The Conscience of the King -The World's Still Watching-
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- Date: Tue, 7 Dec 1999 21:48:18 -0800 (PST)
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The Conscience of the King
Interview by Jim Desyllas (posted 12-7-99)
There's a movement afoot; correction, three.
One, now a bit less active than in 1998, opposes the murderous sanctions
imposed on Iraq and the routine bombing of that country, once a great,
secular Muslim society and, one might note, the biggest obstacle to
Islamic Fundamentalism in the Mideast.
A second movement blossomed worldwide during the bombing of Yugoslavia. It
is focused on the on-going racist terror in Kosovo and the media's
demonization of the Serbian people. And now we see there is a third
movement, a giant stirring, a Global upsurge of workers, students, farmers
and businesspeople against Big Corporate Globalization in general and the
World Trade Organization in particular. Can we possibly effect a merger?
That third movement is intelligently opposed to Multinational Corporations
taking over everything from food processing in Bulgaria to farming in
Korea. One especially exciting component is the new student movement in
the US. We have not seen passionate student involvement in the US since
the old antiwar and civil rights struggles of the 60s. That movement died.
Pundits read the obituary. And yet - here its again - decent, smart,
principled and democratic. The US government tried to stop it in Seattle.
We're betting on the students.
Here's an interview with Terra Lawson-Remer, an articulate student
jailed in Seattle. The Conscience of the King.
The Conscience of the King
Interviewed by Jim Desyllas (posted 12-7-99)
"What's happening here is that the power of the state is at the service of
the corporate agenda. We did not agree with the ideas [of] the people who
are running the World Trade Organization and so they put us in jail and
gave us pretty bad treatment...[But] the real problem here is not how
they're treating us, but that [we] shouldn't be here, no matter how
[we're] being treated. That' something that the political machinery of
Seattle can make happen. " (Terra Lawson-Remer interviewed in The
Conscience of the King.) Terra Lawson-Remer is one of the coordinators of
STARC, a new, nationwide student group. Formed just last April, STARC is
pressing for Universities to move their investments to corporations that
live up to a whole set of standards, especially those involving
environmental and workplace issues. STARC is highly critical of the World
Trade Organization. Terra was one of many students and working people
arrested Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Seattle. She was in jail 3
almost 4 days.
Jim: Why were you arrested?
Terra: For exercising my first amendment rights. We were marching and
protesting against the World Trade Organization Wednesday morning. The
police confronted us and set up a line and told us all to sit down. Then
they came in on horses, tried to create a confrontation. We peacefully
stood up and left. We went to another space, a public square, formed a big
circle. There we were reminding ourselves to be non-violent and chanting
about non-violence, at which point the police surrounded us and started
arresting people. When folks tried to leave they arrested them as well.
This was in a little park that's 4th and Pine I think, or 4th and Pike.
Jim: Was that part of the demonstration-free zone?
Terra: I'm assuming it was but we had no idea that it was at the time. We
were told that the curfew was listed at 7:30 so we came down then to try
NOT to break the curfew, and we had no idea if it even was a non-protest
Jim: How many people were arrested there?
Terra: Over 150 at that time. Altogether over 700.
Jim: Were there any people maced or gassed?
Terra: Not at my site. But there were about three mass arrests during the
day, on Wednesday. And in the one in the afternoon, the police told them
to stop marching and to go in the other direction and then the police
started throwing tear gas at them so they turned and went in the other
direction and when they did the police told them to stop and go in the
other direction, so they turned around listened to the police again at
which point they had gotten close to Pike's Place Market and the police
threw gas canisters in the market and arrested all the protesters.
Jim: We've heard word of people being put in isolation. Is that true?
Terra: Yes it is definitely true. They are trying to single out people
they think are these leaders, who've been vocal, and asking for lawyers or
more resistant in demanding our rights; they've been put in something
called the [in audible] which means they have no contact with anyone else.
After we were arrested we were kept on this bus for hours. We finally
actually made it to the jail at 3:30 in the morning - Thursday morning. We
were put in a cell that was just a concrete floor and benches for probably
12 hours, maybe more. It was really really cold. And they wouldn't give us
any blankets because they said you only got blankets if you got sent
upstairs. But they seemed to never do that. And finally towards afternoon
[some of us] got sent upstairs and locked-down, two people to a cell. That
lasted about 16 hours. They said we were there [in lock-down] because the
protesters outside [the jail] were a threat to the jail. [Lock-down is
like a punishment, for instance, you ] don't have phones.
What they were trying to do was divide us from [our supporters outside.]
They've really been trying to divide all of us from each, treat people
differently, offer people different deals, get us to cave in on our
rights. And we have to understand that what's happening here is that the
power of the state is at the service of the corporate agenda. Corporate
control was what we were the targets of. We were in prison because we did
not agree with the ideas being forth by the people who are running the
World Trade Organization and the people who are running basically
corporate America and we thought that their priorities are wrong so they
put us in jail and they gave really pretty bad treatment.
Jim: Were people allowed to go to the bathroom or make a phone call or
anything like that?
Terra: It's been so sporadic. When we were on the buses for 14 hours,
before we were processed, had no bathroom, no food. Then once we were in
the cells there was one public toilet for 30 of us, set out in the middle
of the room. Phone access has been very sporadic. Sometimes they just cut
off the phones and we never find out why. There's very little information.
Basically the charges just need to be dropped. It's ridiculous. People
want to go out but they don't want to leave the people who are inside
because we know that if folks leave and the mass of people inside is
reduced then all that will be left is leadership who will become targets.
Jim: Have any people been abused or tortured?
Terra: Well, at different points I think. In my cells there wasn't. My
friend who came into our cell later, she had been in jail for almost 48
hours and hadn't had access to an attorney. She refused to leave her cell
until she saw a lawyer. So they dragged her out of her cell by her hair.
Jim: What's her name?
Terra: She doesn't want her name to be made public. A lot of people are
remaining anonymous, they are going by WTO Jane because that way they
can't isolate the leadership.
Jim: How many people are still in jail right now
Terra: A least 250 , we don't really know. There were about 700 of us
arrested altogether. Most of them have attempted to stay in jail, some
have been forcibly removed. I'd estimate closer to 350 or 400 but at least
Jim: How did they treat you in the cell.
Terra: The food is terrible - the real problem is the lack of
information,. They don't let access to what we need. Basically they're
really upset in there, they don't know what's going on. They've never seen
so many people who are just trying to be in solidarity with each other. So
they're really confused. It's not the individual guards so much as the
system. And what we know the real issue is not the guards but rather the
political machine outsi de. The DA has every ability to drop every single
against every protester now. The guards don't have that ability. And the
DA needs to do that. And until he does that our rights will continue to be
Jim: Was your charge a misdemeanor or a felony?
Terra: I was charged with a misdemeanor but a lot of folks who were
charged with felonies - they were trumped up charges. One woman was
charged with a felony for having her friend's wallet in her backpack.
Another girl was charged with aiding or abetting vandalism because she had
a cell phone and she was following people who were breaking windows to get
them to stop.
Jim: have most people seen a lawyer yet?
Terra: Most have but it's been very sporadic. One girl I spoke to had been
in jail for almost 48 hours and hadn't had access to an attorney. That's
completely unconstitutional. But the real problem here is not how they're
treating us, that's not at all the issue. Because honestly, a jail's a
jail and they're going to treat you bad. That's what prison is. And that's
something we should work on reforming. But what we really need to focus on
is that the protesters shouldn't be in here, no matter how they're being
treated, they shouldn't be here. And that's something the Seattle
political machinery of Seattle can make happen.
Right now I have a court appearance scheduled I have to go to court in a
couple of weeks I had to have bail set of $380 for doing nothing
basically. And that's pure political intimidation.