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(en) The Lowdown on the Showdown - WTO in Seattle

From "fighttowin@email.com" <fighttowin@email.com>
Date Sat, 5 Feb 2000 15:36:47 -0500


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>From Active Transformation Feb-March 2000 (vol 3. no.1)
The Lowdown on the Showdown
By Steve AT

Myself and a crew of people from Detroit and Lansing headed to Seattle to
Shutdown the World Trade Organization's international conference, in what
will be referred to as N30 from here on out.  What follows is a basic
summary of what took place.  This will be very brief so some things will be
left out, for lack of space.  It was a very powerful week for all of us.
Meetings were held everyday before N30 since we arrived.  They were
sponsored by Direct Action Network (DAN) and they were critical to the
success of the protests.  There were all sorts of different trainings going
on, civil disobedience, blockades, jail solidarity, etc.  Here is also where
the slice strategy was developed to spread the disruption of the conference
all over the city.
There was also an on-going squat during the days up to N30.  It was
extremely well organized and received a lot of positive publicity, including
there not allowing cops inside unless they left there guns outside.  There
was a lot of public support and they brought the housing issue to light.
Each day up to N30 there were various banner hangings, in addition to the
meetings and trainings.  On the first day of the conference, November 29th,
there was a test run march and demo that ran through the Capitol Hill
neighborhood, which would be a critical area throughout the rest of the
week.  It was a spirited march with of a few thousand people.  At the
beginning there was a huge coordinated pageant with huge puppets with the
"awake the sleeping giant" theme.  During the march through Capitol Hill
there were tons of puppets, and a performance by a multi-racial women's
poetry and dance group.  There also spirited mini demos against the Gap, for
supporting sweatshop labor.  No WTO graffiti went up on the Gap and various
city busses.  Earlier that day the conference was delayed numerous hours
because there was evidence that there had been a security breach.
Later that night there was a demo against McDonald's downtown, sponsored by
a group of militant French farmers, including Jose Bove, who drove his
tractor thru a McDonald's in France.  It was a very hype demo with some
graffiti and window breaking.  That night we settled early so we could get
up nice and early for the big day.
N30 was here and we got downtown early, not knowing what to expect.  At
first things were very quiet.  By 7:30 am there were very little signs of
anything happening.  The marches from two different sites in the city were
supposed to converge downtown, as well as the various blockades in the
different slices of the city.  By 8:15 everything had broke loose.  Traffic
into the city had been totally obstructed by various blockades, including a
very effective one on the I-5 exit ramp.  Within the next few minutes
lockdowns took place all over downtown.  Both the convention center and the
Sheraton hotel were completely besieged, by literally thousands of people. 
The first signs of poor police organization became apparent.  They were
caught ill prepared, and it was obvious.
So much was going on in this period it is hard to characterize it. 
Dumpsters on wheels were being pulled out into the street.  Graffiti was
popping up all over.  Hippies were playing drums and dancing.  All sorts of
people were forming tight blockades in front of important buildings.  There
was a huge blow-up whale blocking one street.  There were anarchists
everywhere with cell phones, radios, and gas masks.  The conference was shut
down in a matter of minutes.  Delegates were locked in their hotels,
including U.S. Trade representative Christine Barfshevsky.  Delegates who
had made it into the convention center were locked in.  Those that were
stuck in the streets or violently broke through activist lines were often
encircled by protesters that further thwarted their attempts to make it to
meetings, that would not happening that day.  Finally an American demo was
representing!  There were probably twenty to thirty thousand people in the
street.
Between 9-9:30 the police assault had begun.  The first attack took place at
the I-5 blockade.  Shortly after that the police began to try to disperse
activists near the Sheraton and Convention center, a task that they would
not accomplish until after the State of Emergency had been declared.  The
police began shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of non-violent
protesters that would not disperse. While they broke up the crowd, and tried
to establish veins for police traffic, overall they were very ineffective. 
The police spent the remainder of the day trying to maintain various police
lines by beating people and shooting wooden and rubber bullets, as well as
massive amounts of tear gas.  While activist medics were well organized, the
amounts of injuries were tremendous.  There were even times when police
drove motorcycles into people who were non-violently engaged in lockdowns,
as well as cases of cops hitting people with barrels of loaded shotguns in
the head.
At 11:11 am the Reclaim the Streets action took place and this is when the
property destruction began en masse.  I am not going to go into detail about
this, since it is well covered between the interview and Black Block
communiqué.  One thing I will say is that it was really interesting to see a
whole lot of older "non-violent" folks violently attack people who were
engaging in dumpster moving and window breaking.  Many were also more than
willing to help facilitate state violence against activists they had
disagreements with - pointing them out to the police.
Around noon the massive labor march began and flooded the streets, possibly
doubling the activist numbers.  While the "official sponsors" of the labor
march tried to change the course of the march, the rank and file made sure
that didn't happen, especially after the march had been delayed for hours. 
Many came up to the police lines and stuck around for the rest of the day.
Shortly after this there was a serious confrontation that remained a stand
off for hours, at Fourth and Broad, I believe.  The cops kept trying to move
the activists back, and activists kept resisting.  Finally activists made a
large blockade out of dumpsters, and lit them on fire.  It was overwhelming
how much we were winning.  It was also around this time that it was admitted
publicly that the WTO conference had been cancelled for the day.
By two we toured the rest of downtown and saw all the broken windows and
massive amounts of graffiti.  The standoff from 9 am was still going on near
the Sheraton and Nike town.  There were still tens of thousands of people in
the street.  Some looting took place of a Radio Shack, a cellular phone
store, etc.  Once again the liberals acted like fools - violently assaulting
people who began looting, while chanting "this is a non-violent protest".  I
thought the police made it clear it was no longer a "non-violent protest".
Between 4 and 5 PM the "State of Civil Emergency" had been declared.   The
police spent the rest of the night trying to disperse the crowds.  Many of
the protesters were driven back to Capitol Hill, where street battles
continued past midnight.  Surprisingly the day ended with few arrests,
around 30, of which many have since been dropped.
The next day the police would have their revenge.  Thousands of people made
their way downtown, and right away the tempo had changed.  Police were
grabbing people off of buses that "looked like protesters".  Protesters'
signs were confiscated.  The city had to be prepared for Clinton who flew in
the night before.  About a 5-block area had been declared a no-protest zone,
although they were letting shoppers and business folks wander around at
will.  It was not long though before a 400-500 person march broke through
the minimal zone police lines.  A young man in a black mask was showing off
the massive bruises on his leg from 4 rubber bullet shots.  Moments later he
was tackled, beaten, and arrested.  After the groups entered the area it
became apparent they were surrounded.
Soon the cops began to prepare for massive arrests.  Many empty busses
arrived and it wasn't long before they were filled with 250 activists who
had broken through the no-protest zone.  This seemed to fuel people to
continue to resist all day.  Upon their arrest most of the people refused to
get off the busses, maintaining a semi-autonomous zone on the busses -
removing their handcuffs, communicating on cell-phones, sharing whatever was
in their packs, pissing in a small hole in the bus.
The police continued the assault throughout the day.  It was a full day of
police rioting.  People all over the city were being attacked.  People
shopping or working in the Capitol Hill neighborhood were facing a large
brunt of the assault.  There was also another labor march that was attacked
with rubber bullets and tear gas.  Throughout the day more and more people
became angry over the out of control police and joined protests in the
street.  Cops began using different weapons when they ran out of stock. 
They started using large wooden shotgun shells that were especially harmful.
There was also an experimental nerve gas used that has had some long-term
side effects in some of its victims.
Overall the police arrested over 600 people.  Almost all refused to get off
the buses, and were eventually taken off by force by riot police spraying
tear gas.  At this point nearly everyone participated in jail solidarity and
refused to give their names upon processing.  This made the job of the
police detectives very difficult and has since resulted in nearly everyone
getting their charges dropped.  Many of those arrested did 3-4 days in jail.
While this was going on there was incredible support from activists holding
protests and vigils outside until all were released.
The end result was that we shut down the WTO conference for two critical
days, helping to facilitate its failure.  The police chief resigned, as well
as numerous high-ranking officers.  The City Prosecutor has since dropped
most charges, but there are a number of felony cases that are in need of
serious support.  They are also selectively prosecuting between 30-40
misdemeanor cases just to "set an example".  Please consider sending funds
to help pay for the extensive legal costs for the defense of these
activists.

>From Active Transformation Feb-March 2000 (vol 3. no.1)

For a 6 issue subscription send $5 cash(no checks or money orders) to:
Active Transformation PO Box 11508, Detroit MI 48211.
20 issue bundles of the latest issue available for $5.

onward...
  shaun g
--------------------------------------
email: fighttowin@email.com
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Active Transformation
Email: activetrans@hotmail.com
Mail: POBox 6746, East Lansing MI 48826
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