Like many out there, the images of Occupy protesters facing police officers clad in riot gear brings back to mind the "Battle In Seattle" in 1999 during the World Trade Organization meetings. For some perspective, Grist interviewed the presiding police chief at the time - Norm Stamper - who brings his perspective to the Occupy protests which, as stated before, is an environmental movement.
(This photo was taken in Seattle - but in 1999 or 2011?)
Q. Take us back to 1999 and the first couple of days of the WTO protests in Seattle.
A. We thought we were ready. We had put in 10,000 hours of training. We had sent officers around the country. We had studied what had happened at previous international financial conferences. Monday [the first day of the WTO meeting] comes and goes with a few incidents, with many thousands of protesters on the streets. They're praising us for our friendliness, our restraint ... On Tuesday morning, however, starting at 2 or 2:30 in the morning, we get reports from our officers that large contingents of protesters, some of them holding gas masks, were starting to converge on the downtown area.
When the sun comes up, we get a real sense of how big this demonstration is ... We knew there would be a big crowd, but we had no idea it would number into the tens of thousands ... I remember standing outside the Sheraton and seeing a thin tan line of sheriff's deputies who had been assigned to keep demonstrators out of the parking garage. The Sheraton was key. It was a venue for the WTO conference. Large numbers of conferees were staying there.
We continued to ask people to leave traffic lanes open in case we needed, in the event of an emergency, to get a fire truck or a police car or an aid car in there. Those requests met with rejection. By 9:00, the intersection was completely clogged. The demonstrators had sat down, locked arms, and refused to budge.
The police were hopelessly outnumbered. It looked like we had this huge force, but we had cops only in the hundreds when we needed them in the thousands.
Q: Were you afraid at that moment?
A: I was not feeling physical fear ... I was feeling fear that this entire thing was going to blow up, get out of hand. The anti-global message, which personally I supported, would be lost. The focus would be on the police.
Then I made one of the biggest mistakes of my career.
Please read the rest of the interview HERE.