1999 Seattle WTO Protest - The Human Experience
Raw Footage Interactive Documentary
Take a Walk with Those of us That were Really there.



Compiled by the ACLU:



The Seattle Host Organization (SHO) - rather than the city or federal government - assumes responsibility for planning the conference's meetings and events. The SHO is a "private group" of business and community leaders including Boeing chairman Phil Condit, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, and King County Executive Ron Sims. The SHO is also responsible for raising money.

MARCH 19, 1999

The Public Safety Committee is formed to handle general planning and security details for the conference. The Seattle Police Department (SPD) is the lead agency responsible for all security plans during the conference. Other committee members include: U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); U.S. Department of State (DOS); U.S. Secret Service (SS); Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Washington State Patrol (WSP); King County Sheriff's Office (KCSO); Port of Seattle Police Department (POSPD); Seattle Fire Department (SFD); Bellevue Police Department (BPD); Tukwila Police Department (TPD).

JUNE 1999

While leaders from the Group of Eight industrial nations meet in Cologne, Germany, protesters in Cologne, London and New York stage a synchronized Carnival Against Capitalism. Some 4,000 protesters in London's financial district smash windows, set off smoke bombs and spray-paint graffiti on the Bank of England.

JUNE 18, 1 999

During a demonstration in Eugene, Oregon coinciding with the meeting in Cologne, people roam through Eugene's downtown, throwing rocks through business windows and jumping on cars. Police disperse the crowd with tear gas and make 20 arrests.


Protesters from around the country assemble at "Rukus Camp," a training ground in Marysville, Washington to prepare for non-violent civil disobedience. The event is widely reported in the media.

OCTOBER 1, 1999

WTO Director-General Michael Moore visits Seattle. Small, peaceful demonstrations take place at the Bell Street Pier and the University of Washington.

NOVEMBER 1, 1999

Four Molotov cocktails are thrown through the window of the downtown Gap store early in the morning, setting parts of the interior aflame. Damaged is estimated at $7000 and Mayor Schell refers to the incident five days later as a WTO-related assault.

NOVEMBER 15, 1999

A University of Washington (UW) student climbs the flagpole at the UW's Red Square to unfurl a WTO protest banner; he is immediately arrested.

NOVEMBER 16, 1999

Protesters chain themselves to stairs at WTO headquarters in Geneva as U.S. and Australian agricultural ministers hold separate meetings.

NOVEMBER 26, 1999

A Multi Agency Command Center, coordinating public safety operations for the WTO conference, is activated.



The conference ran from Tuesday, November 29 to Friday, December 3.



Two women are arrested after hanging for approximately 90 minutes from an 1-5 retaining wall near Denny Way and dangling a banner protesting the WTO.




The King County Emergency Operations Center is activated to monitor WTO-related activities.


More than 400 people march downtown from Seattle Central Community College, meeting up with a crowd that has previously gathered near the West Precinct police headquarters. The crowd rallies at Old Navy, the Gap, and Starbucks stores on Pine Street. Police stand guard, some in riot gear, in front of storefront windows.

A group of approximately one dozen demonstrators takes over the vacant Kalberer building at 914 Virginia Street. Utilities are turned off after occupants refuse to allow city officials inside to inspect. Police monitor but do not enter the building. The number of occupants increases throughout the week until the building is vacated on December 2nd.

  (Additional Note not by the ACLU: this building takeover was a simultaneous action meant to open a building for homeless people to take shelter in, an action that has occurred many times in Seattle’s history.)


Near 4:00 a.m.

A Seattle police officer notices a broken hasp on a front door of the Convention Center. The Convention Center stays locked down for a security sweep until 10:30 a.m.

Early Morning

Members of the Rainforest Action Network scale a construction crane on the southeast end of Lake Union and hang a banner protesting the WTO. Six people are arrested.

6:00 a.m.

University of Washington Police arrest two people for climbing smokestacks on campus.

12:00 p.m.

The Sierra Club sponsors a march of 2,000- 3,000 people from environmental, animal

rights, and labor groups through downtown Seattle.

2:30 p.m.

French farmer advocate Jose Bove attends a rally and denounces McDonald's. Despite his pleas for calm, windows are subsequently broken and graffiti painted on the walls of the McDonalds at Third Avenue and Pine Street. Police make some arrests.

Some 50 free trade advocates rally at Mercer Arena in support of the WTO conference.

5:00 p.m.

An estimated 4,000-5,000 people hold hands in protest near the Stadium Exhibition Center, where WTO delegates are attending a reception. The protest, Jubilee 2000, is a church-related event advocating debt relief.


Approximately 600 steelworkers and other labor activists gather at the Hammering Man statue in front of the Seattle Art Museum, then march down First Avenue to join the Exhibition Center event.



7:00 a.m.

Police start arriving at the Paramount Theatre and the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, where they set up a ring of Metro buses and rope off surrounding areas. Protesters have already gathered and thousands more are heading downtown.

7:30 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters gather at Victor Steinbrueck Park and the intersection of Western and Virginia. Marchers from Capitol Hill join this group, which then marches up Pike Street toward the Convention Center. Some protesters lock themselves together.

8:00 a.m.

Demonstrators block the intersection of Sixth Avenue and University Street, linking arms to keep delegates from reaching the Convention Center. Some demonstrators fastened their arms together inside concrete containers.

8:40 a.m.

Protesters march around the Paramount Theatre and Convention Center, knocking down small police barricades. Delegates cannot enter the Paramount to attend opening ceremonies.

9:00 a.m.

Approximately 25,000 union members from 25 states, 50 unions, and 144 countries rally in Memorial Stadium preparing for a noontime march through downtown.

9:30 a.m.

Police face growing crowds of protesters at the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Union Street.

10:00 a.m.

Opening WTO ceremonies are scheduled to begin inside the Paramount, but only a handful of delegates have arrived, forcing a delay of the official proceedings. 

Police move aggressively toward protesters blocking Sixth Avenue and Union Street. They don gas masks and order demonstrators to disperse.

10:04 a.m.

Police fire pepper spray, tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters blocking intersections at Sixth and University and Sixth and Union. Police move an armored truck into Sixth and Union. Some protesters flee but many remain.

11:20 a.m.

Approximately 30 individuals dressed in black are videotaped by a KIRO-TV crew walking around downtown. They break windows at retail businesses and overturn newspaper boxes for about an hour, undisturbed by police.

12:00 p.m.

WTO orgamzers cancel the opening ceremonies. 

The Secret Service decides it is too dangerous to move Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright from their hotels.

Labor groups begin forming outside Memorial Stadium to march downtown.

12:45 p.m.

Governor Gary Locke tells his chief of staff to start preparations for calling up the National Guard.

1:00 p.m.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls Governor Locke and demands that he take action so that the meetings can proceed.

2:15 p.m.

Thousands of labor union members are still marching. Crowd estimates range from 30,000 to 50,000 people.


Seattle Mayor Schell meets with the Governor and other state, city, federal and Seattle police officials. The Mayor decides to declare a state of emergency and ask the Governor to send in the National Guard.


Mayor Schell issues a proclamation of civil emergency.


The Governor, Mayor Schell, King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, and King County Sheriff Dave Reichert hold a news conference. The Mayor announces his state of emergency declaration and his request to deploy the National Guard. He announces a curfew from 7:00 p.m. to daybreak that extends from Interstate 5 to Elliott Bay, and from Denny Way to Yesler Way, encompassing all of downtown Seattle.


Police in riot gear follow protesters up Pine Street to Capitol Hill, where hundreds have gathered. Police try to disperse groups of citizens throughout the evening around Broadway and Pine, firing rubber bullets and tear gas.


The general curfew takes effect.

Governor Locke hosts a reception for WTO delegates with Bill Gates at the Museum of Flight.


People break storefront windows and loot a Starbucks at Sixth Avenue and Stewart Street; police do not stop them.


Police on Capitol Hill set off concussion grenades and tear gas in a crowd of protesters in the street.


Police on Capitol Hill board a bus and leave the area; citizens leave soon after.



1:30 a.m.

President Clinton arrives at Boeing Field.

7:00 a.m.

Police arrest 75 protesters at Denny Park, outside of the "no protest zone."

7:10 a.m.

Mayor Schell reports at a press conference that "downtown is peaceful" and that the city is "establishing a perimeter." Seattle Assistant Police Chief Ed Joiner says that “demonstrations" are not allowed within this area and any protesters found there will be arrested. Chief Stamper says that the perimeter extends from Virginia Street to Seneca Street and from Fourth Avenue to Interstate 5.

7:30 a.m.

Police start arresting 175 demonstrators in Westlake Park. Police arrest 96 more at Westlake Avenue and Lenora Street. Both locations are several blocks away from the Convention Center.


Police order pedestrians to remove all signs, stickers, or buttons expressing anti-WTO sentiments. Officers tell citizens that political messages are not allowed inside the "no protest zone." Signs, leaflets, and cell phones are confiscated, and bags searched without warrants.

9:00 a.m.

Protesters continue to march downtown; arrests continue at Westlake Park.

10:29 a.m.

Police at Westlake are ordered to retreat; arrests suddenly cease.

11:00 a.m.

At a press conference, Mayor Schell acknowledges that non-lethal weapons hurt people and apologizes to innocent citizens who have suffered from them. 

The Mayor announces an emergency order that prohibits the possession, sale, or purchase of gas masks within city limits.

11:30 a.m.

ACLU files lawsuit, seeking a temporary restraining order dissolving the "no protest zone."


President Clinton ends his talk at the Port of Seattle. Governor Locke tells a reporter on live TV he is pleased that order has been restored downtown. He says people should feel safe to go downtown and do their Christmas shopping.


Steelworkers end a march from the Labor Temple to Pier 62.

Near 3:00 p.m.

Seattle City Council Public Safety Committee meets. Council members indicate they have not received copies of Mayoral emergency orders.


President Clinton addresses WTO delegates at the Four Seasons hotel.


Police fire tear gas at protesters near Third Avenue and Pine Street, close to the Pike Place Market.


Police fire pepper spray and tear gas to attempt clear crowds in front of the Pike Place Market.


Police make mass arrests at First Avenue and Broad Street, approximately 19 blocks away from the Convention Center. 

Hundreds of protesters are pushed by police to the entrance of the Pike Place Market. Riot police move in to clear them out with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Time unclear

WTO events for tonight and tomorrow night are cancelled.


U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan denies the ACLU's motion for a temporary restraining order against enforcement of the downtown "no protest zone." Bryan notes that a future court may find the city has violated the Constitution.


The crowd has been driven from the Pike Place Market.

7:00 p.m.

The nighttime curfew takes effect. Police in armored personnel carriers and on horseback and motorcycles move protesters north on Fourth Avenue out of the nighttime curfew zone.


Union leaders open the doors of the Seattle Labor Temple to protesters as a refuge. Police try to enter and take protesters from the building. Ron Judd, Executive Secretary of King County Labor Council, negotiates a standoff: police withdraw and the protesters leave the building.

8:00 p.m.

Demonstrators who have been pushed out of downtown by police and residents of the Capitol Hill neighborhood march up Pine Street and along Broadway for approximately the next 90 minutes.

9:00 p.m.

Police fire pepper spray, tear gas, concussion grenades along Broadway. A crowd of residents and bystanders continues to grow yet remain peaceful throughout the evening, with police firing pepper spray and rubber bullets. Police practices become the focus of crowd discontent.

11:30 p.m.

A crowd begins moving toward Eleventh Avenue and Pine Street, where police form a barrier line. The East Precinct is blockaded by unmarked school buses and officers in riot gear. The "Peacemaker" armored vehicle waits behind a line of armed officers.



12:45 a.m.

Police face off against Capitol Hill residents near the East Precinct headquarters. Police order the crowd to disperse-many people leave, but some remain.

1:40 a.m.

Officers move in on the crowd and fire tear gas and pepper spray as people mill in the street and sing songs.

[Non ACLU comment: I was there. The last song they sang was ‘Silent Night’ before the tear gas happened. It was all quite funny, in a way. Wait for the footage.]

1:45 a.m.

Police fire a heavy volley of tear gas, rubber bullets and concussion grenades to disperse the crowd on Pine.

2:05 a.m.

The front line of police turns and starts to withdraw.

2:25 a.m.

Police regroup to face a small number of people. A loudspeaker warns the people to disperse. When they do not, police fire gas and rubber bullets until the street is clear.

Near 7:00 a.m.

At a news conference, Mayor Schell urges citizens to cooperate with police, reiterates that downtown and Capitol Hill are safe and urges people to visit those neighborhoods to shop. Chief Stamper says that "no protest zone" is an inaccurate term; the city has established a "police perimeter." Assistant Chief Joiner says that every officer should have a fully displayed badge.

11:30 a.m.

Hundreds of protesters march peacefully and with a police escort from Capitol Hill to the Pike Place Market.


After a farmers' rally at the Market, approximately 1000 demonstrators march peacefully from the Market to the King County Jail with a police escort. At the jail, demonstrators hold hands and encircle the building.


Seattle City Council cancels a special meeting to ratify the Mayor's emergency orders.


A crowd continues to gather at the jail, where approximately 500 protesters are in held on WTO-related charges.


Upon hearing reports that attorneys and protest organizers will be allowed to meet with groups of jailed protesters, the jail demonstrators march away toward Capitol Hill.



12:00 p.m.

At a news conference, Mayor Schell says he did not mean to apologize on December 1 for his officers' behavior. 

Hundreds of people gather outside Labor Temple for a final labor march through downtown.


Hundreds gather at the King County Jail, the Westin Hotel, and Denny Park demanding the release of jailed protesters and urging WTO delegates to go home.

Near 10:30 p.m.

The WTO conference ends without setting an agenda for future action.



11:00 a.m.

The Seattle City Council ratifies the Mayor's emergency orders by a 6-3 vote. 

Nearly all of the more than 500 people jailed during the anti-WTO demonstrations have

been released by this morning. Seven people are still being held for investigation of felony charges and 2 for investigation of misdemeanor assault.



Out of 631 total arrests (according to Seattle Police Department) in connection with the

WTO conference, Seattle City Attorney Mark Sidran announces he will drop the charges on about 280 misdemeanor WTO cases, leaving only about 35 cases to be prosecuted. Later, more charges were dropped.



"An Independent Review of the 1999 World Trade Organization Conference Disruptions in Seattle, Washington: A Preliminary Report for the City of Seattle Focusing on Planning and Preparation," RM. McCarthy and Associates, Robert J. Louden, Ph.D., April 2000.

"Areas of Concern in Addressing Contemporary Civil Disorders," International Association of Chiefs of Police, July 1992. 

"The Battle in Seattle," Richard Odenthal, March 16, 2000. 

Brief of ACLU of Northern California in Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humboldt, 211 F.3d 1121(9th Cir. 2000), available at www.aclunc.org/police/pepper-spray-brief.html

"Chemical Cops," Terry J. Allen, In These Times, April 3, 2000. 

City of Seattle WTO planning and post-event assessment documents. 

"Confronting Civil Disturbances," Training Key #426, International Association of Chiefs of Police. 

Eugene Police Department General Orders 

Headwaters Forest Defense v. County of Humboldt, 211 F.3d 1121 (9th Cir. 2000) 

KIRO Television-CBS affiliate, Seattle, Washington 

London Times 

Los Angeles Times 

"Medical Management of Chemical Casualties Handbook," United States Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, Third Edition, August 1999. 

National Organization for Women v. City of San Diego, No. 96-114B (LSP) (S.D. Cal. July 22, 1996) 

New York Times 

"Oleoresin Capsicum: Pepper Spray as a Force Alternative, " National Institute of Justice, Technology Assessment Program, United States Department of Justice, March 1994. 

"Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, " Otto Kerner, Chairman, 1968. 

San Francisco Police Department Crowd Control Manual 

"The Seattle Police Department After Action Report: World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, Seattle, Washington, November 29-December 3, 1999." Seattle Police Department, April 4, 2000. 

Seattle Police Department Dispatch Tapes, Command Five, December 1-2, 1999 

Seattle Police Department Policy and Procedure Manual 

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 

Seattle Times 

Seattle Weekly 

"Shut Down the World Trade Organization, " Direct Action Network newsletter, 1999.


The Stranger 

"Tear Gas-Harassing Agent or Toxic Chemical Weapon?" JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Volume 262, August 4, 1989. 

"Training Key #426 -Confronting Civil Disturbances, " International Association of Chiefs of Police.

  Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission 

"Weekday, " KUOW Public Radio, Seattle, Washington, January 5,2000.

"The World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, November 30, 1999 to December 3, 1999 Draft Final Report, " King County Sheriff's Office, February 2000.


N30 - WTO Conference Day 1
Big Rally and March
Human Rights + Labor Rights Day

About N30
Town Hall
3rd+Union blockade
Looking down 4th Ave
4th+Pike dumpster in the intersection
4th_University lockdown. art n dancin'
5th+Pike banner hang
6th+Pike - stage lockdown. art
6th+Union - lockdown. tear-gassed
6th+University - lockdown. tear-gassed, delegates trapped inside the Hilton
7th+Pine - block party
8th+Seneca - lockdown. pepper sprayed
B-Roll Day
Boren+Pike lockdown. puppets
Boren+Pine lockdown. puppets
Labor Rally n March
Indigenous People's March
Olive+Terry tripod Lockdown
Shame on China
After Dark

D2 - WTO Conference Day 3
Food and Agriculture Day
D3 - WTO Conference Day 4
Corporate Accountability Day

Thanks and praise.

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HOW TO ACCESS FOOTAGE: All original footage, flyers, handouts and articles have been donated to the UW Library, Special Collections. http://content.lib.washington.edu/wtoweb/