My work was kind enough to let me call in and take a personal day today, and I spent the entire day at the “Day of” protest in front of the Federal Building in downtown Seattle. I’m home now — tired and footsore, but very happy.

I’d been considering seeing if I could take the day off since I first started hearing about the various protests planned for the first day of the war, and after watching the news reports last night, decided to see if I could do it. I called work at about ten this morning, and while my manager wasn’t available, the day shift leader assured me that if I didn’t hear back with a call asking me to come in, I’d be okay to take the day off. After waiting around the apartment until noon to be sure everything was okay, I headed out the door and started walking down the hill.

Chemical scare at the Quest building

As I passed Seventh Avenue, I realized that I could see emergency lights flashing a few blocks down, so I went ahead and took a detour. Turns out that the Quest building across the street from the downtown Barnes and Noble had received some sort of “suspicious letter,” and hazmat teams were in the process of checking the building out. This is something like the seventh chemical scare in the past week for Seattle, as I found out while watching the King5 newsfeed last night — they’ve all turned out to be hoaxes so far, so the authorities are assuming that it may be some sort of protest action, though as yet, there’s no definite word.

Protest at the Federal Building

When I got to the Federal Building at about 12:30pm or so, there were already a good hundred fifty or so people gathered, and the number grew and grew as the day went on. I spent the majority of the next eight hours here, mingling with the crowd, talking with people, listening to public speakers, getting a pocketful of flyers and literature from various groups, and (of course) taking a ton of pictures.
The Westlake Center protest joins us

By the time 5pm rolled around — the ‘official’ start to the protest — the group at the Federal Building was easily a good few hundred strong. As it turns out, though, there was another much larger protest going on concurrently a few blocks away at the Westlake Center Plaza, and at 5pm, that entire group marched down to join our group at the Federal Building. Suddenly the gathered throngs swelled by what felt like an order of magnitude. I’m no good at estimating crowd numbers, but 1500-2000 wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

During the march to Westlake Center and back

At seven, the march portion of today’s protest started, and we all went on a round trip through downtown, marching from the Federal Building at 2nd and Marion, up Marion to 4th Ave., down 4th to Pine, then back to 2nd and back down to the Federal Building. Chants and slogans filled the air, along with honks and cries of support from commuters sitting in their cars watching us all pass by, and waves from people in officebuilding windows along the way.

More protest schedules and details can be found at the following websites: The Emergency Response Network | No War Against Iraq Coalition of Washington | Green Party of Washington State | Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War (SNOW) | Not In Our Name Seattle | Church Council of Greater Seattle After the march, there were a few more speakers, then the day’s protest was ‘officially’ called to a halt, though I expect there will be some people camped out there all night long until tomorrow’s protests start. I’m guessing that tomorrow’s protests will be even larger than today’s were — as it’s a Friday, fewer college students will have classes, more people may be able to escape work, and there is a planned student walkout scheduled for noon. I’ll need to go into work tomorrow (while I’d love to participate again, I can only afford to miss so many days of work), but I may be able to join in again this weekend.

All in all, an excellent day. No problems at any point from what I could see, either. While there was a definite police presence, noone was foolish enough to do anything to cause any difficulties, and the assembled officers got to have a day to just stand around and watch the protesters. There were a few moments towards the end of the night that I was afraid might boil over — there was a large contingent of riot troops out acting as crowd control, and not all the protesters were entirely eager to clear the streets after the march so that traffic could resume moving through downtown — but if anyone did anything more than grumble, it didn’t happen anywhere near where I could see it, nor did I hear rumors of anything from anyone else.

All 79 of the pictures I took today have been posted in the family photo gallery. I’ll work on more descriptive names bit by bit, but at least the pics are there now.