Mayor Schell advises Seattle business owners on October 29, 1999, of plans to handle protests during the upcoming WTO meeting.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/15/2000
  • Essay 2137
See Additional Media

On October 29, 1999, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell (1937-2014) writes an eight-page letter to Seattle business owners explaining the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meeting planned to occur from November 30 to December 3, 1999. The letter describes the WTO, Seattle's role in hosting the meeting, and the impacts to downtown businesses of the event, which will be attended by more than 6,000 people from 135 countries.

A History of Level-Headed Expression

Mayor Schell writes, in part, "Seattle has a long history of level-headed citizen expression and demonstrations. As the City did prior to the APEC conference, we have been meeting regularly with protesting organizations to support their right to free speech and help them organize their demonstrations in a peaceful and effective manner."

The mayor's letter included the following information:

  • A description of an AFL-CIO march from the Seattle Center to downtown on November 30.
  • An invitation to groups interested in staging protests to join the City in planning for permits and protester areas.
  • A list of WTO events.
  • Transit and parking information.

What About Security?

The letter asked: What about security and safety during the WTO? The answer was:

"We expect everything to flow peacefully during the event, but we are fully prepared to respond to emerging situations if need be. Also, just in case there is an increase in political graffiti, Seattle Public Utilities' Graffiti Rangers will make extra efforts to remove graffiti from public property downtown during the week. They encourage property owners to be prepared to remove graffiti from private property quickly, because ignoring graffiti only attracts more. Being prepared could include having on hand paint, paint remover, a brush or roller, and clean-up rags."

Mike Dolan, deputy director of Global Trade Watch, a group protesting the WTO, later told The Seattle Times:

"Every single meeting I had with the police, I made it very clear that there were lots of groups coming to Seattle, many of which I wouldn't have any control over. The police told us they would actually wait until the cameras were rolling to film arrests to allow for the choreography of the confrontation to unfold in a dramatic way. We sat in the City Council chambers and at the Labor Temple and they told us, 'We've done this so many times' and regaled us with stories of peaceful arrests and easy street actions."

Nothing to Worry About

At a briefing for police, Assistant Chief Ed Joiner told officers, "No, there's nothing to worry about. It won't be violent" (Post-Intelligencer). A police consultant recommended that $100,000 be spent to purchase tear gas and other crowd control agents, but this was cut to $20,000.


Mayor Paul Schell to Seattle Business Owners, October 29, 1999, HistoryLink Office, Joshua Green Building, 1425 4th Avenue, Seattle; Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 4, 1999, p. A-7; The Seattle Times, December 1, 1999, p. A-14.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You