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Black Flag Over Seattle

by Paul de Armond

Editor's forward
Read any war memoir, and notice that veterans almost always comment on the battlefield stillness before the fighting begins. Often it is the only personal note in the writing; the rest of the account describes history book heroism and savagery, troop movements and general's strategies, cannonfire and the screams of the injured. But these preceeding hours of quietude always seem as memorable as the carnage that follows.

Welcome to Seattle Washington, as dawn rises on Tuesday, November 30, 1999, and about five hundred members of law enforcement prepared for duty. Sharing their own moments of stillness are about 35,000 protesters plus 15,000 members of organized labor. The police are outnumbered 10 to 1.

The evening before, the forces had aligned themselves into camps. There was the Direct Action Network (a coalition of enviro and human rights groups), which planned to shut down the WTO conference by swarming the streets. There was the AFL-CIO, which planned to hold a rally and parade in an effort to influence national trade policy -- and the upcoming presidential elections. There was the Seattle Police Department, tasked with preventing the protests while allowing the labor parade. There was the camp of outside law enforcement agencies, champing at the bit to enter into the fray -- but as long as the SPD maintained order, they would be forced to sit on the sidelines. And milling around the edges were the Black Blocs, fondling their crowbars and dreaming of chaos.

What would happen next was anybody's guess -- but as old veterans say, no plan of battle survives contact with the opposition.

We present the story of the Battle of Seattle in 20 parts, meant to be read in sequence. Please don't skip ahead; each section builds on important details revealed before.

Index to Series
  1. Plans For Battle
  2. What is Netwar?
  3. Troops Move Into Position
  4. First Skirmishes
  5. The Police Battle Themselves
  6. The Battle Engaged
  7. Labor's U-turn
  8. Terrain of the Battlefield
  9. The Generals Panic
  10. Black Blocs Run Amok
  11. Declaration of Emergency
  12. The Battle Resumes
  13. The Day of the Police Riot
  14. Post-presidential Disorder
  15. Police Hallucinations
  16. Jail Blockade and Release
  17. Police Officials Resign
  18. Aftermath
  19. The Battles Yet to Come

(c) Reuters

Paul de Armond is research director at the Public Good Project, a pro-democracy research, analysis and investigative network. His past reports have dealt with subjects as diverse as right-wing domestic terrorism, internet fraud, community relations, and anti-environmental front groups

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Albion Monitor February 29, 2000 (

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