On June 2, roughly 700 people gathered in downtown Seattle to protest outside the annual conference of the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit (LEIU). The LEIU claims to be devoted to monitoring criminal activity, but it spies on and monitors the legal activities of activists, and provides intelligence information to police departments throughout the country. It also claims to be a private organization in order to avoid the stricter regulations on police and government agencies, yet the LEIU is funded by public tax-dollars.
The demonstration received a permit from city authorities and was peaceful until an undercover cop tackled a protestor out of the blue. Riot police then used the chaos that ensued as a pretext to violently attack the crowd with pepper spray, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades. Twelve protestors were arrested, and some were beaten badly by police.
The police violence only increased the demonstrators’ determination to speak out against LEIU surveillance and infringements on democratic rights, which have become increasingly frequent since the onset of the “War on Terror” and the passage of the Patriot Act. Protesters sent the message that they will not let government scare tactics and wars of empire stand as excuses to violate people’s civil liberties.