I Am Very Concerned about Some Aspects of Seattle's F15
At the F15 protest, I was inpired by the people. I am very concerned, though, about how the crowd was manipulated by the organizers,
I want to begin by saying that I was totally amazed by the spirit of the event. There was no need for chants- just the power of being around 100,000+ (my affinity group's estimate from counting block-long sample groups and then extrapolating along the distance of the march.) people in the streets of Seattle created a great atmosphere. I would like to add to the generally positive discussions that have been posted with a few places where I see need for improvement.
While I understand how organizers felt the need to make sure that the Seattle police knew that this wasn't a riot, I certainly did not appreciate the level of control that I saw. In order to see the length of the crowd, find a missing friend, or to take a picture, we often had to stand on fire hydrants, benches, and planter boxes. Almost every time we did this, we were told by one of the happy people in orange jackets to "keep on moving." We were also approached by these people for WAKING ON THE SIDEWALK. We were told that the permit was for the street only. We informed the protest-security that we had not applied for that permit and we were going to walk on the sidewalk. Most people they approached said "sorry" and quickly joined the herd.
The element of control was subtle for most of the march, but I was SHOCKED by what I saw as we approached the INS building. My Affinity Group was towards the end of the middle of the march. I noticed as we got close to the detention center that many people were walking back. I was surprised to discover that the group wasn't staying at the INS- a place where our government is illegally holding people. It is often the first stop on the way to being disappeared. I thought that the least we could do was stay there and sing or do a "repeat after me" so they could hear us. I know that we were told that many had been moved to Oregon, but we don't know that for sure and why not focus our attention on the fact that the march is about something that is ACTUALLY HAPPENING AROUND US!
When my affinity group approached the center, the Volunteer Security people told us to "move on, get out of here." I approach one man who was yelling our these orders and asked him where we were being directed to, I though that maybe there was a conclusion to the protest. He said, "We are trying to get everyone to disperse, I don't care where, there is no reason to be here. You've already marched, go home." I suggested that there was a reason to be there- i.e. that people who are being held, the man in orange said "you want a riot, is that it? The police are already freaking out. We are right next to the highway and across the street from a gas station, do you want the cops to loose control?!" I told him that I did not want a riot, that the crowd was peaceful and did not deserve to be told what to do when so many people had come out to address the current lack of democracy. He said, "Well, the people have decided that we will just march here, leave our flowers and then clear out." I asked him "which people? The people here in the streets?" he said "No! The people who paid for the permit who are liable and PEOPLE LIKE YOU want us to get in trouble!"
I was shocked by this whole exchange. My affinity group decided to sit down and listen to the drums and see what happened for a while before we left to find food. While we were hanging out, a float with an Oil Rig rode up and a man was speaking into a microphone about the INS detention center- pointing out that it is a jail for immigrants, pointing out how it is an example of the horrors of the administration. Protesters started to converge and listen. One of the people in orange walked up to him and told him to move. They moved around and closer to the front of the INS. A drum group marched up and started playing so you could hardly hear the float. Volunteer Security folks were yelling into bullhorns "KEEP ON MOVING, LEAVE YOUR FLOWERS AND MOVE ON, THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE, THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE, MOVE ON, THERE IS NO REASON TO STAY, THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE... etc." I saw cop cars pulling up and officers putting on their helmets. A couple of different speakers talked at the oil Float. I noticed that Volunteer Security people approach them and told them that they had to leave. They refused. A woman who had been detained by the INS took to the float and began to talk.
I approached one of the people who was saying that they weren't going to move the float. I asked him what was going on. I found out that this person was a member of one of the organizing groups in the coalition. "Some folks are telling us to leave here others are telling us to stay, what's going on, is there a disagreement within the coalition?" I asked.
The person looked my in the eyes, smiled, said, "It's a long story. Why don't you stick around, it might get interesting!" and went back to work.
It appeared that there was more arguing going on. Suddenly, many different people wearing organ came up to the people who were standing around, listening to the speeches, talking with one another. We were told "The protest is over, the permit is over, leave NOW. You can not stay here." The guy next to me said "wait a minute, I came here because I wanted to, not because of your permit. I can stay here, what about the first amendment." A woman in orange said "this is our event and it's time to leave."
Two of the people in my affinity group had expressed that they did not want to be involved with any confrontation, so I couldn't stay. I was tierd, hungry, inspired by the march, but confused by the organizers. We grouped up, and walked back to get food.
We walked a couple of blocks. Suddenly, a woman in black-bloc style ran up to the group of people leaving and yelled. "YOU ARE BEING ASKED TO GO HOME, BUT WE NEED HELP! THE PROTEST IS NOT OVER. THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE PARK WHO NEED HELP!" People generally ignored her. They had had their "Protest Experience" and now it was time to go home and wait for Bush to say "Oh Phooey! I guess I won't go to war!" I was too hungry to be of any help, and my affinity group wanted to go home. I felt a pain in my heart to see the woman run back towards the park.
These events left me feeling happy for the size of the protest but also cheated by the organizers. I have a few questions that need to be asked:
-What is going on within these coalitions that came out in that moment at the INS?
-Why do these organization feel the need to control the people?
-Who cares if we walk on the sidewalk?
-What on Earth happened to the Radical Feeder March?
-What is the use of marching ONLY against the war in Iraq when it is a symptom of a larger policy of unending domestic and foreign control? MOST of the signs I saw where about larger issues- Homeland Security, Surveillance, the rounding up and disappearing of immigrants, Duct Tape, the Economy, Militarism, and especially Impeachment, and yet the News Media only mentioned "No War for Oil" and the Coalition only spoke about "No War for Oil" and "No Illegal Detentions." We MUST have actions that address the issues that the people are concerned about.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article