Friday, November 02, 2007

Protestors Promise to "Shut Down" Tacoma's City Center

Next Friday, November 9th, several loosely-organized groups plan to stage a protest regarding the Northwest Detention Center in the Tacoma Tideflats. Beginning around 11:00 a.m. in Tollefson Plaza, activities are expected to continue through the next day (Saturday). Although the official protest will occur at S. 17th and Pacific Ave. as permitted for this activity, information distributed by some groups participating in the event promote “other forms of protest and resistance [to] start when ever and where ever those who plan them decide"--often a code for disruptive, even violent behavior. Some of the groups involved in this activity may have been involved in the protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization a few years ago.

"We plan on shutting down the downtown area of Tacoma to send a very clear message that will be heard by the powers that be, that we do not want this detention facility anywhere near us and our communities,” information posted by protest organizers states. "We plan on sending a very visible, clear message by not allowing business as usual to happen on these days.”

A rumor has begun making the rounds that merchants and others downtown should close for the day and board up windows--this is decidedly not the case. What is recommended by Tacoma Police and other security professionals is for stakeholders to be especially aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious happenings to Tacoma Police at (253) 798-4721 or the BIA at (253) 383-1131. Stakeholders should also report any suspicious items that may be laying around--such as lumber, pipes (especially pipes with bolts inside), chains, or weapons; protest preparation may be hidden downtown up to a week in advance of the scheduled activities.

TPD specifically asks that loose items such as sandwich boards, signs, tables and chairs, be put away during Friday and Saturday to alleviate any opportunity for destruction.


  1. Paul, this post could have informed locals about the issue of the federal detention center being in their own back yard. The post instead made the issue about the "threat" of protesters who are portrayed as being diametrically opposed to the interests of the BIA.

    Paul, there is a great deal of frustration today with the federal government with regards to civil rights. The government has been totally unresponsive to pleas to not remove critical protections to individual citizens such as the right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, Habeas Corpus, and the right to challenge your own detention with legal counsel. Such rights are what this nation were founded on and they are being chipped away at an increasing rate.

    The protesters want there to be local discussion of this issue. I think that they have no intention of starting a conflict with local business owners, but I don't doubt that the federal building will receive some form of civil disobedience.

    Citizens have tried every other avenue of voicing their concerns to try to get the federal government to change its ways. Officials have been lobbied, the government has been sued, elections have been held, but still no progress. When the government takes actions against its own people in the face of civil and human rights, one course of action is to inform the locals about what is taking place and then to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience.

    I share your concern about safety. I hope that they come with informational fliers and not with bricks. However, this is an issue that our community needs to discuss. Further, protesters and the act of protesting should not be painted with a single stroke.

  2. Chris

    You say "the protesters want there to be local discussion of this issue."

    Have protestors asked local businesses, property owners, residents, and city officials for input about an event that promotes itself by calling to "shut down" downtown Tacoma? Have protestors asked locals about the direct economic impact that closing down small businesses would have on the citizens in the area or about the economic impact on the City of Tacoma for the additional security required for this event?

    You say that the protestors are exercising their right to "engage in nonviolent civil disobedience."

    However statements like the following taken from the protestor website are demanding and sound vaguely threatening:

    "Downtown Will NOT have business as usual! We plan on shutting down the downtown area of Tacoma to send a very clear message that will be heard by the powers that be."

    I lived in Berkeley during the seventies and witnessed on television the devastation done in downtown Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization riots. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that the protest website invitation to “radicals” and statements like “the rest of down town will be open to diverse and creative tactics!” is code to some individuals looking for a free pass to create chaos.

    According to Wikipedia many of the WTO protestors in Seattle “were more interested in taking direct action including both civil disobedience and acts of vandalism and property destruction to disrupt the meeting.”

    Additional Seattle WTO riots facts cited by Wikipedia:

    • “The damage to commercial businesses from vandalism and lost sales has been estimated at $20 million.”

    • …”Black-clad anarchists (in a formation known as a black bloc) began smashing windows and decorating storefronts, beginning with Fox's Gem Shop. This produced some of the most famous and controversial images of the protests. This set off a chain-reaction of sorts, with additional protesters pushing dumpsters into the middle of intersections and lighting them on fire, police vehicles turned-over, non-black-blockers joining in the property destruction, and a general disruption of all commercial activity in downtown Seattle.”

    • “The long-term impacts on WTO policies remain decidedly unclear, and it is an open question whether the WTO's actions since that time have been influenced significantly by these events.”

  3. oooh noooos call in the national guard!

  4. Just noticed a Metro Townhome sign was tagged with the Anarchist "A" symbol at 21st and Yakima Ave. And the derelict building at 21st and G Street has tagging that says "F_ck the Law" around a Tacoma Cares sign and the words "Class War" on the side of the building.

  5. Laura-

    The economic impact is beside the point. Issues of human and civil rights transcend economic concerns - public or private. The detention center is in Tacoma, so it makes sense to protest in Tacoma, near the detention center, in an area where people are bound to see the demonstrations.

    We cannot fall into the trap of fear and anger when it comes to protesters. Those two emotions cloud our judgment and impair our rationality. Tacoma is so much better than that. We must show the protesters that Tacomans are not afraid - rather, that we are an open and courteous people that do not suppress contentious points of view. I think that we are strong enough to listen to what our fellow Americans have to say, to think about their ideas on their merits, and then to respond in an appropriate manner.

  6. Chris Karnes must think it alright for someone to break into his/her home, then demand the same rights and privileges that Chris' family members receive.

    After all - the "undocumented visitor" is there now - and they're entitled to the same rights and privleges as everyone else who belongs there legally, right?