Ten years ago, protesters at the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle overwhelmed local preparations and local police. The clash between the 40,000 protesters and the police resulted in a police panic and a conflict known as the Battle of Seattle.
The Seattle News carries the story that the protesters rioted one day (Nov.30), and the police rioted the next day (Dec.1). The Seattle News said,
Despite months of planning, city and conference officials confessed they were unprepared for the costly protest violence and, by inference, that police intelligence had failed them. But police sources say City Hall had the threat analysis information it needed and chose to disregard it, enacting a less dependable, stand-back plan.
Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper was forced to resign over his police force's use of chemical weapons (tear gas) on the protesters. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell lost his re-election over the insufficient preparations for the WTO meeting.
According to this BBC correspondent's eyewitness report, police had engaged peaceful protestors who were gridlocking streets. At the moment that the police were completely engaged, the "black anoraked anarchists came into play". Police were unable to stop the rioters from smashing windows and damaging property.
I think the most interesting read is the Seattle Police Department's After-Action Report, including this--
According to Appendix C and D of the After Action Report, Seattle had 1200 police officers, and roughly 650 officers from local mutual-aid police departments, for a total of 1850 state and local police. Estimates of protesters have been as high as 40,000.In retrospect, SPD commanders put their faith in historical precedent – the Seattle tradition of peaceful protest – in assessing the needs for policing the WTO event. While we needed to think about a new paradigm of disruptive protest, we relied on our knowledge of past demonstrations, concluding that the “worst case” would not occur here.
...In summary, the Department’s planning assumptions and analysis
underestimated the capability of criminally disruptive forces.
My purpose in writing is not to be a Cassandra, predicting woe and misfortune. But I'd like to repeat some police staffing numbers I've presented before, and ask some questions.
According to the Beaver County Times, as of August 9th there are 900 Pittsburgh police officers, and 1800 officers committed from other local departments. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper hopes to bring his force up to 4000 police.
In Chicago 1968, an overwhelmed police force rioted.
In Seattle 1999, an overwhelmed police force rioted.
What happens when an under-prepared and under-staffed police force is challenged by overwhelming numbers of protesters, some of whom are malefactors with criminal intent? The police will draw their weapons and defend themselves. I would too. But it ends up with a body count. That body count is attributable to inadequate prior preparation, and there's usually a politician responsible for that.
Police presence for G-20 meetings in the last year:
- Italy had 15,000 police
- London had 10,000 police
- Pittsburgh hopes to have 4,000 police
Here's my questions:
Why is Pittsburgh police staffing so low for the G-20?
And a few follow-up questions:
- What branch/level of government is responsible for security in the streets of Pittsburgh - not within the closed inner circle, but in the protest areas? Is it the City, the County, the State?
- Who is the politician responsible for security in the streets outside of the central perimiter? Is it Luke, Onorato, Rendell, or the Attorney General?
- Who made the decision to invite/accept the G-20 in Pittsburgh?
- Tell me again - why are we doing this?