21st Century Police State?

Riot control strategies at this summer’s political conventions
outraged civil libertarians, but they were only part of a
frightening trend among police to pull out all the stops in
stifling citizen dissent.

Seattle
November 30-December 3, 1999
World Trade Organization meeting
o City creates 25-block no-protest zone. o Police rip up signs and
confiscate copies of U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. o
Protesters forced to remove stickers and buttons from their
clothing. o WTO critic Victor Menotti arrested after attempting to
speak to protesters in no-protest zone. o Hundreds arrested after
police riot, shooting rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray. o
Police strap nonviolent protesters into restraint chairs as
punishment for asking to see their lawyers.

Washington, D.C.
April 16-17
International Monetary Fund–World Bank meeting
o Police conduct surveillance on activists and infiltrate meetings
disguised as participants. o Police shut down organizing
headquarters under pretext of fire hazard. o Police confiscate
literature from protesters. o Police conduct mass arrests of more
than 1,000 nonviolent marchers and bystanders.

Windsor, Ontario
June 4-6
Organization of American States meeting
o City council passes temporary ordinance prohibiting people from
wearing gas masks or hoods. o Nearly 600 suspected activists
prevented from crossing the border into Canada. o Protesters
pepper-sprayed after hanging a banner on a fence. o More than 2,300
police mobilized at a cost of $3.34 million. o Seventy-eight
arrested.

Washington, D.C.
June 28
U.S. Supreme Court
The high court upholds a Colorado law that makes it illegal to come
within eight feet of another person on public property for the
purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill, or displaying a sign, or
‘engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling’ without that
person’s permission.

Minneapolis
July 22-26
International Society of Animal Genetics conference
o Police barricade no-protest zone around Hyatt Regency, site of
ISAG meeting. o Police set up surveillance of local activists prior
to conference, sending out letters warning them that they’re being
watched. o City council considers passing ordinance prohibiting
people from wearing gas masks; it is voted down. o Police conduct
random searches of citizens walking through protest area. o Police
use tear gas and pepper spray on protesters after forcing
confrontation at a dead-end street near Loring Park. Eighty are
arrested. o Police raid the home of a local community activist
under the pretext of a drug search. Resident beaten and arrested
for resisting arrest.

Philadelphia
July 31-August 3
Republican National Convention
o City passes ordinance prohibiting people from wearing masks. o
Entire city blocks made off-limits to protesters. o Police spy on
and take photographs at meeting sites around the city.o Police
barricade a warehouse rented by protesters to build puppets. o
Court sets bail at $1 million for Ruckus Society leader John
Sellers.

Los Angeles
August 14-17
Democratic National Convention
o LAPD officers shoot rubber bullets and pepper spray at
concertgoers who refuse to disperse. o Police record license plate
numbers of out-of-state cars at protest headquarters, arrest
protesters for jaywalking, and buzz the building at all hours with
spotlight-shining helicopter. o Estimated cost of police presence:
$10 million (or $500 to $1,000 per protester).

Sources: The Progressive (April and
Aug. 2000), The New Republic (Aug. 28 and Sept. 4, 2000),
Independent Media Center
(indymedia.org).

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