Seattle WTO 2000 Anniversary Host Committee
November 24, 2000
Commitee for Government Accountability
SEATTLE ACTIVISTS CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL
HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVERS
SEATTLE- Seattle activists are calling for international human rights
observers from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to be in place during N30-November 30 WTO Anniversary events. Breakdowns in discussions between event organizers and police functionaries are generating a tense situation and fears of police violence.
No one is anticipating anything like last year, when 50,000
people filled downtown Seattle to protest the WTO talks. For three days, police tear-gassed crowds. Nightsticks, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other forms of brutality were widely used. The city imposed a
curfew, the National Guard was called out. More than 500 people were
arrested. Former Police Chief Norman Stamper and approximately four
percent of Seattle's police force resigned after the melee. Mayor Paul
Schell was widely criticized for disregarding potential disruptions, and
failing to adequately prepare for WTO protests. He is now preparing for
Hundreds of arrested citizens reported police abuses and brutality
while being detained. Amnesty International released a report citing
examples of human torture in jail situations. Dozens of citizens have
been awarded large financial sums to settle police abuse cases.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has urged police to
show restraint. "Demonstrators milling boisterously in the street do not
constitute a riot, and they do not warrant heavy-handed tactics by
police," ACLU Executive Director Kathleen Taylor said in a statement.
"Any response by police must ensure that the rights to peacefully
assemble and to express political views are respected." When individual
protesters break the law, "police must use force proportionately and
with discretion," she said.
If trouble breaks out, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has said, his troops
are prepared. They are planning "demonstration management platoons,"
"prisoner processing teams," "chemical agent-response teams" and "arrest teams." He and Mayor Paul Schell said they won't tolerate lawlessness, even if it is nonviolent. That includes blocking traffic and sitting in streets. "We are better prepared and better equipped and better trained" Kerlikowske said. "We're not challenging or intimidating or
threatening any group who wants to get a permit." Unlike a year ago,
Kerlikowkse said yesterday, the use of tear gas would be an "absolute
"I can assure you we are not going to overreact," Chief Kerlikowske
said. While the city has allowed other non-permitted protests to take
place in recent months, Kerlikowske bristled when asked if his
department would be engaging in selective enforcement against WTO
protesters. "The law is the law," he said. "This isn't rocket science
we're talking about."
Mayor Schell stressed that far fewer demonstrators are expected this
time around and urged holiday shoppers not to avoid downtown. Disruption of the holiday shopping season is of grave concern to downtown Seattle business leaders. "There's no evidence that it will be other than peaceful," the mayor said of the protests. "In the meantime, I'm planning on shopping."
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