Origins of the Molotov Myth
The New York Times printed an erroneous article that stated that protesters at the 1999 WTO convention in Seattle threw Molotov cocktails. (The protest was later dubbed the "Battle in Seattle").
Two days later the New York Times printed a correction, but the original error persisted in later accounts in the mainstream media.
See the New York Times retraction: (bottom of the page)
Correction: June 6, 2000, Tuesday An article on Sunday about plans for protests in Detroit and in Windsor, Ontario, against an inter-American meeting being held in Windsor through today referred incorrectly to the protests last November at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. The Seattle protests were primarily peaceful. The authorities there said that any objects thrown were aimed at property, not people. No protesters were accused of throwing objects, including rocks and Molotov cocktails, at delegates or the police.
Seattle City Council Investigation
The Seattle City Council investigated the Molotov cocktail and
bomb myths later in Sept. 2000 and concluded that the "Molotov
cocktails and sale of flammables from a supermarket had no basis in
SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL findings:
"The level of panic among police
is evident from radio communication and from their inflated crowd
estimates, which exceed the numbers shown on news videotapes. ARC
investigators found the rumors of "Molotov cocktails" and sale of
flammables from a supermarket had no basis in fact. But, rumors were
important in contributing to the police sense of being besieged and
in considerable danger."
Many rumors are transmitted over police communications during chaotic
incidents that have no basis in fact.
The Myth Persists in the Mainstream Media
The Star Tribune of Saint Paul, MN erroneously parroted this myth in a 2007
article that also stated Molotov cocktails had been thrown in the Seattle
protests in 1999. They used this unproven claim to warn Minnesotans
that this is what they should expect from protesters at the Republican
National Convention in the Fall of 2008:
They too issued a statement in their corrections and
clarifications section when it was brought to their attention.
Their clarification is linked below:
Although the Tribune opted to leave the matter up in the air, the Seattle City council and New York Times did not. Attempts to ask the Star Tribune what credible sources still contended that these events took place were denied comment.
The Myth of Protest Violence
By David Graeber, The Nation. Posted August 26, 2004.
It is a little-known fact that no one at an anti-globalization protest
in the United States has ever thrown a Molotov cocktail. Nor is there
reason to believe global justice activists have planted bombs, pelted
cops with bags of excrement or ripped up sidewalks to pummel them with
chunks of concrete, thrown acid in policemen's faces or shot at them
with wrist-rockets or water pistols full of urine or bleach.
Certainly, none has ever been arrested for doing so. Yet somehow,
every time there is a major mobilization, police and government
officials begin warning the public that this is exactly what they
should expect. Every one of these claims was broached in discussions
of the protests against the Summit of the Americas in Miami in
November and used to justify extreme police tactics, and we can expect
to hear them again approaching the Republican convention in New York.
When a few months later New York Times reporter Nichole Christian,
apparently relying on police sources in Detroit, claimed that Seattle
demonstrators had "hurled Molotov cocktails, rocks and excrement at
delegates and police officers," the Times had to run a retraction,
admitting that Seattle authorities confirmed no objects had been
thrown at human beings.
WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 protest activity. (2008, April 7). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:37, April 10, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=WTO_Ministerial_Conference_of_1999_protest_activity&oldid=203924817
- New York Times Police Brace For Protests In Windsor And Detroit
- SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL findings: http://www.cityofseattle.net/wtocommittee/arcfinal.pdf
- The Myth of Protest Violence By David Graeber, The Nation. http://www.alternet.org/election04/19676/
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