The Conscience of the King
Terra Lawson-Remer, Interviewed by Jim Desyllas (posted 12-7-99)
  • "What's happening here is that the power of the state is at the service of the corporate agenda. We did not agree with the ideas [of] the people who are running the World Trade Organization and so they put us in jail and gave us pretty bad treatment...[But] the real problem here is not how they're treating us, but that [we] shouldn't be here, no matter how [we're] being treated. That' something that the political machinery of Seattle can make happen. " (Terra Lawson-Remer in The Conscience of the King.)

Terra Lawson-Remer is one of the coordinators of STARC, a new, nationwide student group. Formed just last April, STARC is pressing for Universities to move their investments to corporations that live up to a whole set of standards, especially those involving environmental and workplace issues. STARC is highly critical of the World Trade Organization. Terra was one of many students and working people arrested Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Seattle. She was in jail 3, almost 4 days. I interviewed her Saturday morning, upon her release> at that time, November 4th, some people were still in jail.


Jim: Why were you arrested?

Terra: For exercising my first amendment rights. We were marching and protesting against the World Trade Organization, Wednesday morning. The police confronted us and set up a line and told us all to sit down. Then they came in on horses, tried to create a confrontation. We peacefully stood up and left. We went to another space, a public square, formed a big circle. There we were reminding ourselves to be non-violent and chanting about non-violence, at which point the police surrounded us and started arresting people. When folks tried to leave they arrested them as well. This was in a little park that's on 4th and Pine I think, or 4th and Pike.

Jim: Was that part of the demonstration-free zone?

Terra: I'm assuming it was but we had no idea that it was at the time. We were told that the curfew was lifted at 7:30 so we came down then to try to NOT break the curfew, and we had no idea if it even was a non-protest zone.

Jim: How many people were arrested there?

Terra: Over 150 at that time. Altogether over 700.

Jim: Were there any people maced or gassed?

Terra: Not at my site. But there were about three mass arrests during the day, on Wednesday. And in the one in the afternoon, the police told them to stop marching and to go in the other direction and then the police started throwing tear gas at them so they turned and went in the other direction and when they did the police told them to stop and go in the other direction, so they turned around, listened to the police again, at which point they had gotten close to Pike's Place Market and the police threw gas canisters in the market and arrested all the protesters.

Jim: We've heard word of people being put in isolation. Is that true?

Terra: Yes it is definitely true. They are trying to single out people they think are these leaders, who've been vocal, asking for lawyers or more resistant in demanding our rights; they've been put in something called the [in audible], which means they have no contact with anyone else.

After we were [first] arrested we were kept on this bus for hours. We finally actually made it to the jail at 3:30 in the morning - Thursday morning. We were put in a cell that was just a concrete floor and benches for probably 12 hours, maybe more. It was really cold. And they wouldn't give us any blankets because they said you only got blankets if you got sent upstairs. But they seemed to never do that. And finally towards afternoon [some of us] got sent upstairs and locked-down, two people to a cell. That lasted about 16 hours. They said we were there [in lock-down] because the protesters outside were a threat to the jail. [Lock-down is like a punishment, for instance, you] don't have phones.

What they were trying to do was divide us from [our supporters outside.] They've really been trying to divide all of us from each, treat people differently, offer people different deals, get us to cave in on our rights. And we have to understand that what's happening here is that the power of the state is at the service of the corporate agenda. Corporate control was what we were the targets of. We were in prison because we did not agree with the ideas being forth by the people who are running the World Trade Organization and the people who are running basically corporate America and we thought that their priorities are wrong so they put us in jail and they gave us really pretty bad treatment.

Jim: Were people allowed to go to the bathroom or make a phone call or anything like that?

Terra: It's been so sporadic. When we were on the buses for 14 hours, before we were processed, [we] had no bathroom, no food. Then once we were in the cells there was one public toilet for 30 of us, set out in the middle of the room. Phone access has been very sporadic. Sometimes they just cut off the phones and we [would] never find out why. There's very little information.

Basically the charges just need to be dropped. It's ridiculous. People want to go out but they don't want to leave the people who are inside because we know that if folks leave and the mass of people inside is reduced then all that will be left is leadership who will become targets.

Jim: Have any people been abused or tortured?

Terra: Well, at different points I think. In my cells there wasn't. My friend who came into our cell later, she had been in jail for almost 48 hours and hadn’t had access to an attorney. She refused to leave her cell until she saw a lawyer. So they dragged her out of her cell by her hair.

Jim: What's her name?

Terra: She doesn't want her name to be made public. A lot of people are remaining anonymous, they are going by WTO Jane because that way they can't isolate the leadership.

Jim: How many people are still in jail right now?

Terra: A least 250 , we don't really know. There were about 700 of us arrested altogether. Most of them have attempted to stay in jail, some have been forcibly removed. I'd estimate closer to 350 or 400 but at least 250.

Jim: How did they treat you in the cell.

Terra: The food is terrible - the real problem is the lack of information. They don't let us have access to what we need. Basically they [the prison staff] are really upset in there, they don't know what's going on. They've never seen so many people who are just trying to be in solidarity with each other. So they're really confused. It's not the individual guards so much as the system.

We know the real issue is not the guards but the political machine outside. The DA has every ability to drop every single charge against every protester now. The guards don't have that ability. The DA needs to do that. And until he does that our rights will continue to be violated.

Jim: Was your charge a misdemeanor or a felony?

Terra: I was charged with a misdemeanor but a lot of folks who were charged with felonies - they were trumped up charges. One woman was charged with a felony for having her friend's wallet in her backpack. Another girl was charged with aiding or abetting vandalism because she had a cell phone and she was following people who were breaking windows to get them to stop.

Jim: Have most people seen a lawyer yet?

Terra: Most have but it's been very sporadic. One girl I spoke to had been in jail for almost 48 hours and hadn’t had access to an attorney. That's completely unconstitutional. But the real problem here is not how they're treating us, that's not at all the issue. Because honestly, a jail's a jail and they're going to treat you bad. That's what prison is. And that's something we should work on reforming. But what we really need to focus on is that the protesters shouldn't be in here, no matter how they're being treated, they shouldn't be here. And that's something the Seattle political machinery of Seattle can make happen.

Right now I have a court appearance scheduled. I have to go to court in a couple of weeks. I had to make bail of $380 for doing nothing, basically. And that's pure political intimidation.

*** END ***

Many who witnessed events in Seattle were shocked by the systematic inaccuracy of media reporting. Is this kind of disinformation an exception, or are other areas, affecting the Global interests of big corporations, misreported as well?

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