Protesters blocked traffic in front of the federal building today in Seattle to demonstrate against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and the arrest of 20 peace demonstrators in Israel, including Trevor Baumgartner from Seattle.
A march proceeded from Westlake around 4PM with people holding signs which had various messages, including "Stop US Aid To Israel!" The marchers chanted "We Will Not Be Silenced!" and "Free Trevor!"
Baumgartner has been on an 8 day hunger strike in Israel to protest Israeli military operations and a broken agreement between demonstrators and the Israeli government. He is one of 4 people who are still being held by Israeli authorities. Originally, they were supposed to be allowed to leave the country voluntarily but the group is still being detained. Trevor is now reported to be in hospital where medical staff is presumably trying to force-feed him after being in custody for a week... He was part of a decoy group who were arrested to cover for other protesters who were able to bring food and supplies to people trapped by the Israeli military inside the Church of the Nativity. According to Ed Mast from the Palestinian Solidarity Committee, today soldiers were able to storm the church and arrest the peace workers inside. There is no word yet about what is being done with those arrested.
The marchers handed out leaflets condemning Israeli policies towards the Palestinians and US support for these tactics. As the group marched past Benaroya Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony, an expensively dressed woman shouted support to the protesters: "Yes, the US and Israel have become the Nazis!"
Other bystanders were not so sympathetic. One middle aged man turned to a demonstrator and said, "We need to give Israel atom bombs." This caused a testy argument as a protester yelled back, "You just want to kill everybody - how is that ever going to solve the problem? You are sick!" Another man in a business suit told the demonstrators to "Get a life!" A female African American traffic cop commented, "Don't they have anything better to do? My brother is dying in prison but you don't see me out in the streets."
As the marchers approached the Federal Building at 2nd and Madison, a group of demonstrators sat down in the street with a huge banner. At least six or seven metro buses were stopped by the protest. Dozens of supporters stood on the sidewalks and held protest signs. An angry passenger in a white sedan got out of the vehicle and began violently pushing protesters off the street. Of course, he was not arrested. He calmly got back into the car and the driver left the scene of the confrontation quickly. Another vehicle, a large pick-up truck tried to drive right through the banner, endangering the lives of the protesters. A supporter jumped on the car to stop the driver from injuring people. Later, on their 6:30 PM news broadcast, KIRO TV spun the story as a confrontation between protesters and motorists.
After 10 minutes police squad cars began to arrive and a KIRO television news helicopter hovered overhead. Eventually 11 people were arrested. Police handcuffed the protesters and then lifted them by their arms which were secured behind their backs, causing them pain. One male demonstrator was lifted completely off the ground with his legs hanging in mid air as he was carried away. Bystanders shouted at the police until organizers calmed the crowd down. Legal observers collected names of all those who were arrested and began to plan for jail solidarity. After the protest, several dozen marchers headed for the King County Jail where the arrestees are being held
As usual, corporate media outlets were slow to respond and most of the TV news stations will not mention the protest since they had no reporters or cameras at the event. Plenty of photographs were taken, however, which were immediately posted on the Seattle IMC website by journalist Jonathan Lawson. The SCCC student newspaper The Collegian, will post their article on the website: www.citycollegian.org, along with coverage of the recent "A20" anti-globalization protests.
Organizers of the protest considered it a great success. Tomorrow (May 11)
A rally will be held at noon at Seattle Central Community College. An educational event is scheduled for 2PM and a march will take place at 6:30PM. The march will proceed from Volunteer Park to SCCC. In addition, protesters will gather every Saturday to hand out leaflets.
For more information about today's protests, contact Ed Mast and the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at 206-633-1086 or firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
The International Solidarity Movement, a non-governmental organization run by Palestinians has a website at www.reproachment.org