Monday, March 28, 2011

A Genuine Hero

One of Seattle's finest citizens, Irene Hull, has died.
A week to the day before her death, she attended her Communist Party club meeting in Seattle. Someone announced the Saint Patrick's Day rally in Olympia to protest budget cuts and to demand that the legislature "tax the rich." Hull spoke up: "I'll go if someone picks me up."

She was a tiny dynamo, two inches shy of five feet tall, barely over 100 pounds. She became a national labor heroine when the Seattle chapter of Jobs With Justice (JwJ) published a poster in 1995 of several enormous police officers arresting Irene Hull.
Lonnie Nelson, a Seattle JwJ leader and a member of Irene's CP club, recalled that day. "It was during a sit-in at Republican Party headquarters to protest their attacks on Medicare," Nelson said. "When the Seattle police told Irene to move, she told them, 'I'm going to go limp.'

"So they handcuffed all of us, hauled us out and put us on a transit bus and took us to the county jail," Nelson continued. "They had us in jail for hours. We sang union songs. We talked about standing up against the vicious Republican attack on Medicare. Through it all, Irene's big concern was my wrists aching from those tight handcuffs." Nelson laughed merrily at the memory.
I was privileged to get to know Irene when I was a community organizer. I took her to a couple of rallies and protests in Olympia. I sat with her at labor meetings and saw her at just about every protest I ever attended in the state of Washington. When I marched with 50,000 labor activists during the WTO protests, Irene Hull was there.

She was one of the most dedicated and selfless people I've ever known, and a genuine hero of mine. Without her, Seattle may be a quieter place, but it will surely be a sadder place.