The following Patch interview is with Liam Wright, one of the Occupy Seattle activists known as the Chase Five. Wright grew up in Edmonds.
On March 15, the five occupiers who shut down a Chase Bank in Seattle on Nov. 2 were unanimously found not guilty of criminal trespass by a Seattle municipal court jury of six.
How old are you, what's your hometown, where did you go to school?
I'm 25. I was born in Seattle. I grew up in Edmonds. Right now I attend Seattle Central Community College.
Do you have a job; why or why not?
I do. I work as a barista in Seattle. Everyone needs to work. I love coffee and interacting with people. I've had training and worked at some famous coffee shops in the past.
Why did you and the other protesters choose Chase Bank as a target?
This question deserves a bit more time. In all honesty, it was largely a pragmatic decision. We wanted to target a bank, any big bank, and shut it down for as long as we could. This particular branch was convenient because it was very close in proximity to our occupation at the time, and it was an easy feat to get a march of a couple hundred from the occupation to the bank.
It was serendipitous that it happened to be the day that the CEO of JPMorgan Chase was in town, and it was a coincidence that Chase bank has proven to be one of the most insidious and parasitic of all the big banks. Between its $94 billion dollar bailouts (the largest in the country) to its $20 billion in foreclosures on its books, it was the perfect target.
Chase bank is a concentration of everything that is wrong with this world ruled over by profit, banks, corporations and their representatives. We wanted to make a statement against all of that, to say that we refused to live this way anymore.
We wanted to say that the wealth and power of the world should not be in the hands of a tiny minority; we should all control and own that together. And it happened to work out better than we could have ever hoped for.
What were you charged with after your arrest?
We were charged with first-degree criminal trespass.
Why do you think you were acquitted?
I don't know for sure. Some speculate that it was because the jury nullified the verdict and because they supported us regardless of the law. One of the key arguments in trial though was along the lines of the jury instruction that we had to "know" that what we were doing was unlawful.
We argued during our testimony that (we) had serious reason to believe that saying, refusing to go, and being arrested might be legal due to a possible "semi-public" nature of of Chase Bank.
We justified this with a number of different arguments including that Chase had police under their pay, that Chase has been funded by the government and helps fund the government, and provides social services (Chase bank is the sole provider of food stamps in the state of Washington.) Maybe the jury was convinced. It's hard to tell.
Do you feel vindicated by the verdict?
I think that we've felt justified all along. But then, in the end, after having chained ourselves together inside of Chase Bank, refusing to leave, then having people try to keep us from going to jail, and getting away with it?
There is a great deal of vindication that I feel, though I can't speak for the others. I just hope that it creates more space for many, many more people to be able to take action against this system and its whole state of affairs.
Are you going to continue with the Occupy movement, and do you think it is an effective tool to put pressure on banks and corporations?
I am most certainly going to continue with the Occupy movement. Though I wouldn't say that this is an effective tool for pressure on banks and corporations. But that was never our goal. We wanted to delegitimize them. I wanted to show people everywhere that this bank had no right to exist. These banks, Chase as a particularly egregious example, are parasites. They have no right to power. But the people do.