Violent lefty Janette Wenzl prepares to wreak havoc outside Chase Bank at 23rd & Jackson
  • Violent lefty Janette Wenzl prepares to wreak havoc outside Chase Bank at 23rd & Jackson

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Okay, it wasn't exactly violent, and you couldn't really call it an "attack," but a couple dozen members of the Washington Community Action Network and other community groups did peacefully picket outside the Chase Bank branch at 23rd and Jackson in the Central District this afternoon, and I gotta say the response bordered on the absurd.

The fourth in a series of protests aimed at shaming Chase and other big banks into giving up $174 million in out-dated tax breaks at a time of devastating cuts to essential public services, the event generated little press coverage and even less heat, yet somehow managed to draw the kinda oversized show of government force that haunts the black helicopter populated dreams of paranoid teabaggers. Six bike cops and a patrol car were on view, for a total of ten police officers altogether, plus a team of plain-clothed security guards brought in by Chase just for the occasion. The Washington CAN members still outnumbered police and security by about two to one, but the latter had guns and billy clubs and paper spray, while the former only had hand-drawn signs, a bullhorn, and the apparently frightening force of their convictions.

Seattles finest risk life, limb and bicycle in defense of capitalism
  • Seattle's finest risk life, limb and bicycle in defense of capitalism

Still, just to be on the safe side, bank employees locked the front doors promptly at 5PM, an hour before closing, I suppose in an effort to keep customers out of harms way, or perhaps, to keep themselves from being put in the uncomfortable position of having to actually talk to the protesters. These precautions proved a resounding success, preventing even the remote threat of an informed dialectic.

So what explains this bizarre overreaction? I asked Washington CAN organizer Jill Mangaliman if the group had a history of violence, and she said no. "One of our own members was attacked at Chase's Winter Schmooze Fest," she offered, but not the other way around. "We're not a violent group," Mangaliman insisted, and the Google provides no evidence to the contrary.

It was like WTO all over again, except without the violence, without the tear gas and without the protesters
  • It was like WTO all over again, except without the violence, without the tear gas and without the protesters

I'm guessing this melodramatic show of force was a response to Washington CAN's use of the phrase "sneak attack" to describe today's action in their press release, and since they are a bunch of disgruntled lefties fighting for profoundly anti-American things like health care, immigrant rights, and economic justice, well, you never can be too careful. I mean, WTO, and all that.

(Kinda like the time State Attorney General Rob McKenna ordered his offices on "modified lockdown" in response to a post on HA in which I wrote about an upcoming protest that "I don’t particularly want to see any actual violence"—prose McKenna cleverly parsed to mean the exact opposite. When I asked McKenna spokesperson Janelle Guthrie if she could remember the last time a gathering of progressives turned violent, all she could come up with was, of course, "WTO," and oddly, the "May Day riots," apparently reaching all the way back to 1919 and the Wobblies.)

So yeah, I suppose it would be best if progressive bloggers and advocacy groups didn't feel like they had to resort to using provocative words like "attack" in the hope of grabbing a little media attention. But in an era when a handful of angry teabaggers promising "2nd Amendment remedies" can draw a bevy of TV cameras, while a several thousand strong pro-health-care-reform rally at Westlake Park garners absolutely zero press coverage, what's a passionate advocate to do?

The millions of dollars of nonproductive tax breaks going to big, out-of-state banks, could keep tens of thousands of Washington children on the health care rolls, but the editorial page editors at newspapers like the Seattle Times refuse to even broach the subject, instead insisting that the sole solution to our state's budget woes are cuts and only cuts. So children's advocates are reduced to performing stunts, while the big banks spend extra money hiring security to protect their employees from being directly confronted with news of their corporate overseers' cold indifference.

The result being that, because there was no violence, there was no property damage, there were no arrests, and there wasn't even the hint of anger, the only place you're likely to read about today's "sneak attack" is here... and even then, honestly... only because it happened to conveniently take place at a time and location directly only my commute home.