GET ON THE BUS
On November 30th, 1999, my friend Darcy
and I caught the bus on California Avenue in West Seattle and headed
downtown to show our opposition to the World
Trade Organization (WTO). Armed with our digital cameras, tofu,
crackers and hot tea, we found ourselves in the middle of what was
one of the largest acts of civil disobedience since the Vietnam
War. Tens of thousands of people came from all over the world and
took to the streets surrounding the Seattle Convention Center in
opposition to the WTO conference.
We downed the last of our tea, got off the 55 at 1st
and Pike and walked up toward the Convention Center. We crossed
over a block to Pine where a massive crowd filled the block and
surrounding streets. A small group of people had climbed the FAO
Swartz bear and were taunting riot police with a donut tied to the
end of a stick like a worm on a fishing pole.
Like hundreds of others, Darcy and I were tear gassed
unexpectedly at around 11:30 AM while we were at one of the human
blockades off Pike near 5th Avenue. We moved over to Pine at the
top of the police line where a very-well-organized group were performing
street-theater and using a loudspeaker to deploy people and block
holes where WTO delegates could get through.
Darcy and I spent the day shooting pictures
of giant puppets, various street-theater and crowds and watched
as the labor-organized march moved in to downtown from Seattle Center.
Many groups came together in solidarity to march
through the city. Among them, French farmer Jose Bove, who became
a national hero in France when he damaged a McDonalds with his Tractor,
Shiva, Director of The Research Foundation for Science and Natural
Resource Policy in New Delhi, India, and Victor Minotti of The International
Forum on Globalization. Unfortunately local and mainstream media
largely neglected the chance to interview these people, not to mention
discuss the issues surrounding the protests, and instead focused
on police riots. Many independent media groups, including Jim
Goodman of Democracy NOW and film maker/activist Michael
Moore spent the week covering the WTO in Seattle.
An estimated 500 longshore workers walked off the
job to participate in the anti-WTO march, immobilizing the Port
of Seattle. Many other West Coast ports also planned a walkout and
about 9,600 International Longshore and Warehouse Union members
took part in objecting to WTO policies.
Following the HUGE crowd who participated in the labor
march, we headed down to 1st Avenue and caught what the driver said
would be the last bus going to West Seattle, our neighborhood. The
driver encouraged anyone going her way to get on her bus NOW. All
Metro drivers were told to get out of downtown. She ended up taking
people outside of her route through Admiral, the Admiral Junction
and the Alaska Junction.
By the end of the evening, Seattle police had raged
war against protesters, firing tear gas, pepper spray and rubber
bullets at the crowds. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a Cival
State of Emergency and created a 50-block No Protest Zone. On March
7th, 2000 the American
Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the city
of Seattle, saying the no-protest zone violated rights to free speech,
peaceful assembly and due process.
Later in the week I met my friend VThattai
at Seattle Central Community College and we marched down Broadway
with a group of about a thousand people responding to the night
before when police went out of control in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.