History tends to repeat itself.
In 1999, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) came under fire for its militarization in reponse to the so-called Battle of Seattle in which the World Trade Organization (WTO) faced more than 40,000 protesters. Recently, Ferguson, Mo., has faced similar police action in the wake of the Saint Louis County grand jury’s decision regarding police officer Darren Wilson and Michael Brown.
On Tuesday, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies (HBCLS) hosted a panel in the Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center to discuss the role of police militarization in past WTO protests in relation to current Ferguson protests.
On Nov. 30, 1999, the WTO held international trade negotiations at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle. Protests were planned beforehand in preparation for an anti-globalization movement. Protesters included national government organizations, labor unions, student groups, religious groups, and anarchists. Although the protests were mostly peaceful and followed rules stated by police officers, protesters were still abused, pepper-sprayed, and arrested.
Former SPD Chief Norm Stamper, who led the police department during the WTO protests, called the militarization of police “the biggest mistake of my career.”