Le récit d'un gars qui était à Seattle
ou "Get the fuck out of my way" says the cop
par Damon Krane


<Ce récit est disponible en version française - une traduction BabelFish automatique, surprenant !>

Hello, Sorry to invade your privacy but I assume that is worth reading.

I got on a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh at 3:00am, the morning after Thanksgiving, and traveled 2 and a half days to Seattle to join the protests against the World Trade Organization (plus loin dans le texte : WTO. Traduisez par OMC). I arrived to see tens of thousands of activists from the widest range of causes I've ever seen in one place, united around a common concern -- their desire to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, otherwise known as democracy. I won't go into the WTO in great detail. The information is out there. You can find for yourself that in the last 4 years the WTO has been in existence it has ruled against every evironmental and human health and saftey regulation that has come before it and, through economic leverage, has compelled countries to repeal these "barriers to free trade." Such barriers in this country have been the sections of the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act.

But I won't go into that further, instead I want to share with you what happened in Seattle, to me and thousands of others, yesterday. My friends and I woke up late Tuesday morning. One of the largest protests of the century, and we sleep in. We joined the protests at about 9:00am, and joined a human chain of people blocking one entrance to the convention center where the first day of the WTO summit was to take place. This was the scene at every street that led to the convention center. The plan was to not let delegates enter and to shut down the meeting. This may sound drastic, but the purpose was to send a message that many have phrased as "No globalization without representation." The WTO meetings are closed to the public and the WTO is not subordinant to any national government or, more importantly, and democratic body. Yet it has shown itself to have more of a say in things as basic as the quality of the air we breath than we ourselves do. To me and nearly 50,000 others, this warranted the serious direct action. However, as serious as these demonstrations were, they were to be ALL non-violent. After being part of our own barrier to free trade and turning back WTO delegates forabout an hour, we heard that protesters needed help at another intersection a few blocks away. Since there were more than enough people to keep up the barrier where we were, we left the blockade and headed for the corner of 8th and Seneca. When we arrived, we saw lots of demonstrators but no major media cameras.

There was a smaller group of people sitting down on the street (which had already been closed) with police in riot gear standing behind them. Instead of the ordinary billy clubs, all of Seattle's police were holding 3 foot oak clubs that look more like basball bats than batons. When they began putting on their gas masks it became evident that they were planning to use pepper spray on the people sitting down. The rest of the crowd was pleading with the police not to use this cruel tactic. It was possible that if more people sat down, they police wouldn't spray them, so I joined that group. When it became apparent that they were going to use the spray anyway, we all locked legs and arms together and I pulled a bandana my freind had given me over my face, covering my mouth and eyes. Onlookers began yelling, "Get ready! They going to do it! Get ready!" I heard the spray and people began screaming in pain. I was just expecting spray, so I was pretty surprised when I felt one of those big clubs land on the top of my head. The guy behind me took most of the force from the blow, so I wasn't hurt badly. I covered my head with my arm and covered my eyes with my hand, as the screams continued and it became obvious -even though I couldn't see anything from underneath my bandana- that the cops were not only spraying but beating the people as well. A police officer then grabbed my hand and pulled it away from my face and spayed me in the eyes with a cannister of pepper spray. I held my eyes closed tight and my bandana absorbed the spray, protecting my eyes and face. I breathed a little bit of it in and began coughing. the crowd started to break up as the police continued beating people. I pulled away and stood up, pulling the bandana away from my eyes to see the police beating the few people that remained sitting. One woman was trying to get up and they kept jabbing her in the side with their clubs. The rest of the crowd pulled those people to safety and began washing their eyes with a solution of baking soda and water to counter the effects of the blinding pepper spray. This was my first experience with the spray. I got a tiny bit of the spray on my forehead and it burnt very badly, was very painful. I can't even begin to imagine the pain the people felt who got it sprayed directly into their eyes. I think I was luckier than anyone else I was sitting with, having escaped the spary and only having been clubbed once. I screamed at the cops for a while, called them facist pigs between plenty of other expletives. But when things calmed down a bit, myself and others began speaking to the police. It suddenly became evident that some of them were visibly disturbed by what they had just done. One female officer's hands were shaking as she held her club up to her chest like the rest did in the line they had formed. She kept blinking her eyes to avoid crying. We talked to other officers who wouldn't look us in the eyes, but their faces showed no signs of pleasure. After I calmed down a bit and got my emotions under contol enough to speak, I said to them, "You probably think we're just fanatics with nothing better to do, or maybe vagrants who are too lazy to be working right now, or maybe spoiled college kids who don't have to work. You can think that we're idiots who came across a few statistics on environmental degredation or sweatshops, that we're out here today to be self-righteous and think that we're better than everybody else, but we're people just like you. And everybody standing here with me knows exactly why they're here today. We're trying to make the world better. And I don't think a single one of you even knows why you're here. How many of you support the WTO? How many of you even know what it does? We know why we're here. Why the hell are you here? I don't think any of you became police officers to beat people who aren't a threat to anyone's safety. Just who do you think you're protecting? We're unarmed. None of us have tried to attack you or anyone else today. You attacked us. You aren't protecting yourselves; there's no one behind you that you're protecting -- Who do you think you're protecting!? If you have a good reason for beating us today, if you felt it was right, that's one thing. But if you didn't have any reason and you still beat these people anyway, I want you to ask yourself why you did it. Why you were willing to inflict violence on other people for no reason other than you were told to." I asked them to go home and think about that; what they did to make things better today by beating non-violent protesters; if that's what they became cops to do.

They were all silent, turning they heads constantly to avoid eye contact with any of the protesters speaking. The commanding officer walked down a line in between the police and us, pushing protesters back. He ordered the crowd to disperse, saying that if we didn't leave they would remove us by force. We didn't leave. We just kept talking to the police more. I asked the commanding officer to explain to us why we ought to leave. He didn't acknowledge the question. I asked them all if that's what those clubs meant, that they didn't have to explain their actions to anyone, even themselves. Other protesters reminded them that even though they were trained to be robots, they were still people who were responsible for their own actions -- orders or no orders. I told them my name, where I was from, that I go to college, that I have family and friends. I asked them their names. None answered.

We stayed there and the police didn't charge. Not because I think we convinced them not to, but because there were too many of us. Soon a group of people with their arms chained together inside tubes wrapped in duct tape. 4 of these people were from Athens; 3 OU students and friends of mine. The police were still threatening to charge the crowd. I quickly realized that these people had no way to protect their heads from the police clubs. Being obviously non-violent had already proven to be no defense against police violence. Another OU student and I walked up to the police line to ask them about this. The line was now made up of different police officers. We approached one and asked him about this. He looked at us and said, "Well, if they're worried about getting hurt, they should have thought about that before they came out today." I asked him to show me his badge number. He refused. "Aren't you required to show your identification to the public?" He didn't answer. The officer to his left sneered at me and said, "Well you have all the answers, why don't you tell me?" Before I could, he raised his club and yelled at me to back up. I did and continued talking to him, but he looked away and ignored me. The first officer had no identifying number anywhere on him. No visible badge, no number on his helmet. I took his picture and got others to. Telling everybody that we needed to watch him. When I first spoke to police after they had beaten us, I was very encouraged that some had actually shown some signs of human compassion, but my hopefullness dissappeared after I talked to the latter group of officers and realized that many of them were quite happy to inflict harm on people.

Reinforcements came and as protesters cleared the way for them, one cop pushed a protester, and said "Get the fuck out of my way," with a smile on his face. From time to time ambulances would come through and the crowd would clear a path immediately. Some protesters said, "What if WTO delegates are sneeking in on the ambulances?" But people came to an immediate concensus that, although that was a possiblity, it wasn't worth risking people's safety. Suddenly, a WTO delegate made it unnoticed through our lines. But when he made it to police they refused to let him enter. They turned back another delegate later. As it turned out, we were gaurding an exit not an entrance; that they police's orders were to not let anyone in -- whoever they were. Also, since police had shut down the street and no protesters had attempted to cross police lines, none of us were even doing anything illegal. -- which is probably why none of the people in the sit-down group were arrested. Though none of us were arrested, all of us were beaten and sprayed. Word soon made it to us that the situation was worse elsewhere. We made our way to the heart of downtown and found the streets full of teargas. There was a large group of people sitting down in front of police in full riot gear with their gas masks on. Behind them was an armored tank. The police attacked protesters again. Against non-violent protesters, they used pepper spray, clubs, tear gas, and later fired rubber bullets and marbles at the people. In every single instance I witnessed first hand, police violently attacked non-violent protesters with no provocation whatsoever. That was the case when I was beaten and sprayed, that was the case when downtown was flooded with gas, with helicopters flying overhead shining spotlights down into the crowd. Thousands of police forced protesters out of the dowtown area firing cannister after cannister of tear gas into the crowd. My friends and I were split up in the crowd of people fleeing from the gas. Eventually, I made it back to the house to join them. The whole way to their house, I was hoping that this story would get out. Hoping that the level of violence inflicted on non-violent protesters, peacefully assembled, would wake a lot of people up and show them the level of democracy in this country. Hoping that people would see what the level of force aimed at people who peacefully oppose the interests that are dominant in this country and the world. I returned home to have this hope crushed. The local news stations were reporting on the broken windows of businesses and not the broken bones of protesters. They reported on things like "police fatigue." Which I assume is when your arms get tired after you beat people for hours. They talked -and continue to talk about- the extremely "restraint, openmindedness, and gentleness" displayed by police. A state of civil emergency was declared and a curfew was set for 7pm. If anyone was downtown after that, they would be arrested. Police cleared the curfew zone of people, but we watched them on TV continued to pursue them up Capitol Hill -- blocks past the curfew zone. The police chased them into a business area and fired tear gas into crowds that were now made up of shoppers and people getting dinner as well as protesters. Finally, after 12 hours of people being beaten and gased, a small riot broke out. A Starbucks coffee store was damaged and looted. I'm amazed it took this long to happen, and I say this in all honesty from being here first hand, that, by repeatedly attacking and torturing non-violent protesters, the Seattle police sought to incite a riot and finally succeeded to a small degree. The news kept running the scene of Starbucks being looted again, and again, and again. At least a dozen times in under an hour. There were also quick clips of police beating demostrators shown once and not again. A newscaster on KOMO, channel 4, said, "Look, earlier today we saw protesters carrying signs with clear messages against the WTO, but what you have going on now is an unruly mob just trying to cause problems. In the pictures we're seeing now, I don't see any signs at all. These people don't have any message." What the newscaster failed to notice was that people, myself included, dropped their signs when they were fleeing for their lives. They were dropped because you need two hands to gaurd your eyes from tears gas. Talk of the "police being too lenient" has continued into todays news reports. And the lack of signs continues to be portrayed as a lack of any constuctive purpose among the protesters. One newscaster said, "Come on, get a life. We live in a prosperous country." In all honesty, the news is scaring me more than the riot police, because what it has done is justify further violence against the protesters. They have said that "police have been too lenient." The police have used teargas, pepper spary, clubs, rubber bullets, and marbles against peaceful civilians in downtown Seattle. The only thing they haven't done is used live amunition.

And in the event that greater violence occurs against protesters, the media will have justified it. Besides insulting protesters the local media has focused on the diruption to traffic and holiday shopping. The National Guard is now occupying the city, a 50 block "no protest" zone has been established, about 120 people have been arrested, and many have been hospitalized -- though that has recieved no coverage as far as I've seen.

In other news, we succeeded in shutting down the first day of WTO meetings. The situation is still developing, so I encourage everyone to watch the news coverage and contrast it to what I've written here. AND PLEASE, do your own research on the WTO.

Damon Krane


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