rn: Aaron Koleszar: WTO follow-up


Jan Slakov

Dear RN,

In Aaron's article below, we see that the Seattle police can be seen as
criminals in the pay of Capitalism. Reminds me of a Noam Chomsky
"Rent-a-Thug" piece which I will try to find and send out to you tomorrow.

all the best, Jan
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 00:41:36 -0800
From: "aaron koleszar" <•••@••.•••>

Violent Criminals Riot in Seattle       
- by Aaron Koleszar <•••@••.•••>

        On November 30, 1999, Seattle streets were filled with rioting criminals.
These criminals, with masks covering their faces and dressed all in black,
perpetrated extreme acts of violence and appeared intent on disrupting the
non-violent protests and diluting the protesters' messages. These rioters
indiscriminately broke and stole things while law-abiding citizens watched
in disbelief and disgust.
        But wait a second... who were these masked criminals? Why were they
terrorizing Seattle? They were the foot soldiers of unfettered capitalism,
of global free trade, of elite corporate rule. They broke bones (among other
things) and stole citizen's rights (among other things), demonstrating the
extent to which the state will go in order to protect business as usual and
corporate rule. Corporate rights have become elevated above citizens'
rights. This was clearly demonstrated in Seattle when the police removed our
rights to protect corporate rights.

N30 (Day 1)
        Just before dawn, hundreds of people gathered in different parts of the
city, then advanced toward the Washington State Convention Centre and
surrounded the building, blocking all streets and entrances used to access
the conference centre. Demonstrators informed delegates seeking access that
the conference was cancelled, that they might as well go home. Throughout
the morning they were joined by tens of thousands of other protesters.
        This mass civil disobedience was undertaken in order to physically prevent
the conference from happening, and was quite successful, as only around 200
of the 3000 delegates were able to gain entrance. The opening session was
cancelled, setting the stage for the eventual collapse of talks, and the
failure to initiate the intended new round of trade talks that would have
furthered the WTO enforced corporate exploitation of people and the
environment. On September 29, 1999, Mike Moore, Secretary General of the WTO
warned "The world will be watching in Seattle. Imagine the cost of failure."
        Police violence began that morning with attacks on non-violent
demonstrators who were blocking entrances. Blockaders were the first
victims, but the violence (including pepper spray, beatings, tear gas,
rubber bullets, and concussion grenades) spread rapidly and throughout the
day was inflicted on crowds of protesters, and then non-protestors alike. It
had degenerated into a riot - a police riot - where thousands  upon
thousands of citizens were attacked and assaulted. It felt like a war zone,
where civilians and innocent bystanders were not only expendable, but
aggressively attacked.. The primary goal was to make the conference happen,
and this goal was placed above the rights of thousands of people. The
primary action police used, to ensure that the conference took place, was to
attack the enemy - the protester - and they got a little carried away.  
        In some cases police attacks caused fear and panic. As the victims tried to
escape the clouds of tear gas and the rain of projectiles, a small number of
vandals took this opportunity to break a small number of  windows. Some
people even chose to 'loot' the stores. While this occurred, police stood
nearby but did nothing to stop the vandalism. This vandalism was later used
as justification for declaring a "state of emergency," and also to justify
the police violence against protesters (despite the fact that police
violence began much earlier in the day). The police attacked people
throughout the evening and eventually ran out of tear gas. 

December 1 (Day 2)
        Day 2 unfolded quite differently. With new National Guard reinforcements
and a "state of emergency" to justify their illegal actions, the police
arrested hundreds of people for exercising their constitutional rights of
free speech and peaceable assembly.
        These arrests were not for security reasons. They were not even about
ensuring that the conference took place, since no one was blocking the
entrances. These arrests were solely for political reasons, to punish us
for, and prevent us from, protesting against the WTO and corporate rule.

Westlake Park Arrests
        At around 9:00 AM, about 200 of the people involved in a protest march were
arrested in Westlake Park (a small paved park). I was turned onto my stomach
and my arms were put behind my back, then lifted over my head as my thumbs
and wrists were also twisted into pain holds. While doing this, the police
put plastic handcuffs on me. The cuffs were tightened enough to cut off
circulation, then they carried me to the waiting bus and banged my head on
the step of the bus.

"Gus" the Bus
        Our bus was given the name "Gus," and it became our home for the remainder
of the day. We arrived at Sand Point Naval Base for "processing" and we
demanded to see our lawyer (our constitutional right). Our demand was
ignored, so we refused to get off the bus. Some people were losing sensation
in their hands and fingers so the handcuffs were all removed (not by the
police). Though a police guard stood at the front door of the bus, we
liberated that space for 15 hours.
        We chanted "Stay on the bus" when other busloads arrived, and they joined
our resistance. While on the bus we sang, danced, chanted, drummed, wrote
songs, read poetry, made signs for the windows, did media interviews, and
held consensus discussions about our position, plans, and strategy. 
        Our experience on the bus was a microcosm of the whole week. The feelings
of solidarity, unity, celebration, and resistance permeated the air,
inspired and empowered everyone, and profoundly changed the lives of many.
We clearly demonstrated the strength we have in numbers when we act in
solidarity for justice.
        At approximately 1:00 AM, the bus was driven around the other side of the
building, out of view of supporters and the media. Police dressed in riot
gear boarded the bus and forcibly removed people. As they got toward the
rear of the bus, they started using pepper spray. While seated, I was
sprayed in the face twice (long bursts at close range). They also held open
some arrestees eyes while spraying into them. They then cuffed me and
dragged me off by the hair.

        Throughout our stay in jail, our rights were systematically removed in an
effort to break our spirits and solidarity, and to punish us. For 23+ hours
a day they kept us locked up alone, or with one other prisoner. I was denied
my right to see a lawyer (as were many others). Other prisoners were
subjected to extreme physical and mental abuse. One woman's nose was broken
when her face was smashed down into the floor, then she was refused medical
attention. Another was left handcuffed naked on the floor of a jail cell.
Others were pepper sprayed, beaten, and thrown into walls. Some prisoners
were refused essential medication. The aforementioned violence is just the
tip of the iceberg.
        After the protesters were jailed, a protest camp was erected outside the
jail. Most prisoners were released 3-5 days later, after the WTO conference
was over. 

Most Cases Dismissed
        In early January, City Attorney Mark Sidran announced that almost all of
the remaining cases were to be dismissed due to lack of evidence. This
occurred after many defendants had already invested a good deal of time and
money to return to Seattle for pre-trial hearings. These dismissals show
that they have the power to arrest us, strip us of our rights, keep us
locked up for four days, then just dismiss the case due to lack of evidence.
It is clear that protesters were arrested on trumped up charges to get us
off the streets where we might embarrass some rich dictators (politicians &
CEOs). ACLU and Amnesty International are investigating police brutality,
and victims will be filing civil suits in order to show those in power that
they can't just take away our rights and get away with it.

Corporate Media Cooperate With Police
        In general, the mainstream media cooperated with the police. This was done
through disproportionately extensive and repetitive coverage of the
relatively few acts of vandalism, and also by mischaracterizing protesters
as violent and dangerous, while labelling police actions as provoked,
necessary, tolerant, patient, and even gentle. It didn't seem to concern the
media that non-violent protesters were arrested and assaulted. They were
more concerned with measuring the impact of the protests in "lost shopping
days." The day after the WTO conference, free busses and parking were
announced, in an effort to spur people to make up for the "lost shopping days." 

Who Is the Real Criminal?
        Picture this: a child molesting murderer lives in your community. Every day
new victims and concrete evidence turn up but nothing is done to stop the
crimes. The citizens plead with their government, the police, the media, but
no one will take steps to address the problem. One day, the murderer's
windows are smashed and "MURDERER" is spray painted on his front door. Who
is the real criminal? 

Property Destruction = Violence ???? (Those Damn Anarchists!)
        When windows were broken, the media condemned it as "violence," but failed
to tell us why these corporations (Gap, Starbucks, MacDonalds, Nike) were
targeted, failed to tell us about the violence that these companies
perpetrate around the world. Though many people disagree with property
destruction, we must make a clear distinction between property destruction
and violence against people. We also need to look at how and why property
destruction occurred in Seattle, instead of just dismissing it as "violent"
        Judging by mainstream media reports, the vandalism in Seattle was done
almost solely by "anarchists." This convenient yet disturbing bias has been
echoed by numerous people within the movement, and has only served to
further demonize the word "anarchist." If you do a little independent
research into what anarchism really is, I expect you will agree with much of it.
        In reality, some property destruction was caused by police projectile and
incendiary weapons. Some property destruction was reportedly committed by
police or federal "agent provocateurs." Some was done by gangs and common
thieves. And yes, some vandalism was done by anarchists (and others) who
chose to destroy corporate property because they believe it is the only way
to make corporations listen - the last resort.
        I don't believe that property destruction aided our cause in Seattle, but I
understand WHY it was done. Some however, argue that the vandalism is what
achieved the international media attention, and that other cities will now
think twice before hosting such an event. Regardless, I've got better things
to do with my time than to pass judgment on people who choose this tactic,
and I offer no sympathy for the poor rich companies that were targeted.

Police Appreciation Day
        The following week, the police organized "Police Appreciation Day," at
Westlake Park, a PR event to congratulate themselves for a job well done.
Police gave out pizza and sold t-shirts that said "The Battle of Seattle."
Family and other brainwashed public were there to support the police, but we
outnumbered them and we played music, sang, chanted, and argued with police

Seattle: Just the Beginning
        On N30 Millions of people around the world joined in demonstrations
against the WTO. Longshoremen shut down the entire west coast of North
America, from Alaska to San Diego.
        Many have said that Seattle was just the beginning. People active in the
anti-war movement since the 60's (or before) commented that they've never
seen or felt anything like it. The diversity and numbers, coupled with
autonomous organizing, direct action, determination, and solidarity,
provided hope that there is a future for our species and the planet.
        Tens of thousands of people joined together in solidarity for justice. We
used our power of numbers - people power - to make a difference. There were
labor groups, environmentalists, social justice and human rights activists,
women's groups, students, farmers, anarchists, church groups, many other
groups, and many regular people who had never protested anything in their life.
        Seattle radicalized thousands of people - showed people that we have the
power, allowed them to feel the strength of resistance, and awakened people
to the fact that our rights are far from guaranteed. It showed millions of
people, not only what the WTO is and what lengths the state will go to in
order to protect it, but also that resistance against corporate rule is
alive and well - and growing. 

Future Action
        On April 16 there is a World Bank / IMF (International Monetary Fund)
conference in Washington, DC. Since these institutions are the other two
pillars of the global economy (besides the WTO), many activists are planning
to crash the party and shut it down like we did in Seattle. Many of the
groups that helped organize the victories in Seattle are already preparing
for days of protest, education, training, and direct action during the week
of April 9-16 in Washington.  Following that is Mayday (May 1), billed as an
international day of resistance, strikes, and street parties - a carnival
against capitalism.
        The future is ours to create. Let's make it a future of solidarity,
resistance, and celebration.  Just remember: we're fighting for freedom and
love. The cops (and the rich) are only fighting for pay. Besides, there's
more of us than them! Most people just haven't figured that out... YET!

Some Post-WTO Websites

* Note: I appeared on the cover of the Canadian version of Time Magazine,
being arrested and assaulted.
It's available at

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