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“Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience...”

— John Locke
2nd Treatise on Government
Chapter 19  paragraph 222

Police-State Brutality
of peaceful protesters
in Seattle, December 1999

Photo of an armored, black-clad pig pointing a black teargas-shotgun at a crowd of people, some of whom are sitting on the street as they lean forward and cover their faces protectively.  A white mist of tear gas is in the air around the pig and above the heads of the people. by Rod Mickleburgh
The Globe and Mail
Friday, December 3, 1999

Seattle — The day after an all-out assault by riot police against hundreds of peaceful protesters here, it was time for the wounded, the distraught and the outraged to tell their “war stories.” Teamster business agent Hobe Williams had just spied his mother on a passing bus.

“I turned to wave. Suddenly I was pepper-sprayed. Right in the face,” Mr. Williams said yesterday. “No warning. No provocation. Nothing. We were just marching down the street to a church.”

Kaela Economos, 21, pulled out Polaroid snapshots showing a bleeding mouth and badly bruised nose. They were souvenirs, she said, from three police officers who grabbed her from behind as she talked to a friend, smashing Ms. Economos’s face into the sidewalk.

“My two front teeth are almost horizontal. I can’t protest today. I have to see my dentist.”

Deanna Christian, a sweet-looking grandmother, was pepper-sprayed in the face as she stood on a street corner holding a sign proclaiming: “Democracy”.

“I suffer from asthma. I thought I was going to die,” she said. “I was hysterical. I was terrified.”

Yesterday, Ms. Christian prepared to march again. But now her sign read:

“If you shoot and gas the kids, you’ll have to take out all of us grandmas, too.”

As this beleaguered city experienced its first sustained calm after 48 hours of chaotic confrontations between riot police and large crowds of protesters opposed to the World Trade Organization, attention shifted to the tough tactics used by police in keeping downtown streets clear. It seemed to many that police overreacted after being caught off guard earlier this week by vandalism and looting unconnected to the mass WTO protests. Seattle was put under its first curfew since the Second World War, and National Guard troops were ordered in for the first time in the city’s history.

There has been strong criticism by civil libertarians that protesters are not being allowed their constitutional right to assemble. The tension in the streets has almost overshadowed the week’s key round of renewed WTO trade talks. Although there was no evidence of the sporadic violence that broke out earlier, police arrested more than 400 demonstrators on Wednesday who refused to move out of specified “no-protest” zones.

And at several locations, they unleashed barrages of tear gas and pepper spray against protesters walking peacefully through the streets or simply standing around in large, but mostly passive crowds.

Residents of Seattle’s trendy Capitol Hill were particularly angered that riot police invaded their district early yesterday morning, firing off many rounds of tear gas at crowds well outside the downtown curfew zone.

King County Councillor Brian Derdowski was hit in the shoulder by a tear-gas canister. He said police tactics were asinine.

“These kids don’t understand why they can’t stand on a city sidewalk outside the curfew area, and neither do I.”

A spirited protest march that headed downtown yesterday from Capitol Hill attracted many demonstrators more upset by police tactics than the WTO talks that have spurred previous marches.

“They’ve already made their points about the WTO. It’s time to start talking about police tactics,” resident Lamar Stone said. “They treated people up here like criminals.”

Marcher Kari Lerum, a professor of sociology at Seattle University, said several victims of the early-morning police attack in Capitol Hill sought refuge in her house.

“One was suffering a panic attack. Another had just left a restaurant when she was hit by a rubber bullet. You expect this in China and Indonesia, not in Seattle.”

Prof. Lerum said her students have become inflamed by the week’s events.

“Police are radicalizing middle-class white kids who have never been radicalized before. This is a completely new thing.”

photo of several black-clad, helmeted, masked pigs with shotguns standing in clouds of tear gas which they have fired - one is pointing his shotgun horizontally to fire another tear gas round, another is pointing his shotgun down toward people who are sitting huddled together on the street in the midst of thick swirling white tear gas all around them.  Text on the photograph reads - 'While the vast majority of the protestors were non-violent, there was a small band of people dressed all in black, with masks covering their faces, who caused destruction and tried to incite the crowd to violence'.

Collateral Damage in Seattle

by Jim Desyllas
December 2, 1999

(Jim Desyllas is a student in Portland, Oregon. His report was called in to emperors-clothes.com from a pay phone outside Seattle, Wed., 7:30 pm Pacific time.)

I just spent 4 days in Seattle. The “information” people are getting from the mass-media is false.

This was not, as Pres. Clinton claims, a peaceful protest “marred by the actions of violent protesters.” This was a massive, strong but peaceful demonstration which was attacked repeatedly by the police with the express purpose of provoking a violent response to provide photo opportunities for the Western media.

I know because I watched it happening. I’ll tell you how they did it.

As Michel Chossudovsky says in his “Disarming the New World Order” (See Note 3 at end for link to that article) — the government put a lot of effort into making sure the protesters in Seattle were (portrayed as) a “loyal opposition” who wanted to reform the WTO, not get rid of it. But the people in Seattle — American steel workers, Canadian postal workers, college kids from all over, environmentalists from Australia — you name it — were not for reforming the WTO. They were for getting rid of it.

And this wasn’t just true of the protesters. I interviewed delegates. None of them had anything favorable to say about the WTO. Two delegates from the Caribbean were angry about job loss. One delegate from Peru took a bullhorn and got up on a car and spoke to the protestors against the World Trade Organization. He said it hurts the workers and farmers. I interviewed a Norwegian guy from Greenpeace. Totally against it.

Even a delegate from Holland said it had hurt the farmers there. He said though it is supposedly democratic, that’s actually a lie: the US, England and Canada and a few others get together and decide what they want to do. Then they ask the rest of the countries to vote and if they vote wrong they threaten, “You won’t get loans,” or whatever. They get them to do what they want by blackmailing them. The Italians we interviewed were upset too. I couldn’t find any delegates who were in favor.

So the government instigated a “riot” to discredit the movement against the WTO because they couldn’t dilute it. I am not guessing about this. I was there. I saw it happening. And I will tell you I am frankly shocked to see, close up, just how little our leaders care what happens to ordinary people.

Clinton can pose and speak a lot of flowery stuff but the truth is — we are nothing to them. I saw this with my own eyes. Sunday and Monday, there was no violence. None. The people were aggressively non-violent; they were self-policing. Up until Tuesday at 4pm there was one window broken in the whole city — a McDonalds window. This compares favorably to the typical rock concert, let alone a demonstration of people who were non-violently barring entry to the World Trade Center!

At this point, a new group of police — tactical police — moved in and started gassing people and shooting rubber bullets. Is it any surprise that people got mad? Of course, the young kids hit back by breaking some windows in retaliation for being gassed, sprayed with very painful pepper gas, and shot with dangerous “rubber” bullets. The police instigated these kids, plain and simple.

Sunday and Monday they had young cops, using them to block the streets. These were trainees. But Tuesday they had the real cops; none of them were young. They were trained to attack people. A small group, maybe 100 people total, struck back. Then these cops herded that group around the city, making sure there were plenty of photo ops of “violent protesters”.

photo of TV screen image shows a phalanx of black-clad pigs on a street in downtown Seattle at night, advancing toward the viewer - a yellow burst of sparks in the midst of the phalanx indicates one of the pigs is firing tear gas toward the viewer.  Words at bottom of screen read 'WTO protests - Seattle'. A number of times they had these 100 or so protesters caught between buildings and walls of police. They could easily have arrested and detained this small number of people and gotten it over with. Instead they would gas them and let them go. Then trap them again, gas them again, and again let them go. The cops made no arrests that I know of until late Tuesday night though the skirmishing was going on from three till 9:30. The cops would blockade three or five blocks of an area, give the angry kids room to operate, keep gassing them — when you gas a person, let me tell you, it gets them fighting mad.

Tuesday night the police gassed all of downtown. This was going on from 3pm till 6pm. Gas everywhere. The kids broke a few windows — McD’s, Starbucks — small stuff — burned a few garbage cans. The police were using these people as extras. It was staged.

I believe also the police had their own people in there, encouraging people to break stuff — if people think I may be exaggerating, I saw supposed protesters — they were screaming and so on — and then later, when everything was over, the same people tackled other protestors and put handcuffs on them.

At 6pm they issued a “State of Emergency”. At that point they had pushed the 100 people outside the city limits, so the police went outside the limits too, and they started gassing that area too, gassing the neighborhoods where the regular people live. I am not exaggerating. The police were relentless.

This was in an area from the city limits for about 10 blocks to the Seattle Central Community College. If you were alive, the police gassed you. People coming back from work, kids, women, everyone. People would go out of their houses to see what was happening because these tear gas guns sound like a cannon — and they would get gassed. A block away there was a Texaco gas station — they threw tear gas at gas pumps, believe it or not — they were like vandals. They gassed a bus. I saw it with my own eyes. A bus. The driver, the riders, the people just abandoned it.

I was sitting in a little coffee shop called Rauhaus, (Note: Jim did not spell this — the spelling may be wrong.) They were shooting “rubber” bullets at the glass. I picked up a dozen of the things in a few square feet. They were also shooting this paint that you can only see with a florescent light. They would paint anyone and everyone and then go hunting them.

Anyway, because they were gassing everybody, the local people got mad too and they joined the 100 who had been herded out of the city. So soon there were 500 including the neighborhood people and all very angry. Naturally. Because they had been gassed and hit with pepper spray, that stuff does a number on you. And shot with these damn bullets. Then people set up barricades at Seattle Central Community College. The cops organized themselves for about an hour and then moved in and gassed that area.

Today they started mass arrests. That was because Clinton — the Greeks call him the Planitarchis, Ruler of the World — was coming. Weeping crocodile tears about how he just LOVES peaceful protest, which of course you’d have to be two years old to believe he had nothing to do with the police action.

This whole thing, this police attack, this was US foreign policy, not some action decided by some bureaucrat in Seattle. This was the State Department. They wanted to discredit the people.

Sunday there was a protest of solidarity involving people from different walks of life. Monday it got even bigger. Tuesday there was a big sort of carnival where people were doing different things, a band was playing music and people were blocking the World Trade Center. And about 3 PM the cops started throwing tear gas.

The thing that drove Clinton crazy was that on Tuesday the protesters had succeeded in making nonviolent human chains and had therefore stopped everyone from going into the World Trade Center. Only maybe 27 delegates got through, mostly US and British. There were what seemed like tens of thousands of protesters involved. So the police did their gassing number against these nonviolent people to break up the human chains and make the protesters look violent.

Today (Wednesday) I followed the union protest put together by the Longshoremen’s Union. They went down to the docks and had a rally then marched to Third Avenue. As soon as they got there the cops started gassing them.

There was an old lady there. She had gone downtown by bus to buy something. This lady was in her 70s and I saw her trying to run, but she couldn’t breathe. She was in shock. I carried her to a building entryway. She was gasping, terrified. She had been in Germany, and it was like she was having flashbacks.

The tear gas sounds like gunfire and there were helicopters overhead, sirens, cops on horses, everything. They had clearly made a decision to destroy this movement.

So anyway there I was with her in this building and she wanted to go to the hospital but there was tear gas everywhere and I was afraid if I tried to move her she’d be gassed again. I went to this line of cops and begged — I mean begged — these riot police to help her. They ignored me.

A girl told me later that a one-year-old baby had been gassed. And I myself saw a girl no more than 18 — a cop had busted her lip wide open — she was bleeding — and then they gassed everyone including her. After that she was kneeling on the ground crying like a baby and praying for 15 minutes, Hail Mary, Hail Mary. Over and over. She was in a state of shock. They just gassed these people who were sitting down non-violently and doing nothing. Nothing.

At one point the Seattle Mayor said his boys were not using rubber bullets. Miraculously, by then I had ten in my pocket. I could open a little market, sell the things. They are everywhere. I and other people started giving them to delegates and stuff. “See what they’re doing? They’re shooting ‘rubber’ bullets and lying about it.” We showed them to the media. I guess enough people and the media got the information because the Mayor made a new statement then that they were using them. As if he hadn’t known.

They shot rubber bullets from four feet away into the face of a guy next to me, broke all his front teeth.

When that happened I lost it. I forgot I was supposed to be getting the news for all of you and I started yelling at the cops, “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you sick, man?” So this cop aimed his gun right at me. That was his answer. So I first put my hands in front of my face because I didn’t want to lose my teeth. And then I thought, to hell with it. I was wearing my target shirt that said “Collateral Damage”, you know? With a bullseye target, like they wore during the bombing in Yugoslavia. And I told this guy, “Go ahead, shoot! Here! Here’s the target!” He didn’t shoot me.

I want to emphasize, these protesters were NOT violent people. They were the most non-violent people I have ever seen. Even when I was screaming at the cop, this girl came up to me and said, “Do not scream. This is non-violent.” These people were too much to believe. They must meditate all the time, I don’t know.

Clinton said he supports nonviolent protest. That is baloney. Today (Wed.) the protesters were causing absolutely no “trouble". In downtown the cops had people running who weren’t even protesters — like that old lady or just people going to work or shopping — everyone was getting gassed. The busses weren’t running because of the gas. I was lucky to catch one with a driver who could still see. I begged him to drive the old lady home — the driver changed his route especially for her.

If you want to find human decency, stay away from the Planitarchis. Go to the to regular people. They have some. The Planitarchis lost all his years ago. Now he wouldn’t know human decency if it came up and bit him.

So now I have made personal acquaintance with the people who run this country, and they are, quite simply, scum.

There were people at work, people with babies, they were all getting gassed because the government would not allow an assembly of people speaking their minds.

It is the same as what happened in Athens. Clinton’s requirements on the Greek government created the riot and he did the same thing here. And then he says he supports nonviolent protest? How? By shooting rubber bullets? And today they outlawed gas masks. They want to make sure everyone gets his money’s worth.

Today, just like yesterday night, the police were in the residential neighborhoods. People in cafes were getting gassed and shot at, you could hear it on the windows, bang, bang, bang. A guy trying to cross the street to go to his house got gassed. First a drunk guy outside a bar yelled at the cops “Get out of here!” so they gassed him. And then this other guy was just crossing the street to go home so the cops figured, might as well gas him too.

People got gassed for coming out of restaurants and bars and coffee shops. I’m amazed that nobody died who had asthma or something.

Or maybe somebody did die and they didn’t talk about it. I mean after all, it’s just “collateral damage”.

Note 1 — for an in-depth look at how the media misinformed Americans about another situation, the US bombing of Sudan in 1998, go to: http://www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/sudan.html
“Credible Deception: The Times and the Sudan missile attack”

Note 2 — for an analysis of government-media distortions on the Chinese Embassy bombing, go to: http://www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/Lies.html
“Lies, Damn Lies & Maps”

Note 3 — For a critical look at the World Trade Organization, go to: http://www.emperors-clothes.com/articles/chuss/seattle.html

Power Whining
and the Battle of Seattle

The Globe And Mail
Friday, December 3, 1999

photo of huddled demonstrators in clouds of tear gas, a row of black-uniformed pigs behind them. What a load of power whining around the World Trade Organization mess in Seattle. PW is when those with power get to sound like victims. In the runup, we heard that “flakes, extremists and full-time cranks” (Edmonton Journal) wanted to “make the WTO into the global villain of institutions” (Canadian trade ambassador Sergio Marchi) through “disorder and chaos” (Toronto Star) where “talks may get hijacked” (National Post) and “Canadians shouldn’t allow themselves to be browbeaten by anti-trade forces” (Globe and Mail). The corporations, governments and WTO bureaucrats sounded like they’d be lucky to survive.

This week, Seattle’s police joined the power whining — though they had all the weapons, initiated all the violence (against people, that is, not windows), and there was no counterviolence. “Police take back streets,” headlined the National Post, just like abused women try to do.

In the midst of it, The Globe’s Paul Sullivan asked plaintively: “Who ARE all these people?”

Why do mass protests always seem to come out of nowhere? Why are people on them treated as aliens? When a rich New York lawyer is sacked for sexual harassment, papers don’t ask: What manner of being is he? But tens of thousands under curfew and martial law? Or protesting in Athens against President Bill Clinton? Or riots against free trade in Brussels in 1990 that made Seattle look mild? An air of befuddlement surrounds them. The news media can barely wait to move back to familiar ground.

Canadians should know better. In 1988, we had a raucous election on — free trade! A majority voted for parties against it. In 1993, the Liberals ran in opposition to NAFTA, though they later reneged. What about the defeat of the Charlottetown accord in 1991?

You could have asked, Who are all these people who voted it down, since no one who was anyone by conventional standards opposed the accord?

Just . . . people.

As “aliens,” they’re readily misrepresented. In Seattle, said Maclean’s, they have a “seemingly impossible goal: to stop the relentless progress of economic globalization.” What garbage. Economic globalization has been going on for centuries. What does Maclean’s think the African slave trade was?

This fight isn’t an attempt to reverse economic history, it’s about a coup de monde in the past 15 years by corporate forces, during which most people’s incomes have fallen and areas such as health and education have deteriorated — while corporate profits and executive salaries have soared.

What’s complicated about that? This fight isn’t over global economic integration; it’s about what kind of integration, under whose control, for whose benefit.

A striking feature of the fight is what you could call a deep disconnect between formal politics and real power. That’s why the Seattle protest went straight for the jugular of power in the world today — the WTO with its mandate on behalf of corporations — and skipped the ineffective middlemen: governments.

Last Sunday’s New York Times had two articles on its Week in Review front page: one was “Meet your government Inc.” on corporate might as the real power in the world today; the other was on U.S. presidential candidates and how “there is a dearth of raging issues dividing the parties.” It drew no link, but the message was clear: All parties, not just in the United States, have accepted the power of big business.

If you want to challenge that power, electoral politics are a waste of time. That’s why the WTO’s counterargument — that it’s democratic since governments back it — rings hollow.

Governments left and right have caved in, ceded authority, to “the free market,” i.e., the rich and corporate.

This kind of disconnect between formal and real power has bedeviled modern electoral democracy since its birth 200 years ago. The political equality of citizens — one person, one vote — has always contended against the inequality conferred by economic strength.

But in the past 15 years of corporate-style globalization, the balance tipped. Fewer people bother voting and governments ignore the promises that got them elected. The turnout in last June’s Ontario election, 58.3 per cent, was the lowest since 1981. Now the same government is going to cut the number of seats on Toronto’s City Council.

It’s as if both sides, government and people, acknowledge that democracy as we knew it has become irrelevant.

It’s like the Middle Ages all over again. Then, the monarch was the official source of power. But when serfs had a point to make, they didn’t petition their faraway king; they marched on the lord of the manor in his castle on the hill.

Come to think of it, when Bill Clinton arrived in Seattle to diffuse the heat, he looked like “King Richard” in a Robin Hood movie, just back from the Crusades, telling his people to trust in him — and in that good old “democratic” process.

“We believe that the government and the police have embarked on a strategy of repression to stop, crush or marginalize the burgeoning progressive movement that gained world attention in the protest against the WTO in Seattle last year.”

International Action Center attorneys
announcing the filing of a class-action lawsuit
on behalf of protestors at the WTO Ministerial meeting
in Seattle, Washington, December, 1999

Related pages

Solutions: American Revolution 2 and a Humane Future of International Socialist Democracy

Thomas Jefferson Calling: The Time for Revolution is NOW
by John Kaminski

The United States Government Committed the September 11 Attacks

Terrorism Begins At Home: Police Brutality in America

Our Hidden History: American Corporations

Related sites

The Struggle: From Seattle to...

Index page for a collection of reports about the brutality against protesters in Seattle, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia Los Angeles and related issues.


Index page for a collection of reports about police brutality against protesters in Seattle.

Police attack protesters at Seattle WTO meeting

Political first principles for a movement against global capitalism

“The issues raised this week in Seattle cannot be solved by protest. No application of pressure on the WTO or any other capitalist institution will in any serious way change the situation facing the world’s working and oppressed masses.

“Those opposed to the existing state of things are obliged to go to the root of the problem, the [capitalist] system of production for profit. This means a struggle for fundamental change, to reorganize society on a new social principle. This is a political struggle for which the working class needs its own instrument, its own political party.

“... the egalitarian, democratic and internationalist principles of socialism represent the only alternative to the irrationality and injustice of capitalism.”

IndyMedia Center

“The Independent Media Center is a network of collectively run media outlets for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth. We work out of a love and inspiration for people who continue to work for a better world, despite corporate media’s distortions and unwillingness to cover the efforts to free humanity.”

“Policing the Police"

“Fighting abusive law enforcement and governmental oppression wherever encountered — police, prosecutors, judges, bureaucrats, and politicians.”

Mobilization for Global Justice

Direct Action Network — Against Corporate Globalization

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