Tear Gas on Broadway !!!!!!By Wil Forbis
(I had to just quickly jam this out this morning so it's bit haphazard. More should be coming.)
Last night I decided to walk home, traveling from Seattle's Queen Anne to Capitol Hill by traveling on one side of the curfew zone. As I approached Broadway, the main drag of Capital Hill, I could smell this foul, putrid smell. Was it tear gas being fired off by the police? No, actually it was simply this hippie encampment of protestors whom hadn't showered in days. I'm not lying when I say it smelled like a farm.
However a few more blocks up and I could smell the gas. It really does smell and taste like hot pepper. By the time I reached Broadway, my eyes were completely teared and I felt like I'd swallowed a whole shaker of pepper. Tons of protesters were milling about, most wearing something over their mouths and it really was a mellow sort of chaos. You could hear canisters going off about three blocks down Broadway, by the community college. Suddenly people started hastening their way down Broadway, away from the Police. People started running and a mildly attractive hippie chick said (quite intelligently) "Don't Run, Don't start a panic!" She was a credit to her social category.
Suddenly the tear gas was going off 20-30 feet away from me, though I still couldn't see any cops. People were running and yelling to others to get off of Broadway. I found this little alcove between the Noah's Bagels and Sea-First bank and stood there with about 10 other people. There was a bum still standing on Broadway, yelling at the protestors ("Go home, This is My Home, We don't want you here, etc.) Suddenly the police appeared, looking like the the offensive line of a football team. They were all wearing gas masks and their kevlar armor (or whatever the fuck it is) and one of them slammed into that bum knocking him to the ground. (Something I confess I've been wanting to do to the guy for the past three years.)
So some of the people I'm in the alcove with start yelling at the Police, and rightfully so. ("Congratulations you just knocked down an innocent person, He's on your side, etc.") One of the cops looks over at us and then fires a gas canister right at us. We turn and run and it lands about three feet in front of me but doesn't go off. We get about another ten feet away and the things goes off like a grenade - you can feel the air shake and your ears belch at the sound. To the day I die I'll remember that moment - the blast of light, the shock in the air, the barrage of sound. At that moment I was thinking "This is so fucking cool!"
As we retreated in this parking lot behind the Sea-First the cop fired another one off but it was easy to evade though no less loud. (All in all, the gas wasn't too bad - I've had Mexican food that made me cry worse.) It was out of a war film, but completely free of that John Wayne idiot. For once I was the hero, not John Wayne. For once I wouldn't have to hear my mother saying "You're no John Wayne, but I guess you'll do."
(The following I cut-and pasted from an email to my girlfriend. The rest of the night was pretty uneventfull though I... well, why don't you read for yourself...)
Actually, I completely ignored your warning to play it safe and went out again a few minutes later. But as this point everyone in the neighborhood was outside checking things out. The Police got to the end of Broadway, by QFC, and stopped there occasionally firing off gas canisters. Then they came down tenth and me and my neighbors stood in that alcove as they marched past us. It was like that old film "Red Dawn."
Anyway the cops eventually retreated down Broadway and I heard they ended up having a big protest up on the Police station on 12th. But after 10:30 or so my neighborhood was pretty quiet.
While I was out I had my recorder with me and you can hear people yelling and tear gas canisters going off while I occasionally narrate it (I think the best line is when I say “I think even I have to admit that they're not just gassing protesters anymore, but decent Americans, like myself.)*
The whole display of force by the Police does seem unnerving and ominous, but at the same time I couldn’t help but see the power of the internet in a situation like this. If things got crazy anyone with a modicrum of computer knowledge could literally start broadcasting Rodney King like reports from their own home. It was really rather an epiphany for me about the power of the internet. It’s so subversive, I think in 50 years it would be impossible to have a situation like the Khmer Rouge or Nazi occupation and jew gassing go unreported to the rest of the world for very long.
Remember, honey, “Knowledge is Power”
(*I plan to eventually stream that tape from my site (http://www.forbisthemighty.com) so stay tuned. Also, if anyone was around Braodway with a video camera on Dec 1st, and you got some footage I'd be interested in streaming that as well. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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