It was a pretty sedate group of protesters that showed up at the Russian Consulate yesterday to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin's "repression" of political and free-speech rights in Russia. The action, which was sponsored by the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, drew about 25 well-behaved activists to the neighborhood for a short rally in front of the of Consulate, located at 3726 E. Madison St.
It's unusual for Madison Park to provide the backdrop for a demonstration, though we did play that role a couple years ago when five or ten people showed up here to unfurl a banner in protest of greedy, blood-sucking banks (and this was before Madison Park became the major banking center that it is today). Of course we are not counting the illegitimate political statements that may be the intention of the activist(s) who occasionally lob rocks through the windows of the neighborhood Wells Fargo branch.
As far as we can tell, Madison Park is unusual in having the sovereign territory of a foreign power located within its precincts. There are 38 "accredited consular offices" in the Seattle area, but most of these are the offices of honorary consuls (including one representing, of all places, the Seychelles). It appears that there are just six official consulates in Seattle (Canada, Mexico, Japan, Korea and El Salvador are represented in addition to Russia), and all of these consular offices are located downtown. For that matter, the office of Consulate General of the Russian Federation is also located downtown, in the Westin Building.
What we have here in Madison Park is actually the residence of the Consul General, Andrey K. Yushmanov, who lives in that Madison Street mansion topped by the Russian flag. His 10,000 sq. ft. abode has been described by author Jane Powell Thomas* as "Madison Park's most important home architecturally." The mansion (onetime consulate of the USSR) was built between 1908 and 1910 and is known (to those in the know) as the Hyde House, for the original owner/builder, a mining magnate named Samuel Hyde. This Russian Federation territory takes up 23,640 sq. ft. of Madison Park.
|Russian territory at 37th & E. Madison as seen from Google Earth|
There was no evidence (at least while we were in the vicinity) of any Russian presence at the mansion while the protesters chanted "Putin Nyet!" and "Свобода сейчас!" as passing motorists slowed to see what the commotion was all about. Everything was remarkably subdued and orderly, the demonstrators' chants being interspersed with the occasional honking of car horns---presumably in support, since the protestors were not blocking the street.
In spite of the fact that none of the demonstrators, so far as we know, was from around here, their demeanor was perfectly in line with the laid-back Madison Park vibe---which they obviously had picked up on.
Or perhaps it was just the pouring rain.
[*Madison Park Remembered, by Jane Powell Thomas.]