Demonstrators occupy downtown Bellevue

R.J. Williams, dressed as the Grinch, and fellow demonstrators chant outside Bellevue Square along Bellevue Way in downtown Bellevue on Monday. - Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter
R.J. Williams, dressed as the Grinch, and fellow demonstrators chant outside Bellevue Square along Bellevue Way in downtown Bellevue on Monday.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Bellevue Reporter

Nearly 100 demonstrators decked out in Santa Claus hats marched around Bellevue Square on Monday to protest the man they called "the Grinch who stole Congress," Kemper Freeman.

The protesters, organized by self-proclaimed coalition of labor and community groups Working Washington, turned out to decry Freeman's role in local elections and his support of congressional representatives Dave Reichert and John Boehner.

They were led by a man in a Grinch costume, emblazoned with the words "Freeman 1%."

The protesters kept the march Christmas-themed by rewriting some classic carols to center on Bellevue, including the ever-popular "here comes Kemper Freeman right down Bellevue Way."

Despite the light-hearted caroling and dress of the protesters, the message remained serious.

"It's all about the separation of corporation and state, and that's why I'm here," said Emma Petersky, who arrived at the corner of Bellevue Way and Northeast Eighth at 8 a.m.

The protest fit the tone and message of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has grown through satellite movements around the country. Seattle's movement has seen great publicity, and even Sammamish residents held an Occupy-style protest earlier this winter.

Petersky was one of several participants holding "Occupy Bellevue" signs at the rally. Monday's march featured protesters young and old, including a family with a baby who slept through much of the affair.

Madison O'Connell, 19, has been to many of the Occupy marches in the Seattle area, including a sit-in of a Chase Bank branch. She came to Bellevue Square from Ballard to have her voice heard.

"Corporations are getting away with way too much, and the rich are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer," she said.

Following the carols and chants, the protesters moved inside the Lodge at Bellevue Square on their way up to Freeman's offices. With protesters squished into the stairwell, standing face-to-face with security, the chanting continued.

"We want to talk to Kemper Freeman," they chanted.

Freeman did not emerge to address the protesters, and they eventually retreated down the stairs and back to the street. Representatives from Kemper Development did not return phone calls requesting comment.

The movement did not lead to the type of highly publicized incidents seen at Occupy protests in New York, California and even Seattle, but security did have to remove an overhanging sign from the sky bridge between Bellevue Square and Lincoln Square.

Shannon Sehlin, a resident of Fife and a member of Working Washington, held the sign that read "Kemper Freeman is the Grinch." She ignored security personnel, but when members of the Bellevue Police Department came in for backup, she and several other protesters complied.

"We're not looking to be arrested," Sehlin said. "We just wanted to make a point, and I think plenty of people heard our message."

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