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A ‘Battle of Seattle’ veteran reflects

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Letter to the Editor

Editor's Note: This piece was written in response to an article published by The Daily on Nov. 15 titled "On its 20th anniversary, what the WTO protests taught us about capitalism, civil disobedience, and the SPD."

Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper now admits in the clearest possible language that he was wrong, and solely responsible for giving the order to gas and brutalize protesters who were simply exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.

I was one of them. Our only "crime" was showing up in numbers far larger than cubicle-dwelling bean counters had anticipated. I still recall the feeling of tear gas in my lungs, the shock through my body of being hit with a rubber bullet one inch from my genitals.

And you know what? I would have gone through that pain a thousand times for what we stood for that day: fair wages instead of a global race to the bottom, a future where Earth's creatures and national sovereignty weighs more than unrestrained corporate profits.

So Mr. Norm Stamper's belated mea culpas, his public breastbeating two decades after the fact is fine source material for some history book, but what actual amends ever happened to heal the wounds caused by Stamper's decision to unleash hell on teenagers dressed like sea turtles?

I filed a claim against the City of Seattle and passed out official city claim forms to scores of other injured persons in the weeks after the Battle of Seattle. But I received no response from the city. None of my friends did, either.

Has everybody arrested that day seen their criminal record expunged? Who, but perhaps a tiny few, was ever actually compensated for damages and injuries? Perhaps a new Seattle City Council might look into this and, after two decades, the books might finally be balanced with "truth and reconciliation." Personally, I would be happy with nothing more than an apology on letterhead bond paper, in a nice frame.

But I would like to add a few words in defense of Stamper, sort of. Stamper wasn't as important a factor as his bleating belated apologies would lead readers to believe. From the perspective of the streets, what I saw was the vast majority of those police officers were only too happy to let loose.

I hope that 20 years later these same police officers can understand the damage caused by unfettered globalization and, like Norm Stamper, their hearts have changed.

John Hoffman

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