N30 2000: Police & Protestors Clash in Seattle
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Local News : Friday, December 01, 2000
Police and protesters clash, 140 arrested; jail bookings
continue this morning
Seattle Times staff
King County Jail staff were busy Friday morning processing
scores of people arrested after demonstrations on the
anniversary of the World Trade Organization conference ended
in a late-night clash between police and protesters.
Seattle Police said the confrontation resulted in 140
arrests, including some juveniles, and shortly before 9 a.m.
Friday, guards at the jail said they still had 80 people
remaining to be booked.
Shortly after 2 p.m. today, what was believed to be pepper
spray was released in the Westlake Center shopping mall,
prompting the closing of the bus tunnel underneath and the
evacuation of the center and the office tower. Two people
were taken away by ambulance, witnesses said. It was not
known whether the incident was WTO related.
What had mostly been a day-long street party turned ugly
later in the evening Thursday when what police say was a
"different group of people" bent on provoking officers
caused the confrontation, according to Seattle Police
spokesman Sean O'Donnell.
When an eclectic group of anti-WTO demonstrators collected
about 8:30 p.m. at Fourth Avenue and Pine Street - the heart
of last year's chaos -- hundreds of police in riot gear
descended on the plaza.
The clash occurred when officers attempted to disperse the
crowds north along Fourth Avenue, O'Donnell said Friday.
Two officers suffered minor injuries yesterday. Both were
treated and released.
One reporter, Gene Johnson with the Associated Press bureau
in Seattle, was arrested after he was told along with others
to leave the area, but found himself hemmed in on four sides
By mid-morning Friday, three people had been scheduled for
arraignment today before Seattle Municipal Court Judge Anne
Levinson. A bailiff said most of those arrested would be
arraigned on Saturday.
The three scheduled for arraignment gave their names as Jane
Butterfly Doe, charged with criminal trespass, and Jane and
John WTO II, charged with pedestrian interference and
failure to disperse.
Protesters have criticized police for telling people to
disperse, but giving them no way to get past the officers
who surrounded them.
O'Donnell said field commanders are reviewing whether
protesters were trapped by police and couldn't leave. It is
the department's intent to provide people an opportunity to
leave, he said.
At least some of those arrested said they were innocent
passersby caught up in the police response. Crisy Harris,
28, of Seattle, a nurse who works at a public health clinic
at the Pike Place Market, said she was simply out for the
night with her boyfriend and a girlfriend.
"We were not protesters," she said. "They grabbed all three
of us." A police officer threw her on the ground face down,
she added, displaying cuts and scratches on her face and
forearm. "When I told them I wasn't a protester, they said I
was obstructing justice. I was so upset. I've never been
arrested before. I'm a nurse."
Harris said she plans to file a claim against the city.
Police acknowledge using pepper spray and pepper spray
pellets to disperse protesters, but adamantly deny
protesters' claims that police used rubber bullets.
Police say a pepperball gun was used shortly before 9 p.m.
Thursday to deal with someone who was attempting to break up
an arrest. A pepperball gun is a semi-automatic air gun that
shoots plastic-coated ball filled with pepper spray. The
ball breaks on impact, releasing the pepper fluid inside.
This morning, police displayed a half dozen weapons they
said were among several confiscated from protesters. The
weapons included a pellet gun, a Navy seal knock-off knife,
a baseball bat attached to a sign and a handmade weapon of
one blade of a hedge trimming shear duct taped to a stick.
In a statement released Thursday, Mayor Paul Schell said the
rallies were a success for activists, police, and shoppers
alike, but when the different group of protesters showed up
late in the day, things changed.
"When people break the law, we arrest them," the mayor said
in the statement.
The police officers who were injured included an East
Precinct officer who was poked in the eye during an arrest.
The other officer, a captain, was hit in the eye by some
type of projectile, police said.
Thursday's late-night confrontation was a marked turn from
an otherwise peaceful day.
An initial group of about 50 protesters - down from the
2,000 who had spent the day marching - provoked the
confrontation with police when they tried to occupy the
intersection of Fourth and Pine just as stores were closing.
The group grew to about 200 as protesters heard of the
But additional flanks of police used pepper spray and made
efficient arrests as they pushed the protesters up Fourth
Avenue, away from the downtown core.
Some of those arrested were not actively involved in the
protests. Angelina Ruiz, 17, a University of Washington
student, said she was coming home from work at the Four
Seasons Olympic Hotel when she stumbled into the fray.
``All I wanted to do was go home,'' she said.
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said street
demonstrators had been given numerous opportunities to
disband. Rather than have police march block by block to
protect downtown Seattle, he ordered his officers to end the
situation with organized arrests. A man in dreadlocks and an
orange jacket shouted at the crowd through a bullhorn,
urging them to stop the face-off and regroup at the Labor
Temple: "We won. Keep moving."
The sight of riot police marching methodically through
downtown Seattle was a haunting reminder of last year's
violent clashes, when 50,000 demonstrators converged to
disrupt World Trade Organization talks. "This is what a
police state looks like," angry demonstrators chanted as
they backed way from police.
Daytime protests peaceful
Before the clash, N30 - the most anticipated anniversary of
the year - had been rife with the rhetoric but lacked the
mayhem and brawls that last year marred Seattle's reputation
for peaceful protest.
Protesters wove through the streets throughout the day,
linked in a tense but calm dance with police, students and
shoppers. By mid-evening the protesters had broken into
small groups weaving up Capitol Hill, down to the Seattle
Center, over to the Labor Temple.
But as some held candlelight vigils to protest world
poverty, a small and unruly knot returned to Westlake and
occupied the street outside the Bon Marche, just as retail
shoppers were leaving stores for the evening. Bon employees
taped doors against possible teargas. Shoppers, some with
children, and downtown residents, some walking dogs, were
caught up in the milling crowd of protesters.
Following orders laid down by Kerlikowske, police gave the
crowd several warnings to disperse before moving in. Once
the final warning was issued, pepper spray was used, but
aimed at the most stubborn knots of protesters.
That's in contrast to last year, when bands of anarchists
and creative demonstrators overwhelmed police, and police
responded with massive firings of tear gas, pepper spray,
rubber bullets and concussion grenades. Bystanders and
reporters were caught in the fray.
[Not exactly: last year police let loose with tear gas,
pepper spray, etc, before anarchists did anything. -- DC]
Those arrested last night will be charged with failure to
disperse, obstruction and a variety of other charges, said
Assistant Police Chief Clark Kimmerer.
"We emphasized arrest of lawbreakers ... That's what we
should be doing," said Kimmerer, adding the police had
adequate manpower this year.
At the peak of the trouble, as many as 500 officers - about
a third of the department - was deployed, he said. Officers
from Washington State Patrol and King County sheriff's
deputies were waiting in reserve.
Prior to last night's disturbance, the anniversary of WTO
seemed a success on several levels. It was playing out as a
harmonious sequel to last year's crisis.
"It was a good day, because it reminds people it did happen,
that it wasn't a dream and that we are getting our message
out," said Adam Sosnowski of Seattle as he marched on
Broadway at dusk.
Where merchants boarded windows and decried millions of
dollars of damage during the busy Christmas shopping season
last year, yesterday went smoothly for merchants and
Where police were overtaken and embarrassed, this year
Kerlikowske - hired to replace Chief Norm Stamper, who
resigned after WTO -- kept his troops braced but calm.
During the day, some had even posed for photos with
And when trouble hit, police quickly took the upper hand.
Police officers in plain uniforms had been braced yesterday
morning for untold numbers of demonstrators and visible on
bikes, horses, foot and in cars throughout the day. Riot
gear and chemical agents were tucked out of sight at the
Police were ordered not to interfere with peaceful marches
or gatherings, as long as there were no laws broken, no
property damaged and no threats to safety.
The day started early at Victor Steinbrueck Park, where a
small knot of fishermen made cowboy coffee on a gas burner
and prepared oatmeal, scones and grilled salmon for anyone
who dropped by.
"We don't have any real clue who's going to show up,'' said
Scott Ulery, 32, of Juneau, who's been fishing since he was
19. "We barely showed up ourselves.''
Ulery is concerned about bio-engineered fish and the threat
of large industrial fishing companies taking over the
Maria Richter, who works in an office near Westlake Center,
said she appreciated the heavy presence of police officers
and security guards.
"It makes me feel safer," she said. "I think they
(protesters) are going to behave better this year."
The insurance company where she works told employees they
could leave at 3 p.m. yesterday - just in case.
Merchants and shoppers
Seattle's retail core was a collage of shopping bags and
protest signs yesterday, as merchants reported normal
weekday traffic - a sharp contrast to last year's boarded
windows and spray-painted doors.
"You wouldn't know there was anything happening at all,"
said Debbie Sloan, manager of the Cartier store at Pacific
Place. The upscale mall suffered extensive vandalism last
News crews, police patrols and costumed demonstrators were a
faint echo of last year's disruption. Two Seattle police
officers found time to browse through NikeTown, which was
targeted for alleged sweatshop practices - a claim the
company denied in fliers titled: "Right Issue. Wrong
Protesters gathered outside the Gap, chanting against low
wages and sweatshop conditions. Leaflets claimed the Gap,
which also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic, earned $1.1
billion in profits last year, while workers in Central
Mexico stitch jeans for 28 cents an hour, and women in
Saipan make $3.05 an hour.
Gap clerks countered with letters telling customers the
company is working with other multinational corporations to
improve working conditions overseas.
Vivian Hare, a Norwegian citizen living in Seattle, said she
avoided Old Navy after WTO - but only for a few weeks.
"My perspective is different," said Hare, who lived in
Bangladesh in the early 1980s. "To be employed, even though
conditions are unacceptable to Western civilization, is
still a better means of life than begging or being
Brad Bickford, an account manager with Qwest Communications,
was edgy about coming downtown yesterday. He took a latte
break at Starbucks at 600 Stewart St., where vandals last
year did $10,200 worth of damage, and he knew of the
vandalism at nine Starbucks outlets around town the night
"Looking back to last year, you are left with the memories
of the riots and the damage that was done, not with any
issues that were raised," said Bickford.
Outside the downtown Nordstrom, Santa Claus greeted families
at his castle at Sixth and Pine. Last year, the store paid
$135,000 to repair windows and clean graffiti, hire security
guards and put some employees in hotels.
"I've seen more people down here when something wasn't going
on," said a downtown shopper yesterday afternoon.
"Looks like a flop to me," said another of the
But police, merchants and a notably absent mayor Schell had
a blank schedule, was not available for comments and was not
seen on the streets - no doubt were grateful for the harmony
that held until stores closed last night.
Protests and marchers
About 300 people joined a "student-worker walkout" outside
Seattle Central Community College at midday, then marched to
Westlake, sipping coffee and brandishing signs that said:
"Eat the rich, not the animals. Go vegan."
"Prosecute brutality, not free speech."
A dozen members of the Seattle Lesbian Avengers, topless
save for black tape on their nipples, distributed fliers
decrying growth hormones in milk. A 19-year-old University
of Washington student, who would only identify herself as
Kim, said the group was demonstrating to "desexualize"
Armando Munoz, 28, a Seattle filmmaker and WTO veteran,
complained that the city never apologized for last year's
"They made a mistake last year, and they need to learn to
work with people,'' he said.
A man in a black hood passed out a phone number in case of
Another band of demonstrators chanted their way from Union
Station to Westlake. "The people, united, will never be
defeated," was done in rounds of English, Spanish and
Motorcycle police escorted sea-turtle puppets, a baton
twirler and the Anti-Fascist Marching Band, dressed in kilts
and pirate garb.
Afternoon at Westlake
Performance artists named The Infernal Noise Brigade brought
several old windows and invited shoppers to grab a heavy
bicycle chain and have at the glass if they were put off by
last year's chaos.
Others carried signs urging: "Trust Jesus,'' and "Beg Jesus
for forgiveness. Perhaps you will be saved from hell.''
Sea-turtle costumes, the ubiquitous symbol of last year's
protests, were back. Head turtle Ben White said some are
destined for display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Sid Collins, 60, a self-described "semi-homeless left-winger
capitalist," decried the confused presidential election. "No
one is going to represent you but you." He warned a small
crowd not to believe Democrats, Republicans or National
Public Radio. "And you can't believe me."
A woman buttonholed shoppers on their way to the Bon Marché,
pitching the chance to do volunteer work in Malaysia.
Tracy Farias, a bank worker visiting from Spokane, watched
the protesters near the holiday carousel with tepid
interest. "I don't even understand what they're doing," she
The younger of her two children tugged at her. "We'll go on
the merry-go-round after we eat - maybe," she soothed.
The WTO anniversary cake - centerpiece of a "Global Potluck"
featuring No WTO cookies and a ton of organic apples picked
by migrant workers - never made it to the mayor. It stayed
at Westlake, signed by demonstrators, until late afternoon,
when eight Raging Grannies popped through the faux frosting.
"We're interested in a better world for our grandchidren, a
world of peace and justice," said Grannie Anna Johnson, 62.
The Canadian group, with a chapter in Seattle, performs at
peace rallies and for the mentally ill.
Anti-WTO activist Roxie Phinn confessed disappointment with
the anniversary celebration.
"I didn't expect it to be quite this disorganized," said
Phinn, 44, who took a day off from her job at the Puget
Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton to support improved trade
rules. "There's not much to rally around."
Street parties and tension
By late afternoon, the knot of protesters at Westlake had
grown to a few thousand. They danced in the streets while a
few hundred shoppers watched from shop windows and
sidewalks. A man with a backpack photographed his wife and
child, protesters in the background.
But as dusk turned to darkness, the mood was tense. Police
tried to corral protesters off Fourth Avenue onto the plaza.
At Fourth and Pike, more than 30 police stood guard as
police in a van barked through a loudspeaker. The protesters
ignored them, chanting and jabbing their signs into the air.
Motorcycle police circled at the other end of the block, at
Fourth and Pine. Behind them stood a row of 30 police in
The standoff cooled as police backed off. By 6:15 p.m. most
of the demonstrators had marched to the Seattle Labor Temple
on First Avenue or to Seattle Central Community College. The
Westlake crowd dwindled to a few dozen. Fourth Avenue
reopened and shoppers reclaimed the plaza.
The Capitol Hill group marched north on Broadway, then
downtown, marching and chanting, "Whose streets? Our
Two hours later, they were battling police.
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