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by Jennifer Slattery
Most of America was not awake when a SWAT team burst in the front doors of an apartment in Seattle on the morning of July 10, 2012. Four local activists struggled to dress, but, they say, after the agents stormed in, they grabbed them physically.The activists reported that these agents tied their hands at the wrists, while holding automatic rifles poised against them.
Not even a week after Independence Day, the quiet Seattle neighborhood became a showcase, many would say, of the kind of "policing" by redcoats that had inspired The United States' creation originally. Neighbors of the activists spoke to OWS.org:
"The neighbor Natalio Perez heard the attack from downstairs: 'Suddenly we heard the bang of their grenade, and the crashing as police entered the apartment. The crashing and stomping continued for a long time as they tore the place apart.'” OWS.org reported.
This was a full-fledged SWAT raid. The result? The agents secured a black hoodie, a pink scarf, and some apparently very "dangerous" pamphlets.
The activists were released eventually -- after hours of the agents ransacking their apartment. What had led to their arrest? They had participated in the Occupy Movement; they had dared to show solidarity on May Day with a protest that circled the globe; and now they were -- of all things -- , planning a festival with the group Everything for Everyone.
E4E published this statement:
"After the raid, the residents pored over the papers handed them by a detective. One explained: “This warrant says that they were specifically looking for ‘anarchist materials’ — which lays out the political police state nature of this right there. In addition they were looking for specific pieces of clothing supposedly connected with a May First incident."
Vandalism had indeed been caused by several black-clad individuals during a May 1st protest. But there are problems in using items of black clothing in people's closets, to link arrestees with such events. Obviously, everyone wears black. Take a quick check and see if you have a black hoodie in your closet. I do, and I bet most people do as well. While many anarchists wear black, wearing black does not make you an anarchist. And even being an anarchist does not make you a committer of violence.
But the section of the warrant that dealt with the agents seeking First Amendment protected reading material, is far more chilling:
The Kasama Project notes, rightly, of this aspect of the search, "Since when does political writing—even, gasp, radical political philosophy—count as “evidence”? I suppose if you beat someone over the head with a hardback book by Bakunin, that would count as violence.
But last time I checked, pamphlets and unpopular political opinions weren’t against the law."
For a firsthand account, from an Occupy Seattle member who was in the house during the raid, see this interview:
Was the point of the raid in fact to intimidate citizens, make them think twice about using their right to assemble and give voice to their grievances? The carefully-worded statement from the Seattle Police Department on their own blotter suggests that this is indeed what lies ahead and what motivated the violence these activists underwent:
"There may be more search warrants in the future...The May Day investigation continues."
There is no reason, other than to stoke fear, trepidation, and usurp even the notion of dissent, to include the threat of future warrants, SWAT teams, grenades, and invasions into our homes while we sleep.
If we as a people allow this to continue, who will someday stand up for us?
:: photo of room allegedly ransacked by police courtesy of publici.com, via Creative Commons license ::
Jennifer Slattery is a former Private Investigator from NYC, an Occupier, and life-long Human Rights Activist. You can read more of her work at the Corporation Film's Blog.