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7 individuals face charges for occupying Red Lion hotel in Olympia Sunday

A homeless activist group forcibly occupied the Red Lion hotel in Olympia Sunday, forcing employees and guests of the hotel to shelter in place, police said.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Seven individuals arrested Sunday night in Olympia for forcibly occupying the Red Lion hotel near the state Capitol appeared before a judge Monday. 

The individuals are facing various charges including burglary and assault, according to court documents from the Thurston County Prosecutor's Office. 

The individuals are part of a homeless activist group known as Oly Housing Now, according to a city press release Sunday.

A woman, who has been identified as the leader of the occupation, had rented 20 rooms at the Red Lion the previous night and said it was for a wedding party, court documents said. 

However, throughout the day Sunday, hotel staff noticed 20-30 people were inside the building who were dressed in all black and some were armed with batons and knives, court documents said. 

The group started to forcibly enter the building and attempt to take it over around 11 a.m. Sunday. Police received multiple 911 calls from employees, including one stating there were individuals at the front desk threatening staff with a knife and hatchet, court documents said. 

One employee was assaulted during the takeover, but did not suffer any injuries.

"The staff members there were terrified," said Olympia's Interim Police Chief, Aaron Jelcick, during a press conference Monday. "They immediately went down into a basement... locked themselves in a laundry room.

Court documents said the group wanted to take over the hotel to pressure the city into finding housing for the homeless individuals who were staying in the rooms booked the previous night.

"The rooms were going to be bought the first night [Saturday]. We weren't sure what about the second night," said Chris Alford, who was one of the people staying in the rooms she said were paid for by people she did not know. 

"We were going to say we're not leaving and see if we could get FEMA or whoever to start putting out and getting us housing," Alford continued. 

When police arrived Sunday, there were about 45 members of the group inside and outside of the hotel. The group had occupied the 4th and 5th floors and were placing black tarps on the windows, according to police. 

Employees in the basement continued to shelter in place, and guests in about 40 rooms not associated with the group did the same, while officers obtained a search warrant for the building. 

According to police, a Thurston County judge granted a search warrant for first degree burglary, trespassing and conspiracy to commit burglary. 

At 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Olympia police along with the Thurston County Sheriff's Office and Washington State Patrol's SWAT team entered the hotel and began arresting individuals. The SWAT team conducted a room-by-room search and employees and guests were escorted safely out of the building.

In total, 10 people were arrested Sunday night, Olympia's police chief said Monday. Police previously reported Sunday that 12 had been arrested. 

According to the city's statement, Olympia's Crisis Response Unit responded to the hotel to connect the unhoused individuals to services. They were not allowed to remain at the hotel. 

“Making sure our unhoused residents have access to safe and affordable housing has been Olympia’s priority for more than a decade,” said Mayor Cheryl Selby in a statement Sunday night. “Olympia has led on responding to homelessness, on coordinating shelter and other basic needs. The tactics used today by Oly Housing Now are unproductive and won’t make the mission more attainable.”