As the mayor still endeavors to wipe the twin eggs of the $9 million WTO and the embarrassing cancellation of the New Year’s Eve Seattle Center party off his face, and Mark Sidran attempts to explain why it took him over a month to drop charges for unprosecutable arrests, here comes an interesting WTO note from the Seattle Fire Fighters’ Union (Local 27) newsletter. The report from union president Charles Hawkins Jr. says:
“‘Did the city really try to have us turn our fire hoses on protesters?’ The short answer is yes. Some of our members alerted me to this on that Tuesday evening and I called Chief Sewell who confirmed for me that the Mayor’s office wanted to do this even though he argued against it. I then called the Mayor’s office and strongly objected to using fire fighters in this manner. On Wednesday morning I contacted members of the City Council about the situation and they agreed with our position. We bickered quite a bit with the Mayor’s staff and by Thursday evening [the police backed off on Thursday—G.P.] it was no longer an option. . . . Hats off to Chief Sewell, Assistant Chief Ramsey and Deputy Chief Vickery for standing up for doing the right thing.”
Amen. I can only add that as various commissions and inquiries delve into the command and decision-making structure of the WTO mess, I think we’ll find that much of the responsibility for the abuse of citizens that occurred will be laid directly at the feet of Mayor Paul Schell. It might be interesting, in an academic sense, to find out how much pressure for a crackdown was applied by the Secret Service and other federal agencies not wanting outbreaks of democracy to happen too close to Bill Clinton. But pressure or not, Schell had to sign off on those decisions. And while a few cops were out of control, the anger many protesters have toward rank-and-file police is largely misplaced; they were only carrying out orders, and all indications are that those orders were being given by Schell.
It’s thin consolation that we could have had Charlie Chong running the WTO show. If there were any doubt about whether Schell’s arrogance and incompetence under pressure renders him unfit for office, the sheer idiocy of the New Year’s Eve cancellation should answer those questions. Once again, the mayor embarrassed the city on a national stage. How many more times is this going to happen? As Seattle’s movers and shakers yearn for the image of a “world-class city,” it appears we’ve gotten ourselves a world-class buffoon.
Next stop: Microsoft
As an unknown and marginalized direct action group, what do you do for an encore when your first event is an international splash?
If you’re the Direct Action Network, the loosely affiliated group of activists whose bodies shut down the World Trade Organization on November 30, you head for the houses of the guys who hosted the WTO. That would be Phil Condit (Boeing) and Bill Gates (Earth), and DAN has opted to go for the man who owns Earth. The as-yet-unnamed labor and environmental coalition that emerged from WTO organizing is also involved with the “Shut Down Microsoft” effort scheduled for February 7, the anniversary (so DAN’s flyer notes) of Seattle’s 1890 General Strike.
Lightning won’t strike twice. While many WTO protesters, thrilled by their first taste of victory (and tear gas), yearn to get back into the streets, Microsoft is a far more ambitious target than the Paramount Theater. On one month’s notice and without an infusion of out-of-town demonstrators, Seattle DAN and friends will not be able to bring out nearly as many people.
Still, it’s a worthy target. Aside from Microsoft’s largely unexamined role in hosting the WTO, there are plenty of reasons to focus on the unpopular software giant. Microsoft is the target of a labor organizing drive for abused permatemps; outsources much of its labor and still reportedly subcontracts with prison labor; has been the driving force behind the economic stratification of Seattle in areas like housing; has those niggling legal problems with monopoly antitrust practices; has benefitted from enormously valuable federal giveaways of spectrum space; and, of course, markets a series of rather unpopular products forced on millions of computer users. Just on sheer class resentment, plenty of folks would love to see someone stick it to the richest man in the world and his minions. Even if he did give us the region’s best fireworks show on New Year’s Eve.
One of the reasons the Direct Action Network has risen from obscurity so quickly is its remarkable success at fundraising. DAN activists say they had a WTO protest budget of $70,000 and finished in the black—so far, though legal expenses are continuing and the group still needs money. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to, say, the Seattle Host Organization, but these are astonishing figures for such a politically radical group, particularly when such groups are generally loathe to deal with money issues. Where did it all come from?
“We could have raised twice as much money if we’d had our act together,” says DAN fundraiser David Taylor. He says most of the DAN budget was raised before the group’s success on November 30, through a couple of small grants, an anonymous $10,000 donation, some money from Ruckus Society, income from the November 20-29 Art & Revolution Convergence, and lots of small ($5-$250) individual donations, including about $15,000-$20,000 through the mail. For Taylor, who is new to fundraising, the success gives hope that direct action groups don’t have to compromise their politics to be successful at fundraising.