March 23, 2003
Whose Streets? Who Cares?
Warning: Seattle-centric post to follow. But maybe it applies equally well to other cities?
"Let us march! Let us March!" chanted Saturday afternoon's crowds at 1st & Spring, after briefly taking to the streets then being unceremoniously corralled onto the sidewalks. Instead of letting them march, though, the fuzz (aided by, I kid you not, reinforcements called in from Tukwila) split them off into ever-smaller enclaves of ever-more-frustrated would-be street-marchers. The show of force by Nickels' marauders was ugly, immature, and unnecessary. They should have let the protesters have their fucking little march, if that's what they wanted.
But exactly what the protesters hoped to accomplish with yet another wimpy march through downtown was unclear. Even more puzzling is the logic of the rally's organisers, who declined to obtain a parade permit -- according to a lieutenant on the scene -- as late as 1:30 Saturday afternoon. When asked why the protesters weren't being allowed to fill up 2nd avenue between Madison and Marion, the lieutenant claimed he'd revisit that issue if the Federal Building's plaza filled up with people. There was, he rightly pointed out, space still available in the plaza.
Yes, the cops were behaving like thugs. Yes, the protesters often seemed to be trying simply to provoke a reaction from the cops. Yes, the organisers' exhortations to take to the streets seemed odd considering their refusal to obtain a permit. But of much greater concern is the suddenly ænemic quality of the city's anti-war movement. Why did a pro-troops rally in Bellevue outdraw Saturday's anti-war crowd by a ratio of three- or four-to-one? What happened to the 25,000 revelrous marchers who lined the city's streets from one end to the other just five short weeks ago? Why were San Franciscans able to shut down their city's financial centre, while Seattleites are barely able to scrape up enough people to march it around the block? Most important of all, why has every single anti-war rally since October been so god-almighty boring?
The issue facing Seattle's Peace Movement in the wake of the weekend's disastrous rallies isn't whether or not to obey the man. It's how to get the numbers of people we know are sympathetic to our cause to show up downtown and voice their displeasure at the Bush Administration's execrable war, so that we never again have to spend four hours dicking off for no good purpose even while the bombs are falling. Failing that, we need to be spending our time not listening to an endless progression of embittered speakers (with the occasional Tom Morello or Jim McDermott thrown in for good measure) preaching to the already-converted, but spreading out in twos and threes to every street-corner and coffee shop in the "retail core" and taking our message to the people who aren't yet converted.
When word starts getting out that downtown shoppers are taking up the fight, then those peace-loving souls who simply can't stand the thought of being bored off their asses by yet another Federal Building speech-fest will know that something interesting's happening downtown, and will quickly rush in to join it. And then it won't matter if Greg Nickels calls in goons from fucking Shoreline, we'll still be able to take -- and hold -- the streets.
Posted by Eddie Tews at March 23, 2003 01:16 PM