Now that was a protest: Two new views of 1999 WTO riots on Capitol Hill

There were legitimate causes at play in the streets of Capitol Hill Friday night. But there was also a man in a rubber superhero outfit giving a press conference after the big show. We’re OK with that. The real deal when tension becomes aggression is a violent, scary and dangerous experience. Here are two new views of what the protest in the streets looked like during the 1999 WTO riots on Capitol Hill.

First, David Hanagan posted this reality TV version of footage he shot during one night of the protest late last year to YouTube. It’s the first time we’ve seen this particular piece. Action appears to be taking place on Pine.

Much of the historical attention lavished on the events of WTO Week in Seattle during the past decade has been focused on the turmoil downtown. But for many of us who lived in Seattle at the time, the Seattle Police Department’s paramilitary invasion of Capitol Hill on the date in focus here still stands out as vividly as the previous day’s downtown melée.

The SPD’s November 30 tear-gas free-for-all and December 1 mass arrests were already appalling enough as the 7 p.m.-to-dawn curfew imposed downtown began that evening. But when the SPD began following a large group of protesters out of the so-called “no-protest zone” and up Denny Way towards the Hill, it would soon lead to a new outrage: the spectacle of riot-clad police and camo-clad National Guardsmen, brandishing tear gas, flash bombs, and rubber bullets, running amok in the heart of the most densely populated West Coast urban neighborhood north of San Francisco.


For more on what happened on the Hill in 1991, see our WTO 10 years later series:

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3 thoughts on “Now that was a protest: Two new views of 1999 WTO riots on Capitol Hill

  1. You didn’t inform me of your plans to repost this video. I wish that you had so I could have made clear that this video is not an accurate representation of the events of that night. I posted this video to demonstrate the lengths to which commercial (or noncommercial) media willingly reshape a news story to fit their agenda. Another producer used the same footage to tell a very different story. The link for that segment is here:

    Only by watching both, does one gather how ably an editor can freely shape the text and subtext of a story. And here we are, with daily news updates about protests dislodging entire governments (or sparking violent crackdowns) in the Middle East. I can only hope that we are savvy enough in our media consumption to think critically about the images and stories we are exposed to.

  2. You should include the gist of your comment in the description of the youtube video so people will understand your reasons for posting.

    When you say you they reshaped the story, are you referring to the use of your interview clips at the end making it sound like you were blaming the crowd? If not, what are you referring to? It’s obviously sensationalized, but I’m just curious what you felt was misrepresented.

  3. Here’s a better link. It’s a Youtube playlist.
    (concluding with my irreverent remix)

    What’s missing from the Real TV segment is that the crowd was not composed of WTO protestors, but residents of the neighborhood, upset by the police presence, and the fact that the violence you see onscreen was initiated by the police. The narration during the video is, “Explosions suddenly rock the night, when a series of grenades are thrown into the crowd.” There’s a very deliberate omission with this wording. Should someone unfamiliar with the WTO protests see this, they may be left wondering who threw the grenades. The alternate video makes it very clear by providing a picture of the buildup to the actual confrontation.

    All to be expected frankly, I’m just fascinated at how this footage I shot turned into a chance to really dissect the choices made by two media producers coming at it from very different angles.