|WTO (my first-hand experience from the front - from over a week ago)|
|Party on the streets of Seattle was amazing and generally wonderful until night-fall.
Played Ukulele for the cops on the line and for the kids chained together and generally got very good at dispensing a calm center. Then at dusk, in the aftermath of the amazing peace, people walking around in a car-free city, it rather suddenly got violent and scary.
I was at ground zero at Levi's when it got broken into, and got physically entangled in the street fight that broke out between the people wanting to lootand smash and those wanting it not to happen. Don't know if the resisters were paid thugs working for Levi's or protesters not wanting that kind of violence to happen, but it was very ugly. Kick boxing aimed at inflicting real injury. Spawned chain reactions of incredible violence all around itself.
Kids thrown out of the brawl on the sidewalk collided with people who proceeded to fight with them. Crowd scattering - running over itself.
Nowhere to go really. Since I was pinned there in the middle, it was happening all around me, coming toward me from all directions like splash-circles on a mud-puddle cause by raindrops falling, and because I was in the middle and could not see it all at once I got hit from behind once. I retreated to Pike St. very carefully and then almost immediately they started gassing us. Two phalanxes of cops came running fast from north and south merging into a single column as wide as the street and maybe 12 men deep. They ran at the crowd which was contained from moving north or south by lines on all the avenues. The crowd started to run. Very scary as runners already moving fast overtook walkers unaware of what was happening. People tried to slow the crowd, but since they were looking back toward the cops and the running crowd, they were walking backwards blindly and were pushed into and over planters, benches etc.
At this point they started firing tear gas grenades that exploded over the crowd. I bet they fired 30 or more. No where to go but west, toward the Public Market. I was by then 50 yards away from the line, and did not hear the rubber bullets as they looted Nike-Town.
Got home just before midnight. Curfew and martial law are no fun at all.
|Here is another one (with pictures) excerpted from a longer piece from another protest, written nearly ten years ago -
The vision was clear to everyone on the overpass, maybe even to the cops, but it was over in less than an instant. If only things in real life were so easy, I could not help but think, as I dropped over the guardrail into the northboundlane. Out on the freeway, things got less idyllic very rapidly. I was in the middle of the throng by now, and moved quickly toward the front of the line as we walked north up the freeway to the Denny St. Overpass. There, while the State Patrol reorganized their line, and discussed strategy with the Police, most ofus sat down. The leaders were nowhere to be seen, and I found myself surrounded by several distinct and dissimilar factions. About a third of the group ahead had already dropped into the Southbound lanes, which were now blocked, too, butthe protesters down there were standing, and many seemed to have a weather eyetoward an obvious escape route up a shallow leaf-covered slope on the north sideof the overpass. This was almost the last point where one could safely escapefrom the northbound freeway, because of the Express-lane, which runs underground until Denny St. and then breaks out into the daylight, at the bottom of an unbridged chasm at least 50' deep. The State Patrol had by now assembled a solid line of cars in the Northbound lane, about a quarter mile south of Denny, and out of that line came a single blue SPD motorcycle and a single white State Patrol car.
|They approached the crowd very aggressively, the driver had the Patrol-car's engine roaring, and hewas using the clutch and brakes together, to make the Patrol Car lurch forwardlike a dangerous, bounding beast on the very edge of control. In this manner,they pushed their vehicles right into the middle of the mass of people sittingin the right-hand lanes, making it clear that they would blindly run over hands and legs if they were not immediately withdrawn.|
|O.K. You've made your point. Now it's time for you to leave. We have amergency vehicle trapped in the traffic back there, and we
have got to get it through. Get up and walk to the Mercer Street off ramp and no one will gethurt. We are going to reopen this freeway. You have made
your point, and now you must move on.
That was what they announced to us, and about a third of the protesters stoodup, ready to do what they were told to do, just like they had been doing allmorning. But angry voices in the crowd demanded that they all sit back down, andpeople in the right-hand lanes moved over quickly to fill the spaces vacated by those who had stood up and started to move. At this point, for the first timeall day, I was genuinely frightened. Things were right on the edge of getting rough, and I was feeling like I was in a very exposed position, pinned downbetween 3 confrontational and hot-headed factions.
As things progressed I found it more and more difficult to either support or understand any of them. I wasclearly surrounded by untrained people on all sides: people who had no more understanding of the methods and politics of this sort of confrontation than they had of real reasons behind Bush's war in the Gulf, and now that we were allout on the freeway, surrounded by anxious Police and frightened protesters, it was no longer clear who was in charge of this demonstration.
It sounded to me like the Police could claim the moral higher ground, unlesstheir business about the emergency vehicle was an out-and-out lie, but even if it were true, how can that one person's life really be weighed against the thousands or even millions of lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars thatthis war is likely to claim? On the other hand, how could this isolated 1000 person protest sincerely pretend to be part of an effort capable of stoppingthis war? It seemed like it was clearly time to for all of us to leave.
Maybe this is how all these sorts of demonstrations end up; as microcosms of wars. It appeared that the people who come to them are voyeuristically attractedto large-scale violence, be it in the form of enormous wars or littlepolice-riots, and that their leaders end up attracting violence to themselves and at the last minute foist it off on the people who follow them into the battle, just like governments do. I had reached the front of the line, the leaders had vanished into thin air, and the mixture that remained was clearlycombustible, if not outright explosive.
How could anyone know who was really leading this thing, and what their motivation for leading us out here reallywas. Was there a bomb someplace about to go off? Not one set by the people I was seeing, that was pretty clear. Somehow, these slogan-screaming 16 to 18 year-oldkids in their studded leather jackets and peace-symbol face-paint did not looklike they were ready to be martyrs, not to me. They certainly didn't look like terrorists, either.
|They were no more ready to be tear-gassed and savagely beaten by adults with flashlights and nightsticks than they were ready to be sent off to die in a flash-flood of blood in some nameless desert north-west of thePersian Gulf.Back in the days of the
Viet-Nam opposition, there were identifiable leaders,and to balance the U.S. government's disinformation campaign, there was acontinually evolving
counterpoint, a developing mythology, and it was concernedwith the underlying economic motivation, the "real" reasons we had gotteninvolved in
"a war we couldn't win". In grim contrast, no one was treating this latest call to arms as an economic issue at all, even though to my eye it
looksunmistakably like a big gambling debt with the mob that has finally come due.
A huge debt that the American people have run up with the Kuwaitis, one of those debts that you simply find the money to pay because if you don't, they take itout of your hide and the hides of your children, in some way that becomes drastically more horrible the longer you wait, a debt that simply refuses to go away. Who knows what is really behind this war, or how it can possibly end happily.
Not one of the people who was shouting slogans like "What do we want?" "PEACE!!""When do we want it?" "NOW!!!" at the court-house or out on the freeway appeared to be capable of talking intelligently about our $300 billion debt to theKuwaiti Investment Company, or how it might related to the war we were starting in their name the Persian Gulf.
Nor were the people trapped in our traffic-jam likely to be thinking about how the enormous cost of this war was going to affect their daily commute, or the value of their dollars. Or how some carefully directed Iraqi terrorism might affect there lives.