The "WTO 12" trial has been set for February 10, 2002 in Federal District Court for Western Washington, Seattle. We are asking our supporters here and around the world to support our trial by publicising our effort and attending the trial if possible. We need all the help we can get, including with people who will testify as to what they saw and others who will simply attend to let the court know this will not be swept under the rug.
Seattle, WA Jan. 12, 2003 --In a move that suggests the 1999 "Battle of Seattle" will continue in court, 12 claimants in a federal lawsuit against the City of Seattle rejected as "insulting" a settlement offer by the City on Jan. 9 that sought to give defendants $100 to $250 apiece to end the court action.
"The City of Seattle believes it can break the arms of its citizens, indiscriminately spray tear-gas and pepper spray on peaceably gathered citizens throughout public streets and violate the constitutional rights of thousands," says Jeanette Wallis, 32, of Seattle, "and then make it all go away with a few hundred dollars. That should rattle the sensibilities of all freedom-loving Americans."
The lawsuit, filed in Washington's Western District, alleges that the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the defendants were violated by the City of Seattle, its Mayor Paul Schell and Seattle's then-chief of police Norm Stamper when police in paramilitary gear assaulted and gassed crowds of protesters in Nov. 1999 during the World Trade Organization's Ministerial.
One claimant was hit on the head with shotgun and had his shoulder broken. Another has suffered severe contact dermatitis since '99. Other claimants--some who were simply bystanders or photographing the 60,000+ protesters--charged the city with overt and unnecessary use of force against them as they exercised their constitutional rights of freedom of speech and assembly.
The City has been stonewalling the claimants' efforts to expose who was responsible. Attorney for the "WTO 12" John Scannell will attempt to hold Captain Jim Pugel of the Seattle Police Department in contempt of court this month for refusing to attend his deposition. He will also argue that the Seattle Police Department has erected a "Blue Wall of Silence" to prevent the truth from coming out and to protect individual officers from being sued and prosecuted. This includes the police officer who shot a protester in the testicles at close range as well as the officer who shot and permanently blinded another demonstrator.
Although CS "tear" gas has been outlawed by the Geneva Accords for use in times of war, its use has become commonplace at public demonstrations across the United States. Amnesty International has declared the use of pepper-spray to be torture, and it has been linked to over 100 deaths in the United States. Despite numerous calls for the moratorium on both chemical weapons from prestigious medical journals around the world, so far there has never been a successful suit in the United States over the use of CS while non-violent civil disobedience was occurring.
Claimant Jeanette Wallis will fly into Seattle from Central Illinois to attend the first few days of the trial, leaving the 2,500 mile mark of her estimated 5,000 mile walk from Seattle to the White House. Since April 1, 2001, she has crossed 8 states on foot in a campaign to share her experiences--from being tear-gassed as a formerly apathetic bystander during the WTO protests to her decision to walk across America. She is encouraging a more active and vigilant role by citizens in their political lives, and has also shared her message of hope for the preservation of non-violent civil disobedience without the consequence of chemical weapons, rubber bullets, and beatings as she saw during the WTO protests. She has spoken at numerous schools, rallies, churches, labor meetings, and other community groups across the country. Her website can be found at http://www.thewalkfordemocracy.org .