For the past few weeks, rumors about a Capitol Hill protest planned for Saturday, April 20 have been spinning out of control. Police heard that violent anarchists from Portland planned to travel up I-5 to plant car bombs on Broadway, alongside Seattle Central Community College, the site of the day's events. In turn, anti-capitalist activists--who had planned a teach-in, a "Reclaim the Streets" party, and a few marches for Saturday--heard that cops would block off a large chunk of Capitol Hill and use heavy-handed tactics to clamp down on the event.

The rumors caused a chain reaction: The police were so worried about Saturday that they sent a letter to SCCC President Charles Mitchell outlining their concerns. Mitchell decided to close the school that day, saying he was worried about the safety of students and faculty who weren't participating in the day's events ["In Other News," Amy Jenniges, April 11]. The activists scrambled to find a new site for the teach-in, which was scheduled to take place inside the school, while trying to guess how much pepper spray they would encounter on Saturday, and whether everyone should wear masks.

But police and activists hadn't exactly checked in with each other to compare notes--until Monday night, that is.

Fed up with the back-and-forth rumors she was hearing, outgoing Capitol Hill Community Council President Ann Donovan took matters into her own hands and invited about two dozen people to her home on Monday, April 15, to discuss the upcoming Saturday protest. Taking seats around her living room, Mitchell, two police officers, two student activists, representatives of the city council and the mayor's office, and a handful of other folks spent two hours going over the details.

The meeting was unprecedented: Activists and cops hadn't formally met to find common ground before previous large protests. This lack of communication has been a problem--Seattle has a history of protests turned bad, like 1999's WTO, 2000's WTO anniversary, and last year's "Reclaim the Streets" party, all of which ended with mass arrests and clouds of pepper spray.

This time things were done differently.

At Monday night's meeting, police and activists dispelled the troubling rumors. West Precinct Captain Mike Sanford said the police did not tell nearby businesses or SCCC to close--instead, they sent a letter last month with a specific request that the college's first floor and parking garage be secured. The streets around the south end of the campus, including Pine and parts of Broadway and Harvard, will be closed to parking.

Two student activists stressed that their plans were nonviolent. They haven't heard any plans for bombs or property damage, and don't expect any.

After hearing the new information, President Mitchell announced that he would partially reopen SCCC and let the teach-in happen at the Student Activity Center, across from the main building, which will stay closed. The parking garage will be open.

Activists then asked the police what they should expect on Saturday when people take to the streets at 4:00 p.m. for a street party--unpermitted and illegal.

"If you don't get a permit, we'll expect people to stay on the sidewalk," Sanford replied. "We have no interest in interfering with people's right to free speech. [But] whatever laws the mayor and council put in place, we're responsible to enforce them."

The day before the event, police and activists plan to meet again with a mediator to discuss further details, and potentially identify a street party site that would have minimal impact on the neighborhood and streets.

Police and activists also agreed to appoint liaisons for Saturday, to improve communication and possibly avoid major problems.

"Sometimes problems are averted by a quick phone call," Sanford said.