It Used To Be: Protests Greet CEO in Seattle

11/14/2011 12:05 pm ET | Updated Jan 14, 2012

When JP Morgan/Chase CEO Jamie Dimon came to Seattle on November 2 he experienced the growing power of the national occupation movement. It was no longer possible for him to slip into town and address the business class without being challenged by the 99%.

A major convergence of 300 people including students, members of the organization "Working Washington" and activists from Occupy Seattle jointly surrounded the downtown Sheraton hotel where Dimon had been invited to give a speech on "leadership" by the University of Washington's Foster School of Business.

The protesters made such a ruckus that riot cops were called in to "restore order".

A man jumped up on a garbage container near the hotel's main entrance and and shouted out to the crowd of protesters, "It looks like the Seattle Police Department are now Jamie Dimon's private army! They are obviously here to protect Mr. Dimon from peaceful demonstrators. I wish they were here to protect us instead."

Shortly after that statement police used pepper spray on the crowd. Occupy Seattle medics set up a temporary staging area across the street in a parking garage where they treated people, washing their eyes out with water and dousing their bodies with a special concoction devised to stop the burning sensation. One man vomited from the effects of the spray.

Two police officers came out of the main hotel entrance on 6th Avenue dragging a woman. She was shouting at them and fighting to get free. The police pushed her around the metal barricades that were set up to keep protesters from entering the building. After they let her go she told her story.

Jayn Foy was inside the hotel when she heard about Dimon's visit, so she decided to go to the conference room to hear him speak. When she tried to enter the room, police detained her and then physically forced her out of the building.

"They told me it was a private event," she said. "But the police didn't have to throw me out of the building. I went there to have a martini at the hotel lounge."

Word went out from protesters on the inside that Dimon was leaving the hotel. Outside, people decided to block Dimon's motorcade as it left the building. Demonstrators blocked all of the hotel exits. Police in riot gear staged themselves in front of the main entrances on Pike Street and on 6th Avenue.

More pepper spray was used on the crowd near the north entrance but hundreds of determined Occupy Seattle activists refused to leave the area. The police presence was overwhelming but protesters were able to block several streets. Demonstrators were arrested at 7th Avenue and Union when they tried to block that intersection.

Long lines of police with riot sticks faced off with demonstrators at 6th Avenue and Pike Street. Approximately two dozen activists, with arms linked, blocked the hotel entrance there. A hotel patron came down the steps and physically shoved two of the protesters out of his way.

At 6th and Pike a police officer repeatedly pushed a female demonstrator backwards with his bicycle and the crowd began to shout at him to stop. People gathered around to protect her. In the middle of the crowd, while the police and protesters were pushing each other, another woman fell on her own bicycle and was slightly injured.

After several attempts by activists to block cars from leaving the hotel, Seattle police began to move in on the demonstrators with large canisters of pepper spray in their hands. People would still not leave the area and police stood toe to toe with the protesters as the crowd chanted, "Whose streets? Our streets!"

After three hours of protests, tensions escalated when riot police announced that they were getting prepared to clear the streets. The stand off abruptly ended, however, when the protesters decided to leave the hotel and march back to Seattle Central Community College, where there is an Occupy Camp.

"I think the protest was a great success. Jamie Dimon will never forget his visit to Seattle. We made sure he heard the voice of the 99 percent!" a woman named Maria said.

After the marchers left the area, police units stood down and left the Sheraton hotel. Occupy Seattle Activists marched triumphantly up the hill to their base camp shouting, "This is what democracy looks like!" and "Si Se Puede!"

Mark Taylor-Canfield is an independent journalist, activist and musician based in Seattle.