This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has had his goofy moments in office, but he’s done nothing to deserve having his windows shattered with rocks while his wife and children were home Tuesday night.
The timing of the vandalism – the evening after McGinn’s effective response to violent May Day demonstrations – suggests that the perps were soulmates of the thugs who hijacked the otherwise peaceful protests in downtown Seattle.
These black-clad “anarchists” are typically emotionally stunted bullies with anger issues; they haven’t a clue about the way change happens and public opinion works. They’re lean on moral courage, too: On Tuesday – as on occasions past – they concealed themselves in black clothing, hid among legitimate demonstrators, rushed out to attack property and people, then fled back into crowds.
Some assaulted a television cameraman, presumably because his coverage might have identified them. It’s all about anonymous violence. No one will confuse these guys with Martin Luther King Jr. leading the march through the streets of Birmingham, Ala.
McGinn and the Seattle Police Department did a superb job of handling them. The department tracked chatter on anarchist websites prior to the demonstrations; when the day arrived, officers turned out in force and decisively confiscated crowbars, heavy flagpoles, hammers, rocks – anything that could be used as a weapon.
During the WTO protests of 1999, in contrast, Mayor Paul Schell initially let protesters seize control of downtown Seattle, setting the stage for riots and a police crackdown that sometimes flew out of control itself.
The rowdiness and vandalism downtown can be seen as part of the way the game is played. Some protesters throw physical tantrums; that’s always been the case when passions run high. The thugs’ tantrums undermine whatever cause they think they are supporting, so the actions carry their own punishment. And nobody was seriously injured.
But throwing the rocks through McGinn’s windows wasn’t petty malicious mischief or outlaw street theater. It was a way of telling the mayor, “We know where you live, and we know where your family lives.” It was an act of intimidation. As McGinn and his wife no doubt recognized, the rocks could as easily have been fire bombs.
Like it or lump it, McGinn is the mayor chosen by Seattle’s voters. An attempt to threaten him and his family personally – especially for his public decisions – amounts to an attack on the city he represents and the democratic process itself.
The anarchists keep edging closer to entry-level terrorism. Occupy Seattle and other nonviolent dissenters would be wise to out them to police, whenever possible, while the public can still tell the good guys from the bad guys.