Seattle and the state of the occupation

As of Thursday, things seem to be returning to normal.

Wednesday night, the police were chasing residents through the streets of Capitol Hill, gassing and setting off concussion grenades till 2 in the morning. A city council member got gassed trying to mediate. The gas was thick enough that it was drifting into apartments off the gound floor. It started as a generalized WTO protest, and ended as a peaceful protest by residents who wanted the cops to leave. Well, peaceful on the resident’s side.

It was odd to go to Michael’s place on Capitol Hill, see a gas mask, and think that it was an entirely resaonable thing to have. Michael was gassed a couple of times near his apartment, and had a pellet gun pointed at him by police while he was standing on his front steps. By the way, gas masks are now illegal down town, much to the dismay of the president of gasmasks.com.

Another city council member was pulled from his car by police while he was on his way to a reception.

Thursday, there were people walking around Capitol Hill with signs saying “I have no trust in the Seattle PD”. Thursday night’s protest was peaceful on both sides. The protest outside the court house was peaceful.

Apparently Seattle has recalled mayors before.

Quotes from the paper:

“The residents were singing christmas carols. The tear gas came during
silent night”

Brett Smith, 10 year veteran of the PD:
“We’re so upset or squad of 10 or 11 wants to do our own protest march when this is all over.”

The thing that scared me the most was how quickly the scene went from protest to a state of emergency. As I prepared to go to Capitol hill on business Thursday, I made sure that I had phone numbers stored seperately from my cell phone, in case I got caught up and randomly arrested. The slide from normalcy to police state was too comfortable for my taste.


2 Comments so far

  1. Commenter December 7th, 1999 1:36 pm

    . I’m still not sure I understand all the virulence that protestors have for the organization

    (And you and Brent were in my thoughts last week)

    I’m not sure either – I’ve spent the first part of my professional life doing reasearch work to support efforts to move towards a freer trade system. I’ve got colleagues who’ve been doing it for 30 years.

    I’m amazed at what was once a sleepy little backwater for most of society – the rules at the heart of world trade can lead to violence in the street.

    However, my take is that if what leads to rioting are the impacts of increasing economic welfare (particularly for developing countries) can have on the environmenment – if that’s what people feel are injustices, then the world must in be a pretty good state. No longer do we fight over injustices and tyrannies to specific peoples – now we fight over the unknown, the uncertainty for all of us.

    Of course I don’t think the violence was warranted (and I think the efforts are misguided) – but it is interesting to see that the general populace of developed countries now has sufficient information (education/understanding?)to want to be included in the deliberations of changes to world trade.


  2. Commenter December 8th, 1999 11:58 am

    The violence was very disturbing to me. It’s hard even to talk about it, I just had the feeling that people were trying to ruin my beautiful city. Which made me very angry.

    Looking past the violence, at the protests themselves, I discovered something else upsetting. Not as upsetting as the violence: this I can manage to talk about.

    Me: I’m a liberal, somewhat to the left of most successful American politicians. I favor free trade because it’s a liberty issue, because it fosters cultural and systematic openness, and because it helps developing nations develop — which is essential if we want the future on earth to be something other than utterly, unrelentingly miserable.

    As much as the protests seemed on the surface to be about liberal causes, I think this was a right-wing protest. That, or the American left has totally and completely lost its way.

    Since when are liberals the sworn enemies of developing nations?

    When did liberals abandon the notion that cultures should be judged in context, with some measure of intelligent relativity?

    When did liberals start listening to Pat Buchanan? (Why is Dr. Lenora Fulani endorsing Pat Buchanan?)

    When did liberals stop believing in economic self-determination?

    When did liberals become memetic imperialists, who try to impose a certain set of upper-middle-class American views (environmental, labor) on the rest of the world? (Me, I favor the spread of general and flexible ideals like democracy, liberty, and so on — but specific American views on the environment, labor practices, and so on aren’t necessarily appropriate everywhere. Other nations ding us for things like the death penalty, after all; they call us uncivilized.)

    These aren’t rhetorical questions. I don’t know what the hell happened to a group I thought I belonged to. I stayed, they strayed.

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