When the Media\’s Gassed Too

None of us quite knew what to expect Tuesday, \”N30,\” the big day. There were to be several marches during the course of the morning, including one of students and another of labor. Through the Direct Action Network, many people prepared themselves by attending trainings in non-violence, on doing jail and legal support, and on other organizing topics during the days leading up to Tuesday. Affinity groups had made plans for actions they wanted to do during the day. Through the Independent Media Center, many groups were matched up with videographers and other media.

I went to a rally and march that began at 7 a.m. that day. I was paired up with a videographer friend of mine to serve as protection or a witness to any violence directed toward a group I was associated with, but we were separated after only one block of the march. I had seen the cops line up at one lockdown site with their gas masks on, and we activists had prepared ourselves for the possibility of gas by covering our faces with bandanas, ski masks, or gas masks.

What a Gas!

I can clearly remember the first time I experienced teargas. I didn\’t get away fast enough, and the sensation that came over me made me think I was going to die. The scratchy feeling in my eyes and throat soon became an unbearable burning, and I began to cough and lose my breath. I tried to take infrequent, deep breaths, but apparently I should have done the opposite. Eventually, I had to stop trying to run away from the gas, and someone helped me rinse my eyes and face. I was somewhat prepared for this experience. Imagine how an innocent bystander, a person trying to get home from work, must have felt! Some people were throwing teargas canisters back at the police. I hear that when the cops could see who threw tear gas at them, they would shoot rubber bullets at that person.

We noticed as the day went on, the cops seemed to be using a stronger and stronger mixture of gas. Apparently the police were under orders to clear the entire downtown area in the middle of rush hour. They started gassing and using the concussion grenades at every intersection we saw. It didn\’t matter who was there. You would walk (or stagger) through the gas clouds from one block to another, and find that the cops and gas were already there, too. Although the cops did not make many arrests on Tuesday, one of my friends reports that he saw a \”\”snatch-squad\”\” in action–e saw an unmarked car pull up beside someone who was just walking down the sidewalk, grab the person, and pull them into the car.

Thursday and Friday

I felt like Thursday and Friday were wasted days. The focus was no longer on stopping the WTO. It was on getting our ill-treated comrades out of jail and marching around the no-protest zone. This was very frustrating.

On Thursday, we met up on Broadway, for a spirited and police escorted march down to the Park near Pike Place Market. From there, we went to the jail and made a human circle around it. It wasn\’t clear what, if anything was going to happen at this rally. One positive thing about the march to Broadway that followed was that we saw more youth of color involved. We later saw the group march back and forth down Broadway. Broadway is nice for parades, like the one we had on Sunday, with theater and music at each intersection, but for a march against police brutality, well… it\’s senseless. It\’s just a place to let people vent their energy at nothing.


The police used a variety of tactics that hurt both demonstrators and passers-by and will have lasting effects. A Seattle woman had a miscarriage as a result of an encounter with police. I have heard reports of people in restaurants vomiting while gassing was going on outside. I saw several arrestees with dislocated shoulders. Doctors who were in Seattle have reported that people they have treated have exhibited signs of exposure to neurotoxins, which the police have denied using.