Thursday, December 3, 2009

WTO Flashback

I lived in Seattle, WA for about 5 years. Back at the end of 1999 there was a little rumble going on in the streets. WTO - World Trade Organization had come to town. At the time, I didn't really know much about the organization, until I started seeing the masses prepping to protest, realizing this was something pretty big. This was the beginning of my own political awakening. For those of you who remember or have done your own research will find that it was a huge cluster fuck of a protest that became violent. The police handled it poorly to say the least. There were definitely those whose sole intent was to be disruptive/violent. However, police escalated things further and further which brought out more and more people resisting the cracking down on the right to assemble and protest.

The police were charged with maintaining a curfew thereby forcing the protesters out of downtown Seattle...right into the Capitol Hill neighborhoods. I can't remember exactly, but I think it was the 2nd night that the streets were flooded with police and national guard troops. Batons, tear gas and bean bag guns ready to thwart the locals.

After reassuring my wife that I would be ok and not take any unnecessary risks, I went out that night to see what the hell was actually going on, with camera in hand of course. I had never experienced anything like it. It was truly a surreal experience. One of the things I remember clearly was standing on the corner in a crowd of people, most of which were the local residents curious, confused, upset and yelling for the police to leave, then hearing a few voices that seemed to be really trying to antagonize and instigate something, weird vicious circle.

I photographed what I could as fast as I could. There was this thick tension in the air that you could feel increasing by the minute. The more police and guard that showed up, the more people came out. My spidey sense told me it was time to get out of there and fast, I had nothing to protect myself from tear gas or batons. As I started to double back thru the other side of the street I could hear the tear gas canisters being fired off over and over again followed by more yelling and screaming. The air quickly grew heavy with tear gas. When I got back to my apt, one block off Broadway and Denny, behind the Post Office, we could smell and feel the tear gas and we were on the third floor. Looking out the window and watching a line of police/guard marching down our street directly below us with helicopters flying over head pushing protestors further and further was, as I said, really surreal. Clearly there was plenty of blame to go around, people who just didn't give a shit and did what they wanted and took advantage and enabled more chaos whether by breaking store windows or via the cops indiscriminately pepper spraying people for standing and looking. It was like the cops were looking for a fight and there were those who were going to bring it. The Capitol Hill residents were caught in the middle.

The reason I am posting this now is that a Capitol Hill blog was doing some stories and updates since it had been ten years (oh how time flies). They used my images for one of the articles, which apparently some how, there weren't many other photos/videos taken on those nights. Almost like it never happened except for those who were there to see and experience it first hand. Glad that I can share some of my experiences and images about those nights.

WTO - Seattle, WA - Capitol Hill District

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