Police blame 'well trained and equipped' adversary, lack of funds

Posted: Tuesday, April 04, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) - The Police Department's report on World Trade Organization protests blames a ``well-trained and equipped adversary'' and lack of outside funding for the chaos that resulted when tens of thousands of demonstrators swamped downtown streets.

``In retrospect, SPD commanders put their faith in historical precedent - the Seattle tradition of peaceful protest - in assessing the needs for policing the WTO event,'' wrote Assistant Chief Clark Kimerer in the report made public today.

The report was given to Chief Herbert V. Johnson, whose predecessor - Norm Stamper - resigned over handling of the Nov. 30-Dec. 3 ministerial meeting.

Police were overwhelmed Nov. 30 when marches by several groups converged on the downtown core. In addition to clogging streets and hampering the WTO gatherings, the crowds provided cover for a small number of individuals who smashed windows and looted stores, resulting in an estimated $3 million in property damage.

Some officers ran out of the tear gas and pepper spray used to disperse crowds. Many officers spent hours without food, water or rest.

The report recommends better planning next time, noting the city had only about nine months to plan for the event, rather than the 14 to 24 months considered standard by the State Department and historical precedent.

The department was ``taught a hard lesson by a well-trained and equipped adversary,'' the report says.

The report cites use of the Internet, walkie-talkies and cell phones by demonstrators. It noted the ``critical mass achieved with the rapid marshalling of forces from all directions nearly simultaneously'' early Nov. 30.

But the converging marches by various groups - and the anticipated numbers - were well advertised, as were protest organizers' intention of shutting down the meeting.

``We're unfunded people largely, who do this without pay,'' said Dennis Moynihan of the coordinating group Direct Action Network in a telephone interview from Boston. Direct Action helped promote the demonstrations in Seattle and was one of several groups that met with police beforehand to tell them what to expect.

``I do have a cell phone and a decent pair of sneakers. That's about it,'' Moynihan said.

The report says the decision not to focus on the ``worst case'' scenario was influenced by ``the lack of outside funding sources'' to reimburse the State Patrol, King County Sheriff's Department and other area police agencies.

Direct city costs for the WTO operations are estimated at about $9.3 million - $6.9 million of it incurred by the Police Department, the report says.

The report notes that there were no deaths or serious injuries, and that ``much if not all'' of the $17 million in estimated holiday-shopping business losses was recovered by late December.

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