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Monday, December 1, 2008

From The Mailbag - WTO 9th Anniversary

Clips from a video by Paul Richmond of the WTO protest showing an officer pull a protester's head up by the hair and then pepper-spraying him at point-blank range in the face.

Received an email yesterday from attorney Paul Richmond reminding me that it, yesterday, was the ninth anniversary of the WTO protests in Seattle. Attorney Richmond, for those who don't know, is an area lawyer who gives presentations on how to videotape police activities at protests and was a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) during the WTO protests who is now contemplating a run for congress in 2010.

Along with his reminder he's put up some previously unreleased footage he captured from the WTO protests. In one video he shows the police launching tear gas at protesters long before any cases of property damage, that was often cited as the reason for the gassing, had occurred.

Then, in another video, he shows officers spraying canisters of pepper spray directly into the faces of seated protesters at point-blank range after pulling their heads up by their hair to get a clean shot at their eyes.

While such footage he shared can be disturbing, some of the most egregious abuses came later where cameras couldn't see it and where lawyers couldn't document it, in the King County Jail. Here there were reports of people being strapped to a restraint chair, nicknamed "The Devil's Chair" by jail officers, to have their eyes swabbed with chemical spray as a means of punishment and stories of protesters forcibly stripped in their cells for complaining about conditions.

Just as what happened to protesters at the DNC in St. Paul, Minnesota showed that police tactics haven't improved much since then, the jails have both shown that the same holds true for them as well.

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