2000 — the year in review:
Code word for protest
The name “Seattle,” with no further explanation needed, was practically code last year for the type of violent and costly confrontation that could cost a police chief his job — as in, “We want to avoid another Seattle.” So with that in mind, many law enforcement agencies in 2000 looked at what that department did wrong to formulate their own, more effective strategies as protests erupted in every region of the country over issues ranging from national politics to the return to Cuba of a 6-year-old refugee to the continued operation of the controversial School of the Americas.
In the West:
Los Angeles police in riot gear used rubber bullets and pepper gas to herd demonstrators back toward a designated protest area after a confrontation broke out during the Democratic National Convention in mid-August. Hundreds of mostly young people began pelting police with bits of concrete, steel balls fired from slingshots, and other projectiles. According to Comdr. David Kalish, police moved in when some demonstrators began tossing metal bars, setting posters on fire and scaling a 14-foot chain link fence authorities thought would give way. There were four reported injuries to protesters and six arrests. But the overall total of arrests grew to an estimated 200 as the altercation sparked a police-brutality protest later that week, and protests from other groups, including animal rights activists and a group that protested Vice President Al Gore’s ties to an oil company with plans to drill on Indian land.
Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was praised by municipal officials after demonstrations on Nov. 30 to commemorate the World Trade Organization riots of 1999 resulted in far less violence and far fewer arrests and injuries. In all, 142 arrests were made, compared with 600 the previous year; police used tear gas in two incidents, and just two complaints of police brutality were lodged. Kerlikowske successfully negotiated with protesters for peace when a skirmish broke out at about 8 p.m. The crowd quickly swelled to 2,000, with angry protesters surrounding a squad car and taunting authorities. Police Capt. Ron Mochizuki was seriously injured when a protester threw an object that hit him in the eye.
In the Midwest:
Protesters toppled barricades and broke windows on Nov. 17 during a demonstration in Cincinnati against international trade agreements. After a peaceful procession by an estimated 300 to 400 protesters, some demonstrators broke off and staged an impromptu march away from the assigned parade route. They came up against mounted police. Three windows were broken, possibly with ball bearings fired by slingshot. Six people were arrested and three were charged with rioting
Police made up one of two crowds of demonstrators who converged near the Antioch College campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, on April 29 to protest the invitation by students of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal to speak via audiotape at graduation. Abu-Jamal was found guilty in 1981 of murdering Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. Hundreds of the death-row inmate’s supporters crowded a lecture hall to discuss his selection as a speaker.
Hennepin County and Minnesota officials were distressed by the expenditure of $1.5 million on security at the International Society for Animal Genetics conference held in July. Fearing the type of violence that broke out in Seattle in 1999, officials deployed an unparalleled police presence. However, only a hundred or so protesters rallied on July 24, marching toward Loring Park as at least 200 onlookers watched the activity. They clashed with police in riot gear, who used pepper spray and batons. Police had been called in from all over the area, including St. Paul and the state Department of Public Safety.
In the Northeast:
The whole world was watching, and by and large, it liked what it saw in Washington, D.C., last year. Chief Charles Ramsey received international praise for the Metropolitan Police Department’s handling of some 10,000 protesters who flooded the city in April to try and halt a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Police strategy included conducting pre-dawn raids on activists’ warehouses, which prevented demonstrators from using common building materials to erect nearly impenetrable barriers in the streets. Hundreds were also arrested during a spontaneous rally the day before the main marches were to begin. Ramsey and Assistant Chief Terrance W. Gainer worked to keep officers from becoming too aggressive. “It was a great thing that they understood what we were doing and they had the discipline,” he said. More than 1,200 protesters were arrested, with Ramsey and Gainer walking the lines between police and protesters themselves. Officers used batons and pepper spray to clear sidewalks and streets when protesters refused to move. In the end, the rally ended peacefully. Four-hundred activists allowed themselves to be arrested without incident.
In Philadelphia, violent protests surrounding the Republican National Convention, resulted in the hospitalization of three police officers and the arrest of 300 demonstrators in August. Among those injured was Police Commissioner John Timoney, who had his bicycle used against him as a weapon when he and another officer were confronted by protesters at an intersection. About 2,000 demonstrators took to the streets near the convention hotels on Aug. 1, lobbing stink bombs at police and trying to trip them with piano wire. Protesters also overturned trash bins, spray-painted obscenities and graffiti denouncing the death penalty on City Hall, slashed tires on police vehicles and dumped orange paint on some. After being hit by protesters, police fought back with batons and pepper spray. A cadre of 100 bicycle-mounted officers pushed those in the areas with the most violent activity back into a small grassy area. They also arrived with gas masks and pepper spray when more than 500 demonstrators moved on to City Hall.
Sixteen arrests were made on Oct. 3 after an estimated 4,000 protesters gathered around the University of Massachusetts in Boston for the first of three presidential debates. The event drew local police and state troopers out in full force as demonstrators railed over a number of issues, including abortion rights and the exclusion of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader from the debate.
In the South:
Cuban-Americans took to the streets in April, knocking aside police barricades, burning tires and overturning dumpsters to protest the removal of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives by federal agents in a pre-dawn raid. At least 200 arrests were made and three officers were injured when a man beat them with a baseball bat. A state trooper was also hurt in a motorcycle accident.
A crowd of nearly 15,000, including clergy and college students, gathered outside Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., on Nov. 18 for the annual protest against the Army’s School of the Americas. Earlier this year, the school’s name was changed to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. It has been a target of protests since 1989 because of its links to human rights violations in Latin America. On March 10, nine people, including a nun and two retired ministers, were convicted of trespassing on the base during a 1997 rally. They face six months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine.