Published on Thursday, November 30, 2000 in the Seattle Union Record
N30 Will Celebrate A Kinder WTO, Activists Say
by Florangela Davila
N30, as Thursday is being called by many, marks the anniversary of the riotous World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle one year ago. But it will be a day of celebration, representatives from various organizations insisted Wednesday.
There will be live music, DJs and food for those gathering to commemorate a kinder WTO that has emerged in the past year.
“This is about celebrating a new turn for the WTO, that labor rights and social justice are now part of its agenda,” said Brian Derdowski, former Metropolitan King County Councilman, in a news conference Wednesday.
Derdowski stood in Westlake Park, about three horse-lengths from the Qwest Holiday carousel, and chided Seattle city officials for recent statements insisting the city would not tolerate any unruly demonstration whatsoever.
There have been threats of mass arrests, and activists maintain City Hall is barring them from holding events in the centrally located Westlake Park, arguably the best public space to get a message across in the city.
City officials say no large group has applied for a Westlake permit. They say groups would be better served meeting at another location, such as Victor Steinbreuck Park, because the carousel got to Westlake Park first.
But Derdowski, saying there needed to be “less testosterone” coming out of City Hall, called on city officials to join in a series of anniversary events that begin Thursday, including two marches expected to head downtown.
“A carousel should not take precedence,” he said. “We think they (the carousel and demonstrators) can co-exist.”
Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata agreed, noting Westlake has been a longtime site for political rallies of all stripes.
“We should not be suspect of a public gathering,” he said yesterday, adding he had heard nothing of any planned acts of civil disobedience. “This will be a celebration of a rise of social consciousness.”
Jerry Sheehan of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington said his group expects the police to respond in an appropriate yet restrained manner that would allow the exercise of free speech without cracking down on protesters.
“Free speech does get to be spontaneous sometimes,” he said. “That’s the nature of democracy.”
At a news conference yesterday, Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said planning was difficult because, in his view, “This is a nonevent.” However, Kerlikowske said, police were doing “our very best to plan for up to a worst-case scenario.”
Kerlikowske said e-mails they’ve seen range from plans to eat organic fruit to death threats against police and city officials from a group calling itself “General Strike.”
City officials have said that lawless activities would not be tolerated. But Kerlikowske would not elaborate on where police would draw the line, saying those decisions would be left up to commanders at the scene.
Maud Daudon, Mayor Paul Schell’s chief of staff, said the city would try to accommodate peaceful protests.
Kerlikowske said police would be out in “unbelievably heavy” numbers to make sure things won’t get out of hand. “If I was a purse snatcher, I would not go downtown,” Kerlikowske said.
For now, there are no plans to close Pine Street as some have suggested, he said.
Dick Lilly, Schell’s press secretary, said some protest groups are clearly gunning for a confrontation with police to validate their views about government oppression.
Kerlikowske said he thinks some members of anarchist groups may have traveled to Seattle to commemorate the WTO anniversary.
But some protesters say their intentions this year are very different. Chris Cain, a Burien man who participated in last year’s demonstrations, said last year’s goal was to shut down the WTO. This year’s events are less about shutting down something and more about calling people to action, he said.
He also said he planned to give $100 to Children’s Home Society of Washington, the organization that benefits from the holiday carousel.
Schell, meanwhile, was walking around downtown Wednesday evening, stepping into stores to address business owners, answer questions and alleviate concerns.
Standing inside the Bailey Banks and Biddle jewelry store, the carousel just outside, Schell said the city would work with groups who plan to demonstrate, but would be watchful.
“We want to make sure free speech does not extend to vandalism,” Schell said. “I’m hopeful.”
When Florangela Davila is not on strike, she writes about race and ethnicity at The Seattle Times. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Jim Brunner, a Seattle Times reporter on strike, also contributed to this report.