The Seattle police turn into the Keystone Cops when they are confronted with anything that's not a textbook situation. A couple of years ago, there was a homeless town loonie who was well-known for walking around with a samurai sword, which he always kept in a sheath at his side. One day, he went a little further over the edge and pulled it out and started waving it around at passersby near Pike's Place Market, which is the big tourist attraction. The police cleared everybody out the area, shut down the roads in a ten square block area in the middle of downtown, and thirty policemen spent the next eight hours trying to figure out how to take him into custody. After many failed plans, such as shooting bean bags at him and trying to capture him in a net, they ended up spraying a firehose on him and knocking him over with a ladder. It was a complete joke.
I can't believe I'm saying this, but sometimes the police are just too nice, which seems to be the case for the WTO conference. The city of Seattle has known about the protests for a while now (the most recent issue of 'Z' magazine had a cover that said "Come to Seattle to protest on November 30th!"), and the police have stated for a couple of weeks that they intend to have a "hands-off" policy towards protestors. I agree with the policy, but publicizing it weeks beforehand didn't do much to discourage the protests. They pretty much let the protestors know that they could get away with just about anything without repercussion. It's no surprise that the protestors would try to find out just how far they could go. What fun is a protest unless you piss somebody off?
Rimpy (reporting from Seattle)