"Emergency Management" in Seattle

by Frank Morales

CovertAction Quarterly, Spring / Summer 2000


On November 13, 1999, the Executive Director of the Chicago-based Emergency Response and Research Institute (ERRI) issued a "worldwide terrorism advisory" The advisory stated that ERRI was "monitoring possible threats concerning an upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting to be held in Seattle, WA at the end of November, and the possibility of anti-capitalist street violence...." Only a few months earlier, the Washington State Military Department had received a request from Mayor, Paul Schell, City of Seattle, "for consequence management resources in support of the World Trade Organization Conference." At that time, the Military Departments Emergency Management Division reported that "most resources identified are beyond the capability of the State and will be forwarded to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be considered by the federal government."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is an "independent" government agency set up to deal with "all types of hazards," including "internal disturbance (strikes, riots)," trains and finances local "emergency operations" offices around the country Its Region 10 office, which covers Washington state, noted in a mid-October publication under the heading of "Terrorism," that while "the World Trade Organization preparation meetings are still progressing at this point in time the security threat at this meeting in Seattle is considered low," although it noted that "some resources are being predeployed, especially those relating to ESF 8, Medical." By November 1, the Seattle protest had been updated to a "security threat." According to the local FEMA office, the protest was designated a 'National Special Security Event' by the National Security Council."

FEMA's Federal Response Plan (FRP), amended Public Law 93-288 (1988), provides legal authority for the federal government to respond to all sorts of "emergencies," including those that are "man-made.", FRP training utilizes 'special extraordinary event exercises" simulating "regional events such as large-scale civil disturbances." The FRP is a work in progress and was last updated in April 1999 in a "Concept of Operations" publication. Back in 1997, a "notice of change" was issued by FEMA. The notice "adds a Terrorism Incident Annex to the Federal Response Plan (FRP), which will be used to implement Presidential Decision Directive 39 (PDD-39)." According to the Terrorism Annex, PDD-39, United States Policy on Counter terrorism, (classified), "discusses crisis management and consequence management," and that while FEMA is to implement a "consequence management" operation, "the FBI as the Federal Lead Agency for crisis management," will manage "predominantly a law enforcement response."

Two weeks before the WTO Conference, the FBI issued its own alert regarding the Seattle protests. It stated that "the threat of violent or destructive criminal activity-to include individual and group acts of civil disturbance-is considered a distinct possibility.

The FBI defines terrorism this way: "The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment of it, in furtherance ~f political or social objectives.'' Understandably the FBI definition makes no mention of moral force.

In the crackdown in Seattle, civil disobedience had become a terrorist threat.


By the time the china began to rattle in Seattle on the morning of December 1, hundreds of highly visible Army National Guard troops from the 81st Infantry Brigade hit the streets. The 81st, which normally trains for combat, "recently requalified in riot-control operations under a Guard-managed training program."

Following Mayor Schell's "Declaration of Civil Emergency," under authority of Seattle's Municipal Code Chapter 10.02, and Governor Gary Lockes "Proclamation of Emergency" calling out the troops, a full-scale "non-lethal" militarized police assault was initiated. Its target: massive nonviolent civil disobedience which had succeeded in making its point. The Guard trained according to National Guard Regulation 50050, Civil Disturbance Control Operations. Their "main mission involved patrolling sidewalks and forcing demonstrators out of a 50-square-block no-protest zone."

In addition to the "unarmed," "civilian soldiers," "more than 160 active duty military personnel" were activated, "including a small number of Special Forces troops.'' The Joint Special Operations Task Force who were present in Seattle are military "counter-terrorist," "crisis management" specialists, designed for rapid deployment both here and abroad. The JSOTF defines terrorism as both a law enforcement and national security threat.

According to CNN, they were in Seattle "largely to provide expertise and assist in coordinating a federal response in the event of a terrorist attack during such a high profile event.''

Special Forces "expertise" was passed on as a "force multiplier" for the police and other state and federal forces directly employed to suppress protest. The Seattle Police Department, working with nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, SWAT commandos, the Washington State Patrol and the King County Sheriff's Department, constituted a sizable force. With the protesters penned in, the police unleashed their media friendly arsenal of "abusable," "non-lethal weapons" which, among other things, "break down the delineation between military and police ,"

"Block by block, officers fired canisters of gas into the crowds with a terrifying boom. Then they shot rubber bullets into the backs of protesters even as they ran away''. A doctor, who was assisting the protesters, stated that "we had reports of many demonstrators winding up with seizures the next day" He stated, "I did see penetration wounds. I did see people bleeding. I did see teeth loss. I did see broken bones. There were children present, there were families present. They were firing upon families, mothers, grandmothers."

During the assault, several local hospitals "were tracking symptoms of patients" who came to their emergency rooms, "to see if there is a pattern that indicates any sign of bio-terrorism," an effort the hospitals had "been working on with the Department of Defense" for several weeks prior to the demonstration."

Perhaps they were advised of the Joint Chiefs' admonition that "non-lethal weapons shall not be required to have a zero-probability of producing fatalities or permanent injuries.'' In any case, at a certain point the police ran out of gas. They met up with a few federal agents at 1900 N. Loop Road, in Casper, Wyoming, the headquarters of Defense Technology Corporation of America. Once there, "six members of the Wyoming Air National Guard lent a hand by flying 3,300 pounds of civilian riot control munitions" back to Seattle. And the war continues.

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