I am disgusted, but not surprised, that police agents provocateurs attempted to discredit the peaceful demonstrations at the North American summit last week.
I was at the Seattle WTO meeting in 1999 as an accredited observer, and I followed the events there closely. Although that event is always referred to in the media as "the battle of Seattle" and the epitome of violence, the only violence on the part of the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators was the trashing of a small coffee shop and the breaking of a few store windows by a few "anarchists" who were unknown to any of the legitimate demonstrators. At the time, there was much speculation that they were either agents provocateurs or local hoodlums trying to cause trouble, but there was no proof.
In Seattle, violence on the part of the demonstrators was so hard to find that for hours the TV stations showed a small newspaper vending machine smoldering in a vacant intersection, presumably as a symbol of the non-existent "violence". On the other hand, the police violence was extraordinary. A large contingent of police went to Capitol Hill, a mixed residential and commercial area, and for hours fired tear gas at anyone who moved on the street. They made life miserable for the hundreds of people living in the area. They used so much tear gas there and downtown that they had to send out for more gas from other parts of the USA.
Ever since then, demonstrators have been categorized as violent and as justifying the massive ranks of Darth Vader clad riot police who are always deployed against them. However, demonstrator violence has been very hard to find despite the rough treatment by the police.
I am glad that police provocateurs have at last been unmasked, and I sincerely hope that this revelation will cause police all over the world to rethink their practice of provoking violence to discredit peaceful demonstrations. The dozens of peaceful demonstrations against war and the global corporate agenda have often involved hundreds of thousands of people, but all the peaceful demonstrations together have done less total damage than the average soccer riot.
I hope that in the future peaceful demonstrations will be treated by the government and the media as what they are - the peaceful assembly of large numbers of concerned citizens expressing legitimate and widely held points of view. Peaceful demonstrators deserve to be praised and heeded, not falsely portrayed as agents of violent irrationality.