Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Police in Seattle seal off streets as overturned bins burn.
Police in Seattle seal off streets as overturned bins burn. Photo: Adam Stenftenagel

Battle For Seattle 2

Wooden bullets and butt plugs on Capitol Hill

After spending the afternoon gassing and concussion-bombing union marches, commuters and shoppers in the downtown area, the stormtroopers of Seattle unleashed their most demented attack on the city's bohemian/gay district, Capitol Hill, around midnight on Wednesday December 1st.

6th December 1999

Faceless, numberless riot police and national guardsmen shot repeated volleys of two-inch diameter wooden bullets (similar sized rubber bullets were referred to as butt-plugs by protesters), plastic (marble like) pellets, stun grenades, tear gas and pepper spray at a crowd of around 1500 residents and anti-WTO protesters.

"My neighbourhood is under siege by police," said Nikki Reed, a Capitol Hill resident. "There's tear gas in my apartment and a helicopter buzzing my home." Residents, old and young, had come out to see why the police felt it necessary to set up a 250 officer defence line at the intersection of 11th and Pine. Ex-councillor, Brian Durdowski, took vote canvassing to extremes as he stood besuited in the thick of smoke and missiles, tears pouring down his face saying: "I will not let the police hurt you." The words 'stable door' and 'bolted' sprang to mind. The protesters filled Pine Street and were congregating at the Pine and Broadway crossroads. Despite claiming to 'maintain the downtown curfew zone', the police lines were on the uptown side of the crowd. (Doh!!) When they charged they were in fact pushing people back towards the no go area. Vans of cops were carrying out drive by, indiscriminate, pepper-spraying on Broadway (Think of Stoke Newington Church Street with homeboys). Despite spending three hours of lunacy firing at protesters, the cops never really tried to drive them from the streets.


Cylindrical wooden and rubber bullets were fired at the crowd, gashing wounds on faces and leaving welts on legs and bodies. The thunderflash of exploding stun grenades echoed around the buildings as tear gas cannisters bounced among the protesters (This gas was stronger than the stuff used during tuesday daytime - when vast numbers of press were present - twenty four hours later I can still feel it clogging my chest and have quite intense lower back pains as my kidneys try to eject the poisons). An ordnance making it illegal to carry gas masks in the city had been passed that afternoon (but every cop wore one). .......protesters scattered, unable to breathe or see, crying out for water.... others helped collapsed casualties by splashing the toxins from their eyes. Police chief Norm Stamper commended his officerS' "restraint". The only restraint shown that night was by the beseiged residents. The weeks of workshops, non-violence training and arrest solidarity carried out by the Direct Action Network at their 420 Denny Street Studios were being taken to uncomprehensive literal extremes. I only saw one missile thrown back at the police lines. Calls of non violence were met by gunfire.


Multinational outlets of KFC and Chevron (think Niger Delta and Ogoni massacres) in the area both escaped any damage - the 'non violent protest' crew were still trying to act within the law even when the police had long since rejected legislative restriction or morality. Mayor, Paul Schell, creating a martial law situation, had suspended the constitution within the city. One UK protester who asked if any US citizens present would be offended if he torched the stars and stripes was told: "I don' give a shit where ya come from buddy. Burn the fucking flag." A few took the opportunity of the police-led chaos to do some pocket shopping: "Hey young thugs. Lets go loot the fucking Texaco - they're the fucking KKK." The morning's attack on the steelworkers' march into the cordoned off downtown area, led the entire workforce of America's west coast dockers to walk out of work in solidarity with the treatment of their union brothers. Evening demos attracted more arrests and indiscriminate gassing. A planned anti-gentrification action planned for the Belltown district was literally bombed out of existence.

Related Articles
K.O. THE WTO - Why the world is suddenly taking a stance against the WTO and its stealthy ambitions - Dec-1999
BATTLE FOR SEATTLE 1 - report from the streets of Seattle - Dec 1999

Useful Links
Big Rattle In Seattle - free to watch online - a documentary filmed on streets of Seattle during the demonstrations against the WTO - by Guerillavision, featuring Si Mitchell