Police across the US have been criticised for their actions in clashes with Occupy Wall Street protesters. The man who led the police response to the Battle in Seattle protests at the 1999 WTO meeting blames the post-9/11 militarisation of American policing.
"Law enforcement across the country is pursuing the same tactics that failed so miserably in Seattle," Norm Stamper tells BBC World Service’s Witness programme.
"There’s a lack of patience, there’s a lack of imagination and there are clear over-reactions to the challenges the police perceive. It is all so disheartening."
In November 1999, Chief Stamper was one of the main officials charged with managing the huge numbers of demonstrators who brought the city to a standstill in protests against the launch of a new round of global trade talks…
Chief Stamper says he has learnt his lesson but that other US police forces have not. He blames what he calls the militarisation of the police in America.
In the years following 9/11, the federal government provided military equipment to police forces across the country and instilled in them a military mindset, all in the name of homeland security, the former police chief says.
Occupy Seattle: Octogenarian activist Dorli Rainey on being pepper-sprayed by Seattle police, importance of activism
Eighty-four-year-old activist Dorli Rainey tells Keith about her experience getting pepper-sprayed by the police during an Occupy Seattle demonstration and the need to take action and spread the word of the Occupy movement. She cites the advice of the late Catholic nun and activist Jackie Hudson to “take one more step out of your comfort zone” as an inspiration, saying, “It would be so easy to say, ‘Well I’m going to retire, I’m going to sit around, watch television or eat bonbons,’ but somebody’s got to keep ’em awake and let ’em know what is really going on in this world.”
84-year-old Occupy Seattle participant Dorli Rainey, pictured above after being pepper sprayed by Seattle Police on November 15th.
She later wrote about the incident:
“Something funny happened on my way to a transportation meeting in Northgate. As I got off the bus at 3rd and Pine I heard helicopters above. Knowing that the problems of New York would certainly precipitate action by Occupy Seattle, I thought I better check it out. Especially since only yesterday the City Government made a grandiose gesture to protect free speech. Well free speech does have its limits as I found out as the cops shoved their bicycles into the crowd and simultaneously pepper sprayed the so captured protesters. If it had not been for my Hero (Iraq Vet Caleb) I would have been down on the ground and trampled. This is what democracy looks like. It certainly left an impression on the people who rode the No. 1 bus home with me. In the women’s movement there were signs which said: “Screw us and we multiply.’”
Mayor Mike McGinn just issued the following statement about last night’s confused orders to Occupy Seattle protesters—police may arrest you, no they’re not going to arrest you, actually they’re going to play head games until they provoke protesters to do something rash—to say police were operating under his orders to warn arrests could happen:
The Parks Department and the Seattle Police were under instructions last night to inform people of the rules that apply to Westlake Park, but to not make arrests for camping at this time.
Got it, brilliant, police were simply under orders to threaten arrest. McGinn didn’t intend to follow through. So when Paul asked Lt. Nollette what they were doing, she was simply communicating that order:
"Everybody was advised twice that the park closes at 10:00 p.m. and that they could be subject to arrest.” Asked if the mayor knew about this, she said, “I have no idea.”
Very clever, Mike McGinn. You’re declaring support for the protesters and harassing them. The commanding officer on the scene was just telling protesters what could possibly, maybe, perhaps—who knows, really?—happen if they don’t leave. That jibes with this announcement that if protesters “don’t leave the area you can be subject to arrest for criminal trespass.”But interesting that the cops didn’t know what the mayor’s office knew, the mayor’s office sent a staffer scrambling down to the scene to defuse the situation, and the police needed to make regular loudspeaker announcements (even though making noise was a ticketable offense a few nights ago because it would upset nearby residents). What will “Mayor” McGinn threaten next—and is he capable of following through?
So being a Seattle native, I still have a soft spot for my fellow rabble-rousers in the Northwest. Especially when I read that Occupy Portland had 3-5,000 people marching last weekend! The last thing Seattle needs is more of an inferiority complex about competing with Portland :) so I was glad to hear that Occupy Seattle is picking up some steam this week, slowly winning over the local unions and local media (The Stranger!) alike.
However, reading about how the Seattle Police Department and the Mayor’s Office have treated the occupiers is really disappointing. Over the past few days, they have been harassed by SPD and Park Police constantly, forbidding them from setting up tents, trying to drive them from the square, and generally being assholes. It’s gone so far that the Seattle Police have been ticketing drivers who drive by the occupation and honk in support. Can you believe that? Now, fast-forward to last night:
Mayor’s office spokesman Aaron Pickus said about an hour ago that cops wouldn’t bug protesters at Westlake Park tonight as long as they didn’t have a “structure.” But other than that, things were hunky-dorey.
Cut to right now.Police are aggressively clearing people out of the park. Cops are telling people they can’t stand underneath the awnings, can’t wrap themselves in a tarp, and can’t even sit down with an umbrella. “You can’t have an umbrella open unless you’re standing and holding it,” a cop reportedly just told a few people who were sitting down next to their umbrellas. Paul Contant, intrepid reporter, just called to confirm that person’s account. And he added, “The cops are lined up under the awnings—I tried to get under an awning to type and and they told me I cannot be under the awning at all.” Police are also telling people they can’t lay under a tarp.
That’s right: you can now be arrested in Seattle’s Westlake Park for sitting down while holding an umbrella to protect yourself from the rain. All because the Mayor’s new ‘rules’ for the park, updated a couple days ago (conveniently), forbid erecting a structure in the park. And umbrellas apparently count as a structure to the police.
So, this is bullshit, right? I’ve already written the mayor to let him know that he can kiss my vote for his re-election goodbye if he doesn’t cut this out immediately. But we need as much help as we can get. If you can spare a couple minutes today, please let Mayor McGinn’s office know that you DO NOT approve of his strong-arm tactics to break up this demonstration!
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn’s Office: Phone (206) 684-4000 or email form: http://seattle.gov/mayor/citizen_response.htm
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes: Phone (206) 684-8200 and tell him to stick to his word and to not prosecute those who have been arrested!
Seattle Police Department: West Precinct (206) 684-8917. Tell them what you think of an ‘umbrella’ being classified as a structure!
Thanks for your time :)