An Emergency Call For Aid And Solidariity From WTO Protest Anniversary Organizers: Major Confrontation Brewing in Seattle Police Threaten Mass Arrests on N30, 2000!
Seattle activists are sending out an urgent plea for support in the face of hostile city and law enforcement officials who threaten to shut down the N30, 2000 protests. Major events, including concerts, teach-ins, rallies, street theater and marches are planned for the week of November 30, 2000 to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 1999 WTO protests.
Organizers say that without a critical mass of demonstrators in Seattle on N30, 2000 activists are in danger of being assaulted by heavy-handed police.A call has gone out internationally for activists to come to Seattle to attend these events beginning on November 26th when the Independent Media Center will screen "This Is What Democracy Looks Like", the documentary on the Seattle WTO protests. Critical mass
is expected downtown, November 30, 2000 at 5 PM with several marches meeting at Westlake Center for a rally.
City of Seattle officials, including Mayor Paul Schell, are taking a hard line stance against demonstrators who plan to participate in the many marches and rallies scheduled for the last week of November and early December in Seattle. These events are intended to mark the one year anniversary of the victory against the WTO Ministerial Conference in 1999. However, in the November 16th issue of the Seattle Times, an unidentified Seattle Police Department officer is quoted as saying, "This year there's a sense that we won't tolerate any nonsense, just make arrests, no half-way, non-lethal measures."
What has alarmed local activists and civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union is the extremely harsh, confrontational nature of the statements made by police and representatives of the city government in the last few days. Seattle Times reporters Vanessa Ho and Michael Barber wrote that "no unlawful behavior will be tolerated - including marching without a city permit". A spokesperson for the Global Action Network responded by saying, "Regardless of whether or not they have a permit, people are going to show up intending to protest." Some activists will exercise their consitutional right to free speech - permitted or not. So far, none of the organizations sponsoring events have
applied for permits. It looks like civil disobedience in Seattle may become an annual event...
Mayor Schell suffered major criticism and significant political losses in the aftermath of the WTO protests last year. Thousands of citizens called for his resignation. This time, police and city officials want to prove that they are capable of quashing demonstrations
quickly. They are prepared to make mass arrests if people take to the streets illegally. New Chief of Police Gil Kerlikowski recently moved to Seattle from Buffalo to take over the position as top cop after Former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper was forced to resign in the wake last year's protests.
The protesting groups are not likely to conform to city requirements. They see it as a statement about citizens fundamental First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. They point out that these rights were violated en masse last year during the WTO protests, resulting in major civil and class action lawsuits.
The local media in Seattle has been hyping the confrontation between police and protesters over the November 30, 2000 "International Day of Solidarity Against Corporate Globalization". Newspapers and TV commentators have been calling this year's protests "WTO II". There is a great deal of mistrust and ill will between activists and law enforcement agencies leftover from last year's events. The tension is high and police are advising local businesses to prepare for the worst.
One very dangerous element of this situation is the fact that the Seattle Police Department
recently purchased 260 new "less-lethal" weapons, including 130 "bean bag" guns which were used to fire projectiles at demonstrators last year. According to the SPD, their plans include the deployment of "chemical agent response teams", "demonstration management teams", and "prisoner processing teams". When local activist Karen Crisalli asked SPD officer Bob Adams what the organizers of the events could do to help the police feel more secure about the upcoming events, his response was, "Don't show up on November 30th".
This provides all the more reason for people to come to Seattle to celebrate our shared victory against the forces of corporate globalization one year ago. Without large crowds, police may feel more inclined to resort to physical abuse on demonstrators. The only way we will be able to pull this off is with the help of other activists from around the globe who were here last year, or from regional groups who want to stand for freedom and against a non-democratic corporate police state.
One e-mail message sent out over the web by N30, 2000 organizers reads:
"Please come and join us as we share our victory together in a mass festival of resistance! They couldn't stop us last year, and with your help, they won't stop us this year from expressing our views..."
What you can do:
1)Come to Seattle for N30 anniversary events - there's safety in numbers! Check out www.scn.org/wtocal for events.
2)Organize N30 anniversary solidarity events in solidarity in your own community.
3)Contact Mayor Schell at (206)684-4000 firstname.lastname@example.org
4)Contact City Council Public Safety Chairperson Jim Compton (Chairperson of the city's investigation into the WTO debacle) at (206)684-8802 email@example.com
5)Contact Seattle Chief of Police Gil Kerlikowski (206)684-5577
6)Contact City Council member Peter Steinbrueck, Chairperson of the Civil Rights Commitee at (206)684-8804 firstname.lastname@example.org
Demand that the police back off and let people demonstrate!