Notebook From the Streets

Chants overheard in Seattle: While circling outside the Seattle Jail and feeling a little powerless: \”Let\’s get real, storm the Bastille!\” After the window breaking became the talk of the town: \”No Apologies, No Regrets, Long Live the Anarchist Threat!\” At an intersection after the powerful, pumped up crowd got stopped for unexplained reasons for the umpteenth time by our \”leaders\”: \”The People, Stopped, will never be restarted!\”

While marching at the WTO, 1960s radical leader and Chicago 7 defendant Tom Hayden, commented that \”if they\’re going to do a conspiracy trial after this week, they\’ll have to indict the puppets!\”

After the police pushed demonstrators out of downtown Seattle on Tuesday evening, cops with their armored personnel carrier, tear gas and concussion grenades invaded Seattle\’s hip Capitol Hill neighborhood. At 10 p.m., some people built a barricade out of dumpsters in the middle of Broadway and Pine. Bus service was suspended on Broadway as tear gas floated over residential neighborhoods. When a bus unexpectedly showed up at the barricade, a masked barricade defender went to the door to ask \”would you like to get through?\” The driver and passengers said yes, so the black clad youth went back to the barricade and organized the crowd to move one of the dumpsters to the side so the bus could get through. Like Moses at the Red Sea, the crowd at the intersection parted and the bus drove through to chants of \”public transit, public transit.\”

The puppets in Seattle were great and gave the whole event a beautiful, festive atmosphere. Once the police started shooting, pepper spraying, gassing and beating the non-violent costumed crowd, though, some people started considering a new type of puppet for next time. How about a long puppet of a line of riot police, built with a 3/4 inch plywood backing so that next time we can face down the violent cops with cops of our own, who won\’t be so easily injured as the \”turtles.\”

Just a week before the shutdown of Seattle, 4,408 people risked arrest by crossing the line onto the Fort Benning military base, protesting the U.S. Army\’s School of the America (SOA). This was reportedly the largest ever civil disobedience action in US history‚Ķ and got almost no media coverage whatsoever. The November 21st protest was against SOA\’s long, bloody association with human rights atrocities and massacres throughout Latin America.

Sunday\’s action was the culmination of a weekend of protest at the Ft. Benning military camp which drew more than 12,000 from around the country. Of those who braved the line, 65 were arrested and 23 who crossed the line in previous years will face prosecution for trespassing on Federal property. The majority of line crossers were seized and taken in buses to a public park approximately two miles from the base.

The message seems clear. Seattle\’s direct action was peaceful but militant in it\’s effective shutdown of downtown Seattle. The media will no longer cover, and the public no longer responds to, \”polite\” civil disobedience without disruption of business as usual.