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November 26, 2014 - December 3, 2014

Public Opposition

Riots broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, this week following the grand-jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Other cities joined in to protest the decision, and although thousands marched peacefully in Seattle, some clashed with police and briefly forced the closure of Interstate 5 through downtown. Nevertheless, the overall restraint of both protestors and police in Seattle was a relief to those who remember the city's 1999 WTO protests.

Fifteen years ago this week, Seattle hosted the World Trade Organization's Third Ministerial Conference, which brought 135 trade delegates to the city, as well as tens of thousands of activists who condemned the WTO for favoring corporate interests over social and environmental concerns. City officials had assured downtown business owners that the police were well-prepared for any conflicts that might arise. On November 28 several marches and a few small rallies were held downtown, and on November 29 more people gathered together in mostly non-confrontational protests. Then, on November 30, the crowds swelled and all hell broke loose.

Unprepared for the vast numbers of protestors, Seattle police used tear gas and pepper spray to clear some intersections. Undaunted, the crowd of protestors continued to grow, and handfuls of "anarchists" broke windows and sprayed graffiti. By mid-afternoon, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a state of emergency and police began using massive amounts of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other "less lethal munitions" to move protestors, and anyone else -- including news reporters and film crews -- out of downtown. Newsfeeds from the heart of the protest disappeared. Meanwhile, high up above Westlake Center, HistoryLink's" WTO-Cam" silently grabbed a single snapshot of the chaos once a minute and sent it out over the web.

The following day, police enforced a "No Protest Zone" around the WTO meeting, but major confrontations occurred as protestors were forced up Capitol Hill. The crackdown eased on December 2 and peaceful protests proceeded. The WTO conference ended in failure on December 3, due both to disagreements among the delegates and the protests on the streets.

The WTO protests sent shockwaves throughout Seattle that resulted, most notably, in the resignation of Police Chief Norm Stamper and the defeat of Mayor Schell in his 2001 reelection bid. Stamper has since regretted the decisions he made during the "Battle in Seattle" and has spoken out against police militarization, noting that a military response to a domestic situation can "heighten tensions, not de-escalate tension." Fifteen years later, the chaos in Ferguson seems to show those lessons have not been learned.

Trouble at the Mission

In 1836, Dr. Marcus Whitman -- a Presbyterian missionary and physician -- established a mission at Waiilatpu on the Walla Walla River after traveling cross-country with his wife, Narcissa. Whitman's goal was to convert Cayuse Indians to Christianity and to teach them how to farm.

The fleet and far-flung Cayuse, who were master horsemen, evinced little interest in becoming settled farmers or in adopting a new religion. Reinforcement missionaries were sent from the East, including Elkanah and Mary Walker, who settled among the Spokane Indians and created a mission at Tshimikain. Meanwhile, the Whitman Mission became an important rest stop on the Oregon Trail.

The Cayuse resented the increasing number of emigrants passing through their land, but the breaking point came during a measles epidemic in 1847. Whitman tried to help cure the Indians, but they lacked immunity. Over half the tribe died, while many emigrants recovered. Wrongly believing that Whitman had infected them, the Cayuse retaliated on November 29, 1847, killing 14 white settlers and missionaries. The public outrage over the attack led to a war of retaliation against the Cayuse and spurred the creation of Oregon Territory.

News Then, History Now

Time to Depart: No sooner had Yakima City incorporated on December 1, 1883, than its residents learned that the Northern Pacific Railroad would would not stop at their town, but rather at a site farther to the northwest. They uprooted 100 buildings and replanted them four miles away -- right next to the tracks. In 1917, the original town was renamed Union Gap.

Boater's Goodwill: On December 2, 1890, Ilwaco incorporated and became well known as an excellent fishing location and a great place to grow cranberries. As the Columbia River's gateway to the sea, the city is home to the Port of Ilwaco, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard's National Motor Lifeboat School.

Homes on the Hill: Seventy-five years ago this week, on December 3, 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt approved funding for Yesler Terrace, located on Seattle's First Hill. The project -- overseen by the Seattle Housing Authority -- was completed shortly after the nation entered World War II, at which point the SHA focused on providing housing for defense-industry workers and military families.

Built on a Terrace: In 1949 developers eyed logged-over land about 12 miles north of Seattle, just over the Snohomish County line, and began filling it with 640-square-foot cinder-block houses priced at $4,999 and aimed at World War II veterans with young families. Five years later, on November 29, 1954, the quickly growing community incorporated as Mountlake Terrace.

Endings of Eras: Logging and mining were important industries in Washington's early days, but times do change. On November 30, 1995, the Port Gamble sawmill closed, marking the end of the oldest continuously operating sawmill in the country. And on November 27, 2006, the last working coal mine in Washington shut down near Centralia.

Quote of the Week

It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.

                                 --Martin Luther King

Image of the Week

On November 28, 1884, Pasco was established by the Northern Pacific Railroad. Three years later, on December 3, 1887, the first trains crossed the Northern Pacific Bridge between Pasco and Kennewick.

Today in Washington History      RSS Feed

St. Anne's Mission is established on Umatilla River on November 27, 1847.

Port of Sunnyside is formed on November 27, 1964.

Metro bus plunges off Seattle's Aurora Bridge after driver is shot on November 27, 1998.

SuperSonics name Nate McMillan head coach on November 27, 2000.

Last coal mine in Washington closes on November 27, 2006.

New Essays This Week       RSS Feed

Gorton, Slade (b. 1928)

Dedication ceremony marks delivery of first water from Seattle Water Department's Tolt River supply system on December 17, 1962.

Ross F. George and William Hugh Gordon submit a patent application for their new ink "Lettering Pen" on October 22, 1914.

President Ronald Reagan delivers a hotly debated statement about Hanford while campaigning for Senator Slade Gorton in Spokane on October 31, 1986.

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