Seattle Protests - Tuesday, November 30th, 1999
Tuesday, morning - outside my apartment.
Wow, there are a lot of people over here, so far they (the protestors) have the Paramount Theatre (I can see it from my place) surrounded. They started marching from Pine and Broadway where I live and Pike Street Market and converged together on the Paramount where the opening ceremonies of the WTO are supposed to start at 10am.
The city has a bunch of city busses lined up around the Theatre forming a barricade to keep the protestors away. The protestors also have several side streets completely blocked off with a web of police tape that says 'unseen crimes' on it. Earth First dropped a giant blown up gray whale and dropped it in the middle of this intersection (6th and Seneca I think), and they have efficiently shut down traffic for several blocks around. Traffic down here sucks, more like a giant parking lot.
IT sounded like a war zone earlier. Never heard so many police sirens before, and these big nasty loud police helicopters flying overhead.
Um, it sounded like 50,000 protestors are in Seattle (there not all here though), dozen mounted horse police, 250 riot gear police.... so far. The cops are just watching everything happen and not doing anything.
Its wild. Like this big street party. Loud music, dancing, big puppets. It looks more like mardi gra than a protest. Borne and Pine which is like my onramp to I-5 is totally blocked off, some kind of tepee structure the protestors set up. A bunch of people ducked taped themselves together to prevent anything from going by. Another street, where delegates where supposed to gain access to the convention center through has a bunch of folk chained to these concrete things, a lock down. The police have threatened to arrest them, but they can't move them. Big loud intimidating helicopters flying over. Rain is really nasty.
My god, this is so ridiculous. This isn't a protest, its a big party. Everyone is in costumes, a marching band with gas masks, these big 25 foot puppets on stilts or something, street theater, tons of drums, etc. Its all fairly calm though. Cops have backed off and just let the protestors take over. All fairly non-violent
Looks like the rain has mellowed out and its not quite as dark.... oh the sirens have started again... watching news... oh, doesn't sound as peaceful and happy anymore... hmmmm looks like a lot of very angry commuters trapped in cars... and police cars backing over these fencer protestors are trying to put up. I have no idea where the buss has been rerouted too, the protestors have closed down a lot more streets than expected. On the news it sounds like there is a not so happy confrontation between cops and protestors at 6th and Seneca, near the convention center. ... Wow, that police helicopter is right at eye level with my apartment. Out my window it looks like the protestors in front of the Paramount have locked arms around the busses in front. The busses have locked them out of the Theatre, but they and them are also locking the delegates out of the Theatre. ... Wait a minute, there is another helicopter - looks more like a army copter than a police one.
Oh... crapp.. great time for the battery in my camera to die. Why can't they make these things with AA batteries or something a little more common.
Oh, I have to go check this out.
See you when I can.
Police are carrying tear gas canisters toward the Sheraton Hotel.
Police are moving
in to gas the Sheraton Hotel on 6th and Union. The Seattle
Police have put the entire city under Code Red alert. Yells and
disorder can be heard over airwaves. Ministers have been
physically blocked from the Convention Center
as police don gas masks. There are no reports of protesters
physically assaulting delegates. Limos have been blocked throughout
the morning and police have ordered protesters to disperse at 4th
All the riot cops are backing out of the area, and the protestors are cheering because they think they won and chased them off. I hope that doesn't mean the cops are backing off, to tear gas everybody. I'm sure they'll try to avoid that. I would not want there job right now. Here are some pictures of some of the police force.
There are some great images, sound bites, and videos of what's happening on the streets here at www.indymedia.org Man, these anti-WTO cheerleaders are great. Very humorous. Protestors have taken over the busses and are now partying and chanting on top of them. Delegates still can't get through. Some cops tried to force a way for them through the crowd, it got a little violent, so the cops backed off to reconsider. I'm actually quite relieved and proud of how they are handling things, esp. after how that Pullman riot turned out last year. Looks like the protestors are accomplishing there goal so far. Delegates can't get into the WTO conference and Clinton just said this morning that he was going to try and open the closed-door secretive policy of the WTO and give these groups a voice in what is happening... whatever that means. A lot of the delegates are stopping and talking to the protestors and listening to their viewpoint. They are getting their message across to the right people. And many folk in the WTO are saying that this is great, to hear these viewpoints, and they are going to try their best to make changes this time around.
Well, if the protestors ever let them through... I think they really need to back off now. They are starting to push things a little too far, and the cops are going to have to be forced to actually use force soon. There is a stand off now in one corner. Police are talking to some of the protest group leaders, and telling them they are severally understaffed and don't have enough cops to do a peaceable arrest. Some protestors are begging to be arrested, that's what they came here for. Police say that if anyone breaks there ranks they'll have to try and arrest everyone and it won't be as peaceable as they would like it to be due to the fact that they are understaffed. Both sides trying to maintain the non-violence situation, but the limits are starting to be pushed.
2,000 riot gear equipped police officers now in the streets. The biggest protest is scheduled for noon with all the labor unions and the AFL-CIO groups.
They are tear gassing now.
6th and Union. Riot police clearing the street. 6th and University the police are putting on gas masks to do the same. Oh man, some of my friends are down there, along with some of the news reporters. One just choked on air, and they aren't broadcasting from that intersection anymore.
The police successfully got a group of delegates through by tear gassing around Paramount Theater at 6th and Pine and shooting rubber bullets, and pepper spray at the crowd. Several people were singled out and arrested. (earlier police attempted to arrest several, but the crowd wouldn't allow it.) Things have mellowed now, however, reports say 50,000 people including entire families with their kids are gathering there for a march at noon. Frame of reference, earlier this morning there were only 6,000 protestors. News said there were only 2,500 police.
Oh, I can hear more gunshots (rubber bullets) outside the Paramount, police chasing protestors. Bottles being thrown. Looks like the Anarchist from Eugene group are trashing things again. (they are the ones doing most of the violence, the other groups are trying to pick up after them.) These guys are dressed in black, smashing into the buildings, slingshot rocks to break windows... other protestors trying to stop them from doing the violence. No police in that area right now. They are several blocks away... spray painting everything including the newsman's camera... vandalizing Bank of America... still no cops there... 5th and Westlake... yeah, these are not the peaceful group that was there earlier. I hope the cops get there and stop them before the family oriented march gets their... Just so you know, I'm just reiterating things live from the newscast I'm watching, and looking out my window with binoculars to verify it.... other protest groups trying to stop them... GAP and Old Navy broke into... peaceful groups really upset... they are upset with News people taking their picture.... still NOOO police... US bank window broke into... they are attacking news people whenever they see them.... slammed a chain and crowbar into a BMW... they have gas masks on.... the report is really upset, she's been reporting for 15minutes on this and claimed that she has seen more police today than in her entire life and there are still absolutely no cops in site...
Oh, my god, I know someone who works at Bank of America, excuse me...
I'm safe. I'm .... maybe 7 blocks from ground zero as they are calling the Paramount theatre now. I can see it over the tops of several apartment buildings. I got a good view straight down Pine Street which has the Paramount, Westlake Mall, and Pike Street Market. So I'm watching with binoculars, listening to all the sirens and helicopter through the windows, and KIRO 7 news has been broadcasting nonstop since I woke up at 7am.
ooohhh... 50,000 people and rising at Seattle center... families who brought their kids to march... well at least it stopped raining.
So a no I'm save from the teargas, though I could see some of the clouds earlier. Lets see, a frame of reference. The distance from my apartment to the Paramount is like ADBF from Bryan Hall.
But curiosity is killing me!!!!!!
Well, its almost midnight now. I went downtown earlier to check things out. At the time things were fairly peaceful. Lots of people everywhere. Human barricades of protestors arm and arm, duck taped, and chained to each other, around a 5block radius to keep the delegates from getting through. Most of the riot police where behind them. Lots of puppets and signs and marchers. Earlier an anarchist group dressed in black had vandalized a lot of stuff and the actual protestors tried to stop them. When I got there, I could see the remains of their passing.
Nike Town was trashed, along with McDonalds, Gap, Bank of America. Lots of broken windows with chairs and newsstands thrown through and graffiti spray paint everywhere. When I got there, no violence just all the peaceful demonstrators. Did walk into a small group of black clad individuals haling dumpsters out of an ally and throwing it into the street, then banging on them. I think they were part of the earlier anarchists.
Met a lot of the Delegates on the street, esp by 6th and University where the crowd was very sparse. This is one of the first streets hit with tear gas earlier but it was really tame when I went through after 12. Only one row of protestors in the barricade so its where the majority of delegates were trying to get through. The cops just stood their ground and didn't help any of them through, which I thought was odd. Down 6th avenue I could see barricades for several blocks and noticed a lot of commotion down at Pine and 6th which is where we were earlier, and where the Paramount Theater and Convention Center are (big locals for the WTO Ministerials). Later on the news I found out that that commotion I saw was the police tear gassing the crowd again.
Occasionally, we'd walk around a corner and see a bunch of people running. We'd freeze and hope everyone around us did too - don't need to have the whole crowd spontaneously PANIC!!!!! when nothing was happening. For the most part nothing bad at all happened when I was down there, but I did get a lot of PICTURES!!! =) The demonstrations were actually cool, and how often do you get to stand by world leaders and talk to them and over hear their conversations. One guy gave up on getting through and walked by and said, "We were doing a very good job" meaning the protestors were succeeding in closing down the WTO Ministerials since no one could get through the barricade to the them.
We got bored and tired of hearing about the WTO around 3:30 and left. Decided to just rent movies for awhile. At 8 I tried to go home. Tried... discovered that holy hell had broken out on the streets about an hour after we left. Lots of violence. The actual real protestors had already started to leave and the only people left were all the street punks, anarchists, and other random angry people who started to take advantage of the situation.
While every cop in Seattle was stuck in this formation protecting the convention center, rioters - not protestors - started vandalizing downtown. Essentially every window of every downtown skyscraper has been busted out. Looters used newsstands and crowbars to break through windows, slashed tires, and broken windows of parked cars, loot businesses with massive destruction to Star Bucks, McDonalds, etc.
The Mayor called some kind of state of emergency which included calling in the National Guard, and a 7pm curfew. Anyone downtown from Yesterler to Denny, and the Water to I-5 will be arrested. The protestors left, but about 500 rioters remained. Police stampeded, rushed, drove tanks, and shot tear gas to chase them out of downtown. I don't know how familiar you are with Seattle, but with the waterfront on one side, there is only one place to chase the rioters too... Capital Hill, where I live...
While I was blissfully watching Austin Powers, Police chased them up Pine street (I live close to the corner of Pine & Boylston, two blocks off of Broadway, the main drag up here). However, the police didn't stop at I-5, they kept chasing them. I think the long hours of standing, and being yelled at really started getting them, and their aggression started to come out.
Police started continuously shooting teargas at whoever was on Pine (there are only about 3 streets on Capital Hill that cross I-5 to downtown and Pine is one of them), then they would Billy club those who were made incapacitated by the gas. They pushed the crowd all the way passed my street to Broadway, where rioters had erected a hug bonfire out of garbage bins and had effectively blockaded the the street, a main drag on the Hill. Thats when things got really nearly. The rioters/protestors wouldn't budge, and the poor cops who probably just want to end it and go home pushed the issue. More teargas & pepper spray than all day was fired at this intersection. I had to sneak home by driving through a side street and crossing Pine Street between Broadway and downtown. I could see lots of police, big fire, and lots of white gas clouds. Many of my favorite stores have been vandalized, so I guess it wasn't that much over the top for some of the stores to board their windows up earlier today.
I'm fine here. I'm on the third floor, on the opposite corner, in a surprisingly quiet neighborhood. No threat of tear gas coming hear, even though it is being shot only two blocks away at the college on Broadway and Pine.
Out my window, I can see down Pine all the way past the Paramount-Bus barricade & opening ceremony of WTO, Westlake Mall-center of worst vandalism, and Pike Street Market - one start point of this mornings protest march. Its midnight, and even though there is a curfew currently in action downtown, I see quite a few police lights, and lots of car movement. I've heard that all the windows of downtown business are being boarded up for tomorrow since all the windows are broken into.
IndyMedia.org is located downtown, they are now offline. I assume they were kicked out with the curfew until 7am - there stuff severs, video equipment may also be being confiscated or sifted through - who knows. We'll see if they are streaming tomorrow. If they are they will have photos and videos of this evenings events.
40,000 people in the labor protest march from Seattle Center to Convention Center, ran into some of them today. I'm listening to the police scanners right now on through the AP News webpage.
How, odd - its late at night and there are tons of helicopter activity overhead. Hmm....
Reports of 20-30 police cars from Pierce and Thurston County seen traveling on the highway in speeds in excess of 80mph to come up here for backup. Only 22 people arrested today though.
Oh, one interesting thing I heard. Some of the more organized protest groups have been practicing for months. one of there tactics was to move from intersection to intersection to spread the police out.
Well, tonight, they'll get a chance to assess the damage and review evidence. I'm sure We'll hear the totals and statistics tomorrow. Clinton is also arriving early tomorrow. Hmm.. more sirens.
-------The conference was originally only estimated to bring in 15 million in revenue to the city.
Reports & Pictures in chronological order:
Stephanie Zimmerman, 1999