Restrooms at three Capitol Campus locations – Heritage and Marathon parks and the Interpretive Center – have been closed temporarily following three days of incidents at Heritage Park, including a Monday night incident in which four protesters were arrested by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) when they broke a key off in the park's bathroom lock and refused to leave the facility at closing time.
The incidents occurred during protests related to concern about access to open public restrooms during nighttime hours in the Olympia area.
"The actions taking place over the last three days create significant risk to the community and those responsible for the care and custody of the Capitol Campus and do not support a productive path to come together and resolve the issue," said Bob Covington, Department of Enterprise Services Deputy Director.
Enterprise Services staff had hoped to focus on constructive dialogue at the park Monday evening and through the week, and to achieve a two-week pause in the protests to have community meetings and seek solutions.
"We've really been working hard to have a constructive dialogue and find a path forward that works for everyone," Covington said.
On Monday, Enterprise Services held meetings with Just Housing representatives and others who are raising the nighttime bathroom concern in attempt to begin seeking a solution that can work for everyone. The Monday meeting followed discussions that occurred with protestors on Sunday night at Heritage Park. No arrests occurred Sunday night, and protestors vacated bathrooms of their own accord so the facilities could be closed for the night.
Enterprise Services had started looking into options such as partnerships in which the bathroom facilities could be leased during nighttime hours or providing portable toilets at key campus locations, he said, noting the agency does not have the funding to keep the bathrooms open after park hours.
The bathrooms will be closed temporarily until Enterprise Services can productively pursue a collaborative solution with community groups, the City of Olympia and others.
Meanwhile portable bathrooms compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act as well as hand washing stations have been placed at Heritage Park near Seventh and Columbia streets and at Marathon Park adjacent to the regular bathroom.
The protestors arrested Monday night were booked into the Thurston County Jail on charges of first-degree criminal trespass, obstructing and resisting arrest. On Saturday night, the WSP arrested a protestor who refused to leave the facility after being trespassed by Enterprise Services officials. The protestor was booked in the Thurston County Jail for first-degree trespassing.
On Monday night, Enterprise Services staff approached protestors and attempted to continue previous days' conversations about working collaboratively toward possible solutions over the next several weeks and peacefully allowing the bathrooms to be closed at the end of the park's operating hours. No police were present during the initial conversation. Protestors rejected further discussions, occupied the men's bathroom, locked the interior bathroom doors, and formed a human barrier to prevent access to the bathroom. Agency staff requested State Patrol assistance in closing the facility after park hours ended.
Maintaining safety during the Monday night protest while at the same time ensuring people were able to exercise their free speech rights at the park were top Enterprise Services priorities.
After protestors blocked access to the bathroom, the Olympia Police Department (OPD) provided perimeter assistance to clear a path so troopers could exit the restroom and safely escort people who had been arrested from the premises. Once the men's restroom was cleared it was locked.
Parks on the campus are normally open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the winter months, and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in warmer months.
Learn more about Capitol Campus parks and attractions.
Under state law, the Department of Enterprise Services is responsible for the stewardship, preservation, operation and maintenance of the 486-acre state Capitol Campus.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the state Capitol Campus annually. This includes:
In addition, some 7,000 people work and conduct public business on the Campus including state elected officials, members of the Washington Legislature and their staff.