We lost a queen

We lost a queen

Anci Koppel would have objected to being compared with royalty. She didn’t have a nonegalitarian bone in her body—politically, that is. But Anci, in her heavy Austrian accent, never hesitated to let you know exactly where you should stand on an issue, and, more importantly, what you should do about it.

Koppel, 93, passed away last month after a brief illness—oddly enough, the third prominent Seattle social justice activist with the initials A.K. to leave us in the last couple of years (after Abe Keller and Aki Kurose).

In her last week, Anci was still working the phones, in this case opposing the Trident nuclear submarine that visited Seafair this month. A conversation she had with Peter Steinbrueck—she was close to the entire Steinbrueck family—was apparently pivotal in securing Peter’s active support for Richard Conlin’s courageous City Council resolution calling for no more nukes in Seafair. Sadly, she did not live to see the amazing council forum held on July 31, in which a couple hundred Trident opponents and a few Navy supporters (but not Seafair or the Navy itself) showed up to give the council an earful. The forum was a surprising testimonial to how strongly the antinuclear movement still resonates, 20 years after its heyday, in liberal Seattle. And why not; the weapons are still with us, and so, too, should be the protesters.

Ironically, the Blue Angels buzzed Koppel’s memorial service, making speakers inaudible at times. A reminder, perhaps, that Anci left us with work to do.

The Philly sound

Speaking of protesters, the Republican Party convention confirmed a disturbing trend in the way authorities are handling lawful and unlawful dissent in the wake of Seattle’s WTO festivities. As cities now operate in fear of “becoming another Seattle,” they are taking a page from Seattle (and later DC) by blatantly violating the Constitution and letting the courts worry about it long after the opportunity to protest has left town. (And after jailed protesters have been worked over a bit by authorities.)

In Seattle it was the patently unconstitutional “no-protest zone,” where expression was outlawed based on its content. Hundreds here were arrested, held for the duration of the protests, and later had their charges dropped as untenable.

In LA, a judge rejected attempts by authorities to set up a Seattle-style “no-protest zone” for the Democratic National Convention; here, the ordinance was upheld at the time on the ludicrous grounds that displaced holiday shopping constituted a civil emergency worthy of suspending the highest law of the land. But I digress.

Philadelphia authorities took a page from Seattle, and from the aggressive preemptive tactics used to handle the IMF/World Bank protests in DC in April, by arresting hundreds of people at a puppet-making center on the grounds that they might later do something illegal. You can’t do that under the Constitution, but they did, and with virtually no objection in the mainstream corporate media. Puppets, along with bandannas, ski masks, and gas masks, have become illegal unto themselves as clues that their owners don’t like the government and are therefore subject to arrest.

The problem is that you’re supposed to wait until a “crime” is actually committed—and even then we’re talking about misdemeanors, like blocking sidewalks, which are usually handled with citations, not a week in jail or worse. In theory, dissent isn’t illegal in this country, even if poor media access makes it damn near impossible. Now it’s illegal, too—at least if you make plans to gather in large numbers and then announce it on the Internet.

Throw him out

Speaking of WTO, it’s the best of a number of reasons to take Paul Schell up on his word. You may remember that Schell, when answering critics of both his tactical plan and his police department’s egregious civil rights violations during the WTO conference, invited people to vote him out of office if they didn’t like his job performance. Now, apparently, we’ll get the chance; Schell says he’s “probably” running for a second term, and if Seattleites have any sense he’ll come in on election night with one vote—his own. (Whoops, sorry. He’s probably registered to vote on Whidbey Island. And that’s only because citizenship laws won’t let him vote in the French Riviera.)

The catch, of course, is that Schell is counting on the advantages of incumbency, short memories, and his extensive access to campaign money from his developer buddies, whom he’s done proud during his tenure while failing to take any action to alleviate a growing housing crisis. Overall, aside from WTO, Schell has done very little in office, none of which justifies a second term. How ironic that we have to wait so long, and even then give Schell a chance to buy a second term: In the private sector he so loves, his job performance would have gotten him fired on the spot after WTO.

Officer, there’s a problem

Maybe there’s more wrong than I thought. I’ve generally been willing to believe the party line that the Seattle Police Department is on average pretty good (especially compared to their corrupt brethren in many other large cities, or in Seattle’s past) and that problems are confined to a few bad apples.

But the police guild’s naming of Tommie Doran, the officer who shot David Walker, as its “Officer of the Month” is at minimum deeply offensive. Doran had his day in court—well, inquest, anyway—and the shooting was deemed justified in a hearing that did not consider race or Doran’s previous history of gunfire. But even if you consider Doran blameless, his award is a slap in the face to Walker’s family and to many in the African-American community critical of SPD. Perhaps the award came from the same folks who’ve been issuing all those tickets. Once again, an admonishing word from the new chief would sure be welcome.

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