GENTECH archive


Diary of Seattle-WTO photographer + photo URLs (fwd)

Thanks bob olsen:

Date: Sun, 05 Dec 1999 03:06:32 +0000
From: Yuill <>
Subject: WTO: Personal Diary

:: World Voices WTO Update 3  
   Personal Diary

:: Yuill Herbert and Jonathan Robinson in Seattle
   Wednesday 1 December 1999  

Five in the morning.  Wake up after a few hours sleep.  No breakfast.
Stumbled out into the pouring rain, forget jacket but there is no going
back.  Yuill remembers his.

Two days of engaging, talking and diplomacy fails.  Civil disobedience
becomes the gesture of those who have nowhere else to turn. 

Thousands of activists have taken over the market for a briefing session.
No mango and bread this morning.

Our march advances into rush hour traffic.  Strange that there are no
police.  Protestors stop the traffic.  Menacing four wheel drives often
don't stop.  Minutes later the Convention Centre is surrounded and trade
delegates are blocked outside.

Anita Roddick is on the front line and feeds us nuts and raisons for
breakfast.  John Vidal from The Guardian is there too, complaining about
timid US activists and that we don't have a lighter. 

Two hours are spent sitting, linking arms. The riot police forming a double
line in front of us. At one point a tank backs them up with tear gas and
rubber bullets. They begin to move forward. We chant that this is a
non-violent protest. Then we chant the world is watching. There are many TV
cameras in between us and the police. Our hearts are pounding. The legal
aid passes out the phone number to call when we are arrested. After some
time the police back up.  It is still raining, freezing cold too.  

Lunchtime.   A long thin alley that minutes earlier was blocked with riot
police is now empty.  Bewildered, hesitant, we explore.  Twice we turned
back, then changed our minds. No mistaking that we are entering the secured
zone that hundreds of riot police are protecting with tanks. No point
pretending, we are both petrified.  Amateurish police blockades of large
rubbish containers are easy to jump and we are in.  It is exhilarating to
realise we are behind the lines. 

Few tenacious yet cautious steps are transformed by the sound of gun fire.
Tear gas is pouring around the corner. We are on the run, so too are a
handful of cameramen and journalists with credentials that legitimate their
presence on the inside.  

I mumble something as we stumble past John Vidal, he doesn't register.
Yuill tries again, affectionately hitting him.  

"Hey, what's happening?"

Tear gas speaks for itself.  Crazy, but the three of us change direction
straight into the almost romantic midst.  

"Bastards… oh fuck, bastards, bastards". 

John Vidal is not happy. You have to spit all the liquid out of your mouth
as it is burning. The pain forces you to shut your eyes. Yuill is suffering
too, choking badly and so am I. He stops, uncertain if he can go on.
Pulling clothes over our faces we move on.  We arrive at the place where
the tear gas was released. The digital camera records the damage.  Four
police cars, wheels slashed, windows smashed and plastered with graffiti.
Police reinforcements arrive, some hanging off a tank, all looking like

Life on the inside ends abruptly.  Riot police approach us requesting our
passes.  Of cause we have none.

Beyond the tense and dramatic front lines there are more protests.  Eight
people with their arms cemented together at the top of the hill.  Already
the police had tear-gassed them three times, surrounding the group and
spraying their faces. Sometimes they even lifted the protester's gas masks
off their faces to spray them more directly.  But they held strong, cement
meant they were going nowhere fast.  

In other places the blockades were more peaceful, with banners, posters,
costumes, huge puppets and drums. The people held their line, the police
held theirs and WTO delegates did not pass.  

Things suddenly turn rather insane. We are back at a blockade. The police
move forward. The protesters sit down. The police fire pepper spray at the
crouched people and step forward over them. We try and get pictures with
the digital camera. The captured protesters link arms and legs. The police
use their wooden sticks to separate the people, sometimes violently hitting
them. Some people are thrown back over the line and some are carried away
and arrested.  We are shocked at the violence of the police.

Then loud bombs. The police are firing rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper
spray into the crowd. Protesters with masks and paint on their skin grab
the tear gas canisters as they land and toss them back into the ranks of
the police. Then the protesters light a dumpster on fire. The air is filled
with gas, fire and rubber bullets. We are on side, trying to take pictures
of this. It is like a war zone. One person goes down under the rubber
bullets in front of us. After a bit he crawls to safety. Jonathan, maybe
unknowingly, is in the thick of it with the digital camera.  I see Jonathan
stuck between rioters and policemen and yell a warning. The police fire
pepper spray which directly hits us. It is a pain beyond pain. We stagger
through the crowd, leaning on each other, blinded and convulsing in pain.
Medics with the Direct Action Network come to our rescue.  We are drowned
in water, the relief if incredible.  The excruciating pain persists for
maybe half an hour. Our faces are dabbed regularly with alcohol, then
ointments.  Finally the pain becomes bearable, we can see again and are on
our way home.  But things are getting worse.  This is a depressing scene.

It is now three in the morning.  Images from the digital camera have gone
to hundreds of media and organisations around the world.  Half asleep we
talk live to radio stations abroad. We do our best to focus attention on
the agenda of the World Trade Organisation, it is not easy.  Meanwhile
police helicopters circle overhead and tear gas canisters are exploding at
the bottom of the fire escape.

World Voices in Seattle: 001 212 568 6191

World Voices

Telephone    +44 (0)20 7928 8228   
Fax          +44 (0)20 7928 2882 
Online       http:\\

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: end message :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Bob Olsen adds some URLs below for online photos 
thanks to Janet Eaton
and Viviane Lerner <>  fantastic...!!!    good
[ photogallery of many photos from various sources 
documenting  protest action and police retalliation in the 
streets. ]
[one man's photocoverage of his  walk down  the streets of 
seattle Thursday night - good photos and a running account
 of what was happening vis a vis the crowds behaviour and encounters 
with police]
[One photo of riot sqad attacking young people]  

   Bob Olsen, Toronto
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