Out of the wake of the tumultuous 1999 World Trade Organization protests came a shining ray of light when the City of Seattle expunged arrest records and awarded $1 million in a class-action lawsuit to those wrongfully arrested.
Among them was Terrence Kelley, 50, who at the time was working for Quizno’s as a delivery person. In “the Fall of ’99, there was the WTO rebellion, I remember hearing on the news that there had been a huge clash between protesters and police,” said Kelley.
The next day, Kelley “got up really early in the morning before work and went downtown. I remember seeing a lot of boarded-up windows and I basically joined the first protest I saw.”
Kelley and the rest of the protesters were cornered in Westlake Square because police on horseback had blocked off all the exits. Then the police announced that those who wanted to risk arrest could stay in the middle of the square, but those who did not could stand to the side against a wall.
Kelley did not want to risk arrest, but “when they were done, they arrested everyone on the side of the building anyway.” Kelley and others took a ride on a city bus used as a paddy wagon to the county jail. After 24 hours under arrest, most of the arrestees, including Kelley, staged a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment.
“The food they served, if you can call it that, made it easy to go on hunger strike,” said Kelley.
He was released on December 3 while protesters chanted outside. The next day, Kelley went to the Seattle lockup to demand the release of others, where he met Socialist Alternative member Ramy Khalil selling Justice newspaper. Kelley soon joined.
Later, Kelley learned about the class-action lawsuit against the City of Seattle for the unlawful arrests. “In early December of 2007, almost eight years to the day after I was arrested, I received a settlement check for $3,588.22,” said Kelley.
“Most of the revenue raised by the City of Seattle is raised by regressive taxes such as sales tax, which means the working people of Seattle are the ones who pay for most of the money that goes to those who successfully sue the city.”
Kelley did not feel he could justify taking the settlement for personal gain, despite being currently unemployed and living off Social Security.
“I started to think of the most worthwhile organization I could think of, and that was Socialist Alternative,” said Kelley.