I live at city hall. The first thing I do every morning is read the mayor's newspaper in his waiting room on the 7th floor. This morning, the lead story concerned the US Justice department ripping the Seattle Police department a new one for its use of excessive force. They were particularly hard on Chief of Police John Diaz who was actively defending his department.
Ever see a picture in a newspaper and look up to see that person standing in front of you? Chief Diaz came right out of the elevator and went in to a meeting with the Mayor.
Afterwards, they both emerged from McGinn's office and stood there talking in front of me. God knows what inspired me to butt my ugly head into a conversation between the Mayor and the Chief of Police, but I walked right up to introduce myself. I thanked Mayor McGinn for making our site at City Hall the most successful and long-lived in America. He said he was waiting for someone to notice that.
Diaz saw this happen, an open and trusting relationship between the mayor and an occupier, so I took advantage of the moment. I told Chief Diaz that I was from the Hempfest and used to working with the police to put on protest events. I offered myself as a liaison between himself and the movement, making it very clear that I was taking this action unilaterally, without approval from the general assembly, but I was deliberately disobeying the rule not to talk to police because we need a dialogue going. I was very clear I was speaking only for myself, not FOR the movement, but simply as a member OF the movement. He agreed and asked for my contact information.
I searched for a pen. He searched for a pen. Mayor McGinn told me to just give my information to his secretary and she would send it on.
Cool. When Chief Diaz got back to his office, there was an email waiting for him from the Mayor saying if he ever had any problems with the Occupy Movement, give Michael Dare a call. Hilarious. I'm not holding my breath.
In any case, Mayor McGinn was more than pleased to see such an exchange, and renewed his commitment to working with those in the movement willing to work with instead of against the system. He agreed to sit down later to discuss the future of the movement and how we can work together to further both of our goals.
Like it or not, Occupy Seattle now has a liaison with the Mayor's office and the Police Department.
I posted this information to an Occupy group and someone responded with this... "If you talk to a cop and he beats you then you are a hero. If you talk to a cop and both you and the cop are civil and even discuss your different opinions.... Well then you're just a snitch and a traitor! But good for you!"
Let me clarify what I believe a "liaison" does by inventing a fantasy situation.
Let's say we're gathered somewhere surrounded by police. We are quite rationally fearful of getting pepper-sprayed or worse, so we prepare for a clash.
The liaison walks up to the police and says "Hi guys, what's up? Why are you here? What are we doing wrong?"
The police say "It's the candle."
The liaison says "What?"
The police say "You can't have an open flame."
The liaison says "You've got to be kidding me. You're not here to suppress free speech?"
The police say "You can have as much free speech as you want. What you can't have is an open flame."
The liaison says "So if we blow out that candle, you'll go away?"
The police say "Yep."
The liaison walks back to the Occupy gathering and says "All they care about is the candle. Blow out the candle and the cops will go away."
The liaison is stared at in disbelief. Somebody takes it upon themselves to blow out the candle just to see what will happen. The cops go away.
Voila. Incident averted. A peaceful protest is allowed to continue because somebody talked to the police.
This is obviously over-simplified but you get the idea. Sometimes mis-communication is the only problem. The police don't know what we're doing so they are naturally fearful of entering the situation. Their entire training has to do with how to handle unstable situations. As for being a "snitch," sometimes, literally, all the police need to know is what we're doing.
Once again, let's say we're gathered in a park. The police are there prepared for anything because they don't know what we're going to do. Somebody goes up to them and says "We're marching from here to the Federal building for a short rally, then returning here."
The police have an INSTANT change of tactics. Knowing where we're going and what route we're taking, the police move in front of us to CLEAR THE ROUTE. Suddenly, they're working FOR us to make sure nobody gets hurt.
Okay, this tactic wouldn't have worked at the docks where we were clearly breaking the law, but there have been other situations where all we were doing was exhibiting free speech. In those situations, violence can have be completely averted by simply informing the police ahead of time where we're marching,
As a liaison, obviously I know a lot of things I'm not telling the police, like where marijuana grow rooms are situated in Seattle, or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. (In one of the grow rooms.) But if I tell the police "We're going to be meeting here at this time and marching to there at that time," does that make me a police informant? Not any more than Vivian McPeak is a police informant when he tells the Seattle Police department that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be gathering in Myrtle Edwards Park in an open act of civil disobedience in protest against the War on Drugs.
Hempfest is the world's largest peaceful protest rally. In a city park. With the co-operation of the Mayor and Police. This is a city that lets Hempfest happen. This is a city that will let the Occupy movement happen. All you've got to do is talk to them.