Monday, November 30, 2009

10 Years Ago: A WTO Memoir Part 2 (Tuesday, N30)

I had to teach a couple of math classes in the early afternoon north of Seattle.  After returning to central Seattle about 3:00 PM (there was no disruption of traffic), I turned on the TV. Massive street protests were surrounding the Convention Center.  There were reports of a confrontation where police were actually thrown back at the intersection of 6th Avenue and Union Street.  I left the house and walked down Yesler Way to 6th avenue near I-5.

If I recall correctly, there was no vehicular traffic past the Seneca ramp, but it might have been Madison.  There were a large number of State Troopers present, but their mission seemed limited to keeping I-5 open.  Of all the police (not counting the National Guard who saw the whole thing as a joke), WSP maintained the highest level of professionalism I witnessed by far.  If only the others had followed their lead...

Anyway, as expected, I encountered my first group of protesters blocking the intersection of 6th and Union.  They did not really impress me.  They were a bunch of sad, stupid looking old hippies who seemed to think it was O.K. to scream at everyone who wasn't white to "Go home!" and anyone wearing office attire a "whore."  A couple of tiny Asian women actually hid behind me.  Some action appeared to be taking place at Pike Street, but there was no way to get there.  After I'd had enough of their bullshit, I decided to walk a few blocks to the Rainer Square building at 4th Avenue, where I had arranged to meet friends.

The demonstrators blocking the intersection of 4th and Union were pacifist college kids having some sort of teach-in.  Judging by the relaxed manner of the police present, there had not been the same sort of confrontation that had occurred elsewhere.  However, at this location is where I recall smelling the tear gas for the first time.

Eventually, Travis B. (who sometimes writes for this blog), my former brother-in-law and his friend arrived and we went to eat dinner as the sun began to set (which is around 5:00 PM this time of year).  For some reason, Travis B. and I, split from the other two, and went to eat at the Olympic Broiler at 2nd and Pike.  Before it closed several years later, it was always my favorite diner in the area because the food was good and cheap.  It had had some colorful clientele.  I recall offering to kick someone's ass if he did not shut the fuck up and quit calling me a tourist.  He politely declined and apologized.  It was here, over the T.V., that I first heard the Mayor's declaration of that part of the City as a "No-Protest Zone."  They may have said something about outlawing gas masks, but that might have been later.  In any event, as soon as I stepped out the door, the need for a gas mask was plainly evident.

The police, according to a few people I spoke with, were driving everyone up the hill (towards Capital Hill) and out of downtown with tear gas.  The justification was the disorder and looting that had occurred.  Basically, regardless of whether people were actually involved, they declared war on the populace with chemical warfare.

We made our way up Pike Street where a number of demonstrators were beginning to make a stand.  Knowing from personal experience that police are less likely to mess with big people, I scoped a group of large men, mostly Teamsters Local 7 members, and attached myself to their group.  However, the police used so much tear gas that we were all driven up the hill with everyone else.  I remember someone in one of the big condo towers had dragged their stereo onto their deck and was blasting "The Star Spangled Banner" by Jimi Hendrix.  After crossing Boren, the police seemed satisfied to hold the line, and I went home.

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