A federal appeals court ruled today that the city of Seattle had the right to block off part of downtown Seattle when the 1999 World Trade Organization protests turned violent...


A federal appeals court ruled today that the city of Seattle had the right to block off part of downtown Seattle when the 1999 World Trade Organization protests turned violent.

But the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of a lower court decision and sent it back for retrial, saying police trying to quell the unrest may have violated some demonstrators’ constitutional rights.

Writing for the majority, Judge Ronald M. Gould said, “While respecting the liberty of protesters, a city must be permitted to act reasonably, within the bounds of the Constitution, to fulfill its responsibilities of providing physical security and the maintenance of order that is required for all of a city’s resident’s and visitors.”

“However,” Gould added, “viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to appellants, in some instances police conduct may have gone too far and infringed on certain individual protesters’ constitutional rights by making the content of their expressed views the test for their entry into the restricted zone.”

In November 1999, some 50,000 protesters swarmed the downtown area. A relatively small number of protesters smashed storefronts and overwhelmed police, who responded with tear gas and mass arrests. Damage totaled about $2.5 million.