Who's Streets? Our Streets!
An expensive battle to say the least…..
City of Seattle gets the bill for N30
WTO protest anniversary event cost $550,000 for police, fire and other expenses
Tuesday, December 12, 2000
By JAMES G. WRIGHT
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Last month's N30 festivities cost the city of Seattle more than $555,000 in Police and Fire Department overtime and other expenses, city officials said yesterday.
Nov. 30 was the first anniversary of the ill-fated World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle that was disrupted by mass demonstrations involving as many as 50,000 people. More than 500 people were arrested over several days of riots and confrontations with police and National Guard troops in 1999.
Last month's combination street carnival and political protest to commemorate the anti-globalism victory attracted a crowd of just 2,500 for a daylong series of skits and speeches focused on downtown's Westlake Center. In isolated incidents, however, vandals damaged a police car and several hundred late-night protesters squared off against a small army of police in riot gear.
Yesterday, police Chief Gil Kerlikowske and Deputy Mayor Maud Daudon briefed City Council members on the events of the day, offering a box score of sorts:
Expenses: $555,000, including $320,000 in overtime and $125,000 in equipment costs for the Police Department and $110,000 in overtime costs for the Fire Department. Some minor bills are still out, but the total is not expected to grow significantly.
Arrests: 142, including three people facing felony charges. Most were charged with refusing to disperse when ordered by police or for blocking pedestrian access to sidewalks and buildings. Fifteen are juveniles.
Complaints: The department's internal investigations unit is looking into two complaints of unnecessary use of force by police officers. Kerlikowske would not discuss the nature of those complaints.
Weapons: No lethal or blunt-force weapons were fired, but one officer used pepper spray on a group of protesters that had surged toward the police line, while another fired seven pepper-spray-filled balls at a man who tried to interfere with an arrest.
Damage: Largely limited to minor dents and scrapes to a patrol car parked on Fourth Avenue that was used as a trampoline by a dozen or so people, including two who were arrested.
Injuries: One serious. Police Capt. Ron Mochizuki, hit with an object thrown from the crowd, may be blind in one eye. A man arrested at the scene faces an assault charge.
Council members generally praised Kerlikowske for handling N30 far better than his predecessor, Norm Stamper, dealt with WTO. But some suggested more attention should be paid to the concerns of protesters. Council members Nick Licata and Judy Nicastro both suggested that representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, labor leaders and advocacy groups be given equal time with Kerlikowske.
Licata, after noting that "the difference between this and WTO is night and day," also said that police ordered some protesters to disperse, but then blocked their escape and arrested them. Five people appeared at the council meeting to silently reinforce that view, wearing cardboard wings and signs reading, "I would've dispersed if I had wings to fly."
"We may have a situation where we may not have needed to arrest so many people," Licata said.
Kerlikowske noted, however, that one hour and 45 minutes had elapsed between the time of the first dispersal order given at Third Avenue and Pine Street, and the containment and arrests in the 2200 block of Fourth Avenue North. Anyone who wanted to avoid arrest had ample opportunity to get away, he said.
Licata also expressed displeasure at the emphasis placed on the cost of policing what was largely a non-violent protest.
"There is no price tag we put on free speech," he said, raising the ire of Council President Margaret Pageler.
"There is too a price — Ron Mochizuki is paying it," said Pageler.
"That is a personal price tag, not a direct result of the expression of free speech," Licata shot back. "To identify people who are committing crimes with those who are expressing free speech — I consider that an insult."
But Councilman Jim Compton, who chaired the council's review of the city's actions during WTO, called N30 "a spectacular success … clearly an opportunity for robust free speech. What we value in this town is the opportunity for free, open and even obnoxious free speech."