The protests and street clashes that rocked this usually serene capital in the Pacific Northwest this week have left wounds that city leaders and residents say will not heal soon.
The mayor, the police chief and the prestigious civic panel that spent two years luring the World Trade Organization and its 3,000 delegates to meet here are under fire, at once wearily defending their decisions and apologizing for the round-the-clock havoc that even spread into residential neighborhoods.
Downtown businesses are reeling from vandalism and a week of lost revenue, and residents who were not partaking in the protests against the trade group are incensed that they got caught in a cross-fire of tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
Keith Possee, a gardener at the University of Washington who has lived in Seattle for 15 years and joined a few protests, said residents barely knew that police here owned riot gear and much less expected to see them wearing it on the streets. "It scares me to think that they reacted so militaristic," said Possee, 37, outside a bookstore near downtown. "People here are shocked and overwhelmed to see the city looking like some kind of a war zone."
"How dare they pepper spray us in this neighborhood," said Jamie Lutton, 40, a shopkeeper in Seattle's Capitol Hill, the site of a six-hour standoff between officers and protesters late Thursday that ended in violence. "My customers were shot with rubber bullets. . . . The police are following orders. But who the hell ordered them to shoot pedestrians with tear gas?"
It was not supposed to turn out this way. Seattle's leaders had hoped that hosting the trade conference would give the city a tremendous opportunity to showcase itself to the world as a prosperous symbol of the emerging global economy--home to venerable corporate giants, such as Boeing Co., and new ones, such as Microsoft Corp.
Long a union town with a thriving port, Seattle has been transformed in recent years into a vibrant land of lattes and Web sites. The city also is the headquarters of such fast-growing companies as Starbucks and Amazon.com, drawing striving young professionals by the thousands.
It also has ambitions of becoming one of the preeminent trading capitals of the Pacific, and figured that the WTO visit would help accomplish that goal.
Instead, Seattle wound up with some of the worst civic unrest seen in any large American city in years, forcing officials to call for several hundred National Guard troops and impose the city's first curfew since World War II. Nearly 600 people were arrested in protests condemning the WTO as undemocratic and deaf to consumer and environmental interests. Scores sustained minor injuries.
After a final night of sit-ins and demonstrations, the diverse legion of WTO protesters began filing out of town today. The city, which spent $9 million preparing for the conference, also tried to get back on its feet.
It ended the curfew late Friday, and today it began offering free parking at curbside meters and free public bus rides into its reopened downtown, which is the setting for a weekend holiday festival of music, while merchants made hasty repairs to their damaged storefronts.
But for public officials here, the recriminations from the tumultuous week have just begun, especially for Mayor Paul Schell, a lawyer and former college dean midway through his first term. Schell sounded increasingly exasperated as the week wore on. "If anyone is mad, start with me," he said at one point. "You can vote me out."
At a news conference this morning at the Westlake Center plaza, where he restarted the holiday carousel, Schell said, "We're taking the city back to make Seattle again," urging Christmas shoppers to spend money downtown.
The city council is vowing to launch an extensive review this week of how Schell's administration planned for the conference, as well as how it responded to protesters after street demonstrations erupted into occasional violence.
Some council members say city officials should have better anticipated the size and nature of the protests, because the WTO has provoked uproar whenever it has met. King County Sheriff Dave Reichert also denounced Schell, saying he did not show support for officers on the front lines. And some community leaders are calling for his police chief, Norm Stamper, to resign.
Stamper praised his troops for showing restraint even as they were taunted and pelted with debris. He and others also blame most of the street violence on a small group of young, self-proclaimed anarchists who provoked police and are still holed up in an abandoned building near the edge of downtown. But some officials scoff at that claim, saying some officers plainly lost control of their emotions too often.
Richard McIver, an African American city council member, said three officers pulled him from his car when he tried to drive downtown one recent evening and harassed him even after he produced identification. The local NAACP chapter is demanding answers about that incident.
"They didn't want any conversation," McIver said of the police officers. "And if that happens to me in downtown Seattle, what's going to happen to a 25-year-old black man trying to get to work?"
For many, the WTO protests and the city's tactics to quell them have stirred a kind of civic identity crisis, as residents struggle to reconcile Seattle's relaxed, progressive spirit with images of police clearing streets with tear gas.
Some residents said they do not entirely blame police, because at times protesters ignored officers and even incited them to crackdown. "I'm mad at both sides," said Spencer Dowd, 35, a Capitol Hill resident.
Others said the city seems quite different, and less pleasant, than it did just a week ago. "There is going to be serious discussion about what happened this week for a long time," said Amy Candiotti, a bookstore owner who has lived in Seattle for 15 years. "People haven't made sense of it yet."
Special correspondent Khiota Therrien contributed to this report.
CAPTION: A police officer takes a snapshot of a visitor posing with riot police in downtown Seattle on Friday.