Tuesday, December 01, 2009

10 Years Ago: A WTO Memoir Part 3 (Wednesday, D1)

After teaching my early afternoon math courses, I made by way back to the C.D. about 3 PM.  I immediately set off downtown, and eventually made my way to the Pike Place Market on 1st Ave.  It was dry.  I ate a Chinese pastry then noticed a group of Union people, mostly Sheet Metal Workers, emerging from the stairs to the lower levels.  I figured I would attach myself to this group.  Blocking traffic, we Marched up Pike Street in the Direction of the "No Protest Zone."  Very quickly, we were confronted by police who ordered us off the streets for illegally blocking the streets.  Before anyone had a chance to respond (even if they had been so inclined), we were met by few rubber bullets, "flash bang" grenades, and massive amounts of tear gas.  It drove us back.  Worst of all, the tear gas was driving people from cars and buses.  People were gasping, chocking and rubbing their eyes.  I ran/retreated toward the market.

The intersection of 1st and Pike was obscured by a thick cloud of tear gas.  I needed to wash out my eyes in the bathroom, which were stinging, but on the way I told the guys who throw fish by the pig, "See that cloud?  That's tear gas.  When it reaches here it's going to ruin your whole stock."  Those guys never threw fish faster.  (They probably owe me one.*)

After washing my eyes, I went to the top level of the market.  Some younger kids were seated for some reason.  As the gas cleared, I made my way back to the intersection of 1st and Pike.  A few demonstrators holding signs were advancing south toward Pine Street.  The police fired tear gas and threw a pair of flash bangs.  The first went off, and blew the sign out of one guy's hand.  The second failed to go off.  We later stuck it into a newspaper box for safe keeping.  (We told a market security officer that it was there.)  Car traffic was at a standstill, and their were a number of pissed off residents (who mainly had nothing to do with any sort of demonstration).  People, including myself, were berating the police for their action.  (I outdid myself in foulness.)  I also egged on people against the police.  I do not like being tear gassed, so I made them pay verbally.  Sensing the general mood, the police withdrew.

It was at this time, I had a conversation with a certain self-described "political activist."  He indicated that he respected my opinion, and was capable of making the pigs pay.  I told him that since they had not escalated to that level, then neither should we.  Psychological warfare and vandalism is one thing, but what he was suggesting was something else.  The shit would hit the fan, and the instigator would be blamed.  He agreed.  I never saw him again.  Looking back, I probably did more to diffuse tensions than a number of other people who would later claim to have done so.

I had wanted to attend a WTO show, featuring Jello Biafra among others, at the Showbox.  It appeared impossible to get in, so I headed east toward the "No Protest Zone."  As the police had the streets blocked past third and wandered over toward the Bon Marche (now Macy's).  The display windows were smashed.  I remember singing,"One day looting at the Bon Marche..."  (ala Harry Belafonte).

I recall berrating a cop for suggesting that "this wouldn't have happened if you people had not started breaking windows."  I told him he was a worthless pig (or some such).

Eventually, I attached myself to another group who ended up marching up to Broadway on Capital Hill.  I was tired and went home when a ride was offered.  As such, I missed the night's police riot on Capital Hill.  However, my two roommates, who worked on Broadway, were present and had kept wooden bullets as souvenirs to prove it.  I did hear about it on AM radio.

Basically, the Seattle Police Department and King County were stretched to the breaking point, so officers had been called in from all over the state.  This meant that small town cops were being asked to do riot duty in the big city.  This will inevitably result in tensions increasing.  In fact, so much tear gas was used on the first two days, the state of Washington actually ran out.

* In 2000, during Ed Bradly's primary campaign, during a stop at the Market, the idiot mayor at his time, Paul Shell was buying fish and said, "Put it on my tab."  He was told he had none.  He lost the 2001 primary.

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