Revolutionary Worker #1203, June 15, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"We need a world where we're all working together and where there's hope and where we're not fighting each other and trying to get the best of each other. And when we're out here in the streets for a common cause, it builds that kind of camaraderie and trust that we need for a better world that most of us are lacking in 2003 America."
Seattle Not In Our Name youth organizer
Monday, June 2 was a warm evening in Seattle. I knew it was going to be an exciting night. The Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU) had started its annual police-spying seminar--and people were gathering to protest just blocks away.
LEIU is an extensive national and international network of 250 federal, regional, and local police agencies that gathers and shares police intelligence--including on political activists. (See "Confronting the Homeland Spies" in last week's RW or online at rwor.org.) This was the first LEIU meeting to include federal agents, showing increased FBI support for the LEIU's "mission" to gather and share intelligence between police agencies. U.S. Attorney John McKay told the press that "the post-9/11 imperative" was breathing new life into the LEIU.
Among the topics of discussion by the LEIU was "criminal protesters." And those who gathered to oppose the LEIU knew they were talking about us--the resisters who have the audacity to call out the system's oppression and its war on the people around the world and here in the "homeland" too.
A thousand people showed up at Westlake Park for the protest organized by the LEIU Welcoming Committee, a coalition of organizations and individuals. Youth "masked up," gathering in excited clusters with affinity groups and friends. You had the feeling that the kind of protest Seattle has been known for in recent years was going to be back in effect. It felt good.
People had come for many reasons. One young woman said, "I feel Big Brother is watching us and it's against the Constitution and it's wrong." Another youth dressed in black told me, "I'm pissed off about Iraq. I'm not just here about the LEIU, I'm here about everything."
We marched to the front of the Red Lion Motel where the LEIU meeting was being held, and the mood was electric. There were red flags and black flags, and a pink papier maché pig labeled "LEIU." Some revolutionary youth had brought a banner saying, "Fuck U.S. fascist might, revolutionary war is the one we'll fight." Dancers gyrated to drum beats laid down by the Infernal Noise Brigade. Other members of the drum corps spun multi-colored flags in the air. Youth drummed on the barricades, behind which stood stony-faced riot police.
A Not In Our Name contingent--with globe flags and blue earth bandanas--led chants of "Tapping our phones, reading our mail, the LEIU should go to jail."
Youth burned U.S. flags in the street. One young man climbed up on a plastic storefront awning next to the Red Lion and ripped a U.S. flag to shreds as the crowd cheered. He climbed down, protected by the youth, but several undercover cops in the crowd grabbed him and threw him across the police barricades, where other cops brutally attacked him.
The undercovers knocked over anyone in their way, including a man in a wheelchair. People in the crowd were pissed, and they surged forward. The cops responded brutally--opening up with pepper spray and slamming their bikes into people.
For the next hour, demonstrators resisted the police advance to push us out of the area. The cops fired heavy plastic bullets, wooden dowels, stinger rounds loaded with pepper spray and rubber bullets, and tear gas to attack a protest that had simply been politically defiant. In response, some youth threw sticks and plastic bottles at the police.
Protesters only slowly gave ground, and drums kept on pounding. People used flags to block the cops targeting people with projectiles. As we were pushed back to Westlake Park, the police unleashed a fusillade that exploded around us. Youth pulled newspaper boxes and garbage cans into the street.
Some people were badly pepper-sprayed to the point of disorientation, and others were injured by rubber bullets. Everyone took care of each other, making sure the injured were cared for by street medics. Numbers of people went to the hospital for respiratory problems, wounds, and hypothermia.
The next day, the protest was major news. The police were looking bad and brutal. SPD Capt. Sanford told the press that the police had to respond because "violent" protesters from "out of town" had showered them with ball bearings, bottles, and jars. He said police were studying surveillance video to ID others for arrest. The Seattle Post Intelligencer noted that the police refused an invitation to produce the objects that were allegedly thrown at them. A writer on the Seattle Indymedia website offered, "Seattle police can produce no WMDs from protesters."
The Seattle Times quoted the head of the Seattle FBI, Charles Mandingo, saying that the police "can't just go out and gather intelligence on somebody without a criminal predicate"--in other words, this FBI agent claimed that police don't spy unless there's an actual crime involved. But out on the streets, undercover cops blatantly carried out surveillance on youth who performed street theater in front of the Red Lion--taking pictures, trying to tape record the protesters, and following the troupe. Other activists were also followed and harassed. All this violates the Seattle anti-police spying ordinance which supposedly forbids the police from investigating people for political reasons.
Protests continued in the following days with pickets of Starbucks stores (Starbucks was one of the corporate sponsor of the LEIU conference), a speak-out at a city council hearing, and a final send-off protest in front of the Red Lion. Stories have started to come out about how police beat protesters under arrest and made some sit soaked in pepper spray for hours. At least 12 people were arrested.
After Monday's protest the youth felt proud of standing up and drawing out the real face of the police state, despite the brutality and intimidation. One young woman who organizes for NION said, "The government relies so much on things being hidden and quiet to keep on doing what they're doing. There were only a couple of thousand people there, but we were expressing dissent in a real serious way. We were ready to stand up to them. And when people take a firm stand like that, that's totally threatening (to them). Because the more we do that, the more it's out in the eyes of the public. And those people will see us, and join."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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