By Sebastian Garrett Singh of Fifth Avenue Seattle:
Last year a handful of activists put downtown Seattle in the national limelight as smoke rose from the federal courthouse, and windows were smashed at Niketown, banks, and storefronts. On April 25, Puget Sound Anarchists, released a statement regarding FBI agents visiting activists. FAS has spoken with the FBI on these visits, and learned how they’re planning for May Day 2013 as well as prep being taken by the Downtown Seattle Association, SPD, and activists.
“They’ve [FBI agents] visited a number of houses and The Evergreen State College looking for various people. Sometimes they’ve named names; other times they’ve just made their presence known and gone away. We have no firm indication that they are attempting to serve subpoenas,” reads the statement by PSA. Looking into the reason behind the visits, FAS spoke with Regional Coordinator for the FBI, Ayn Sanolo Dietrich. Dietrich tells FAS she “cannot say definitively” whether the visits are related to May Day activities as FBI agents are regularly working, and conducting interviews, but explains to FAS how the feds work with local law enforcement.
Dietrich says when the FBI works events such as May Day they “assess potential threats…share information” as well as spend time ”tracking leads.” Dietrich says this can involve conducting interviews, and if things get out of hand during an event calling in “a force multiplier.” The FBI also works in facilitating interstate logistics when a crime leaves local jurisdiction, but the FBI during large events will work more to augment local police efforts.
The FBI will operate “behind the scenes,” Dietrich said of May Day 2013. “Every major event we support law enforcement.” She adds there is “no particular preparation” of note the FBI is taking for Seattle’s May Day 2013. Though no noteworthy prep is being taken by the FBI, this year, the Downtown Seattle Association is taking precautions as they pilot an alert notice program called EventTrac.
EventTrac “is a joint effort between SPD and DSA,” James Sido, Public Relations for DSA said. Sido explains EventTrac will work by having staffers “at the command center for SPD,” relaying info back to their public relations, who will then disseminate “real time status” updates to downtown businesses on their email list.
“Communication is such a key component to keeping the public safe and being able to get messages out in real-time will give us a tremendous advantage over those who are looking to cause damage,” said Metropolitan Improvement District Safety Services Manager, Dave Willard in a DSA statement. Communication last year among police was lacking as cited in an independent report of SPD’s actions during 2012 May Day. In an interview with Kiro 7, new interim police chief, Jim Pugel says SPD is not looking for a repeat, and that communication will be key.
“We have one commander this year with very clear lines of communication. He will be in command. Once he gets his plan complete, we are going to go over it and make sure and be very clear in our messaging, not internally only, but externally as well, about what is expected and what will not be tolerated.”
While SPD preps for May Day, what activists are doing is less clear. Last year the writing was on the walls about May Day action, as planning, and graffiti lined the city, but this year activists are keeping a lot more quiet.
“We will converge together in solidarity with our comrades facing repression from last year’s May 1 demonstrations and also to continue to stand against the oppression of our everyday lives in all forms, from the borders to the prisons and from bosses to the police,” reads a Facebook events page for May Day 2013. Starting at 6pm at Seattle Central Community College, the event says, “there will be a rally and a march.”
Seemingly the most public of notices regarding activists May Day action, it is unclear what will unfurl itself May 1. If windows will be smashed this year will have to wait until May 1 to be answered, but local businesses and law enforcement aren’t waiting to find out.