Mass Arrests On N30 Anniversary In Seattle
By Mark Taylor Canfield
N30 In Seattle Results - Thousands of People Marched, 140 Were Arrested,
Including AFL-CIO Officials, Media And Bystanders
Seattle - Thousands of anti-WTO protesters took to the streets on November 30, 2000 to mark the one year anniversary of the protests which shut down the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. For most of the day, demonstrators marched in large numbers with thousands congregating at Westlake Center Park in the middle of the downtown business district. Although the business community had tried to stop the festivities by putting pressure on city officials to deny permits, people took to the streets in large numbers.
Soon after last year's WTO protests, Adbusters magazine called for submissions for an appropriate date to declare an "International Day Of Solidarity Against Corporate Globalization". Seattle activists took the lead and suggested November 30, 2000 - the one year anniversary of the mass protests which resulted in over 600 arrests and the failure of the WTO conference. Soon cities around the world were planning events,
including major conferences in Washington, D.C. and Paris. The theme of these events is very consistent -
"WTO in Seattle - Where Do We Go From Here?"
International traders are still in shock after the N30 1999 portests. The low morale among WTO supporters was in evidence at a recent corporate forum on global trade sponsored by the tacoma World trade Center.
Ray Waldeman, the chairperson for the Washington Council on International Trade admitte d that the WTO may not be able to meet in any wstern dmocratic nation due to the mass protests. Waldeman, who was one of the major players in bringing the WTO to Seattle, said he was, "shocked that it was actually the church groups who shut down the opening reception for the conference."
The broad coalition which formed the backbone of the Seattle WTO protests is still developing across the nation. Groups like the Boston Global Action Network have created strong networks which include labor unions, environmental groups, faith-based organizations and students. This year in Seattle the same kind of coalition was able to bring 5,000 people out for marches to downtown and city hall - despite the best efforts of Police Chief Gil Kerlikowski and Mayor Paul Schell.
Unfortunately, the day long celebration and street party turned ugly when the Seattle Police Department decided to sweep the street, sidewalks,and a local business. The result was that 140 citizens were arrested, including the Executive Director of the King County Labor Council(membership-130,000), a Seattle Post Intelligencer editor, an Associated press reporter and 10 leagl observers from the National Lawyers Guild. Police once again used chemical agents and projectile weapons on non-violent demonstrators. But everything went fine according to the the mayor, who is running for re-election, and the new police chief. Apparently they both support mass arrests of innocent citizens...
Major civil and class action lawsuits against city have already been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Trial Lawyers for Public Justicefor last year's abuses. Amnesty International reported to the United Nations Committee on Torture that the U.S. violated the UN Declaration on Human Rights during the WTO protests in 1999 when demonstraors were beaten and tortured. You would think that Schell and company could learn a lesson or two from last year's debacle. On the contrary, it has become quite apparent that they are prone to repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
The irony of this year's mass arrests on the one year anniversay of "N30" has not been lost on local activists and labor leaders. At press conferences held at the Independent Media Center, protest organizers told reporters that the city had violated all four of their demands:
1) Violence will not be used on non-violent demonstrators.
[People who were arrested report that protesters in the crowd were attacked by undercover police and that they were assaulted on the streets and in the jails].
2)Chemical agents and "less lethal weapons" will not be used on non-violent demonstraotrs, bystanders and members of the media.
[Pepper spray and other weapons[including a taser] were used on marchers, and media and bystanders were assaulted with pepper spray.]
3)Police will not use an isolated incident to justify a crackdown on the entire demonstration.
[After a Police captain was struck in the eye with an unknown object, the SPD pulled out all the stops and arrested everybody.]
4)The city will use due process in all arrests.
[Most of the citizens who were jailed report that they were trapped by lines of police and then arrested for disobeying a disbursal order, even though they were blocked by police who would not let them leave the area.]
It is certain that members of the King County Labor Council will have something to say about the Seattle Police Department regarding the arrests of their state and county officers who were trying to give sanctuary to the marchers at the Labor Temple. Last year a very similar incident took place at this location. Once again, class action and civil suits will be filed by citizens whose civil rights have been violated. On December 1st marchers converged on city hall with police in riot gear nearby. The irony of this situation is of mythic porportions - the marchers were headed to the city hall to file 179 complaints against the city of Seattle for abuses they suffered one year ago...