Pepper spray, mass arrests mark WTO anniversary


Associated Press

SEATTLE – A daylong demonstration to mark the anniversary of the riotous protest that stalled World Trade Organization meetings last year deteriorated Thursday night, with police using pepper spray and announcing they were arresting about 100 people.

Shortly before 10 p.m., police who had sandwiched a group of about 100 protesters between two lines of officers on Fourth Avenue told those in the crowd they were “all under arrest.”

The group included legal observers and a reporter.

One police captain suffered minor injuries earlier when he was hit by an object thrown by a someone in the crowd, a city spokesman said.

The largely peaceful protest became a confrontation shortly before 9 p.m., when a group of up to 300 protesters refused to leave a downtown intersection.

After police told the crowd three times to disperse, officers used pepper spray to move the crowd, city spokesman Larry Vogel said.

“Police did issue three orders to disperse the crowd blocking the street, three separate orders to disperse,” Vogel said. “And then they moved the crowd.”

Within 45 minutes, the size of the crowd appeared to have dwindled to about 100, and police ordered everyone in the crowd to sit down and face arrest.

At least four arrests were reported earlier in the evening with several earlier in the day. There were no reports of injuries among the demonstrators.

Earlier in the day, the demonstrators were mostly peaceful and at times light-hearted – a far cry from the tear gas, riot squads, chained protesters and chaos of a year before, when 50,000 demonstrators overwhelmed the downtown core.

“There’s nothing to shut down this year. This was a celebration,” protester John Watson of Seattles said then.

Salesman John Ward was stuck in the gridlocked traffic.

“It’s kind of interesting and colorful. It’s frustrating for a downtown worker though, to be stuck in it.”

Jeanette Wallis, a march peacekeeper in a special yellow-and-orange vest, said she was not surprised police did not block marchers who failed to get a parade permit from the city.

“We have a tradition in this town that we usually can march without being teargassed,” she said.

Among those arrested early in the day were a man and woman allegedly jumping up and down on a police car, and a 30-year-old Seattle man who allegedly sent threatening e-mail to public officials. Police also took a man into custody for putting profane stickers on the windows of the upscale clothing store Anthropologie, but it was not clear whether he was formally arrested.

KIRO-TV aired footage of what it described as a group of undercover officers scuffling with a protester. One dropped his service revolver in the crowd, quickly turned and picked it up.

The marchers, tossing confetti and small scraps of paper with anti-WTO slogans on them, had gathered earlier on Capitol Hill, a mile to the east.

The lack of a WTO meeting to protest may have kept the numbers down and discouraged clashes with authorities.

Earlier Thursday, police Chief Gil Kerlikowske provided a three-officer motorcycle escort for a cardboard anniversary cake – 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide – that was hand-carried to Westlake Park by about a half-dozen activists from a nearby anniversary barbecue.

Kerlikowske replaced Chief Norm Stamper, who announced his early retirement after last year’s protests resulted in 600 arrests, $3 million in property damage and numerous civil-rights lawsuits.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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