Seattle: Open Letter to the Anti-War Community
An Open Letter to the Seattle Anti-War movement, written by the people who blocked State Route 520 (highway) and their supporters.
contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rise up, Seattle!
An Open Letter to the local anti-war community, from the 520 Blockade team
In the current climate of war and the growing threat of a police state, activists must work as effectively as possible for peace and justice. Our action, blockading the 520 Bridge during the morning commute Tuesday February 18, was intended as a wake-up call beyond the normal activist community - we are asking all citizens in our region to take reponsibility to resist and stop the planned U.S. war on Iraq.
With privilege comes responsibility, and as privileged citizens of the United States we have the obligation to do everything in our power to stop this war. By stopping the regular flow of traffic, we broke the public's daily routine and asked everyone to resist apathy and reflect on the gravity of this war.
Our action was also intended as a wake-up call to activists - when one tool doesn't work, we must try another. George Bush, responding to the largest anti-war demonstration in history on February 15th, said "Democracy is a beautiful thing," but stated that he does not care how many people march - he is going ahead with war. When politicians ignore our marches, we need to develop more disruptive techniques.
At times, the only way to change politicians' minds is to raise the social and political costs of their policies. We have many tools to do that: letter writing, vigils, marches both large and small, and yes, direct action.
Since the WTO protests of 1999, the idea of direct action has seemed almost taboo in some local activist communities. The tripod blockade of State Route 520 is meant to demonstrate that actions can be direct, effective, and non-violent. Actions can come off without police riots and teargas attacks.
Marches, vigils and yard signs all play a major role in resisting war, and despite Bush's claim to the contrary he is obviously paying attention to the marches. But marching is not enough. Our action was intended to inspire others who are already active in resistance to this war, to escalate tactics.
We are not saying that our tactic is the only useful kind of action people can take. In fact, different tactics strentgthen each other - for example, the 520 blockade was much stronger because it came on the heels of the mass march, and tactics like freeway blockades make marches seem less extreme and safer for more people to participate in. People and communities have different levels of privilege and come from a variety of activist traditions, and we must honor these differences to strengthen and unite our movement.
We need to utilize a broad spectrum of tactics, and stay united as a movement, always changing and always escalating to be effective. Whatever background you come from, we are asking you to consider what the fullest extent of action might be that you can take, given the extreme urgency of the present situation. Perhaps you might decide that the time is right for you, and the peace community you work in, to take your actions to a new level of risk and commitment.
Seattle is full of opportunities for creative direct action. Tripods can go up anywhere. Good locations for banners abound. Military bases and arms transshipment points dot the region. The WTO shutdown showed the power of people locking themselves together. Pagans can dance on hilltops, Christians can pray in front of the Federal Building, grandmothers and children can fly kites with peace symbols on them. The only limit to direct action is your creative imagination.
Direct action allows a small group to have a large impact. As Margaret Mead aid: "Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world; in fact, it is the only thing that ever has..." Now go out and do it.
For ideas and advice on creative direct action, try the N30 website:
The Ruckus Society website:
Get a copy of the Earth First! Direct Action Manual (the bible of direct action) from the Earth First! Journal:
Since we wrote this open letter, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an article attempting to sensationalize and highlight potential divisions in our anti-war movement. We reject the premise of the article, and hope it is obvious that the newspaper was self-serving and inaccurate in its effort to find and stoke division. Most immediately, the claim that one of us was quoted as dismissing the Labor Movement is false - the true quote referred specifically to Direct Action rather than the Labor March as having shut down the WTO meeting. We recognize the key roles played by Labor on N30 and the week that followed, and the importance of the overwhelming turnout of Labor at the protest. The WTO victory does not belong to any one element, but resulted from a coalition of many different groups using many different tactics. Ultimately the key to the victory was the nations of Africa, Asia and the Americas that stood up to the economic powers and refused to go along. At the same time, we emphasize with pride the role of Direct Action among the N30 mix, including the role of the blockade in shutting down and disrupting the meeting on the first day. The P-I refuses to run a correction of this misquote.
Despite the Post-Intelligencer attempt to promote division, we agree there are important tactical questions facing our movement. This is one reason we did what we did on the freeway - to pose these tactical questions in a concrete way that could not be ignored. We have participated in frank and productive discussions on e-mail lists and in person that have been sparked by the 520 action, and we are happy to see these discussions take place and participate in them. Of course these discussions will only really be productive if they lead to action -people need to take their ideas about tactics, and act on them, so that we can communicate and learn what we need to do to stop the war machine and liberate ourselves. If you have criticisms about our choice of tactics in this action, the best way to communicate is to go do it better - show us how to do it right by doing it right.
Talk to us
Not that we are opposed to talking about things. We want to hear from you, and we want to talk with you. If you want to let us know what tactics you think need to be in the mix for our movement, or if you want one of us to meet with your group to talk about tactics and stopping the war, we have set up an e-mail account at email@example.com - send us a message and we will respond. Each of us has different ideas about tactics, and no one of us can speak for the 520 blockaders as a group, but we all want to push discussion of tactics throughout the local anti-war community. We have to keep the movement growing, stop this war and stop this war machine before it destroys millions more, and perhaps all of us.
The 520 Blockade team
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