Report From the Front
I discovered the Independent Media Center trying to avoid going home alone. That's where I am now, typing e-mail and listening to reports of police brutality being wired in from around town. It's grim, but a very exciting place. It's full of committed people doing really good documentary work and reporting. Their Web site coverage has gotten 500,000 hits so far and it's a week old. Something is starting. They gave me a press pass which made today much easier. As I was going home yesterday they were getting calls that the police were using pepper spray jelly, gas, and bullets on a group of about 800 people walking outside the no protest zone to express outrage over the brutality and reassert their positions on WTO issues. We heard over the Cairo reporter's cell phone "They're shooting everyone!" and screaming. Some of the residents in that area got gas in their apartments. Apparently some police even pepper sprayed a district court judge bicycling home. Black-bottomed helicopters have been circling overhead shining spotlights on the streets, tracking down extra people. Totally out of control.
Today more arrests were made, and there was a big farmers rally downtown. I think the police got in trouble for being crazy hooligans yesterday. When a march of students left the farmer's rally to go through town, the police standoff ended in a resolution that we would be escorted to the courthouse where the arrested people were being held.
We had puppets and a beautiful sunny day and lots of overt pacifism on our side. The police had their PR problem. Everything was great. No one was gassed. We walked up to the courthouse, maybe 1500 of us, chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" to drums. The drummers this week have been essential.
At the courthouse we made a circle all around it and shouted up at the people held in the windows who put up paper signs for us to read and waved down. Then everyone just camped out for the rest of the afternoon and early evening in the entrance of the building, singing and playing drums and dancing around and having discussions. The police were chill. I was running back and forth for the Nation people. The crowd decided to stay until they worked something out about the release of those arrested.
It wasn't just kids, either. A councilman was there, doing negotiation. Lots of community people who were pissed off by the police turned up, as did lots of news people. By 7 pm an agreement had been reached to process everyone tonight, and if not then the sit-in would resume. Those getting out have been coming to the Media Center with stories of being beat up, intimidated, threatened with rape, in one case, tied to a chair, sprayed with pepper spray even after telling the police she had asthma... Doesn't seem good. Lawsuits are being planned and press conferences held. Tomorrow a big march by labor people is planned to protest the police tactics.
Altogether the idea that people could be kept off the streets with chemical weapons seems to have failed dismally. People are proud and angry and continuing to talk about the WTO and issues of sovereignty, environment, workers, biodiversity, agriculture, etc. even if the mainstream news has been trying to make an icon out of the one schmuck kid standing on a burning dumpster throwing trash.