What a week!! What really happened in Seattle at the WTO protests? What will happen now? It's fascinating to watch as new bits of information appear and the entire picture shifts. I am writing this during the weeks after the WTO. How did you feel when you first heard the WTO was coming to Seattle? What did you think when you saw the protests on TV? Were you scared? Confused? Angry? Were you proud to be an American?
I was. Now more than ever.
Reading endless reports, listening to hearings, talking to those that were there and those that were not, everyone has a different take on what happened. Reality is such slippery stuff - as the chaos of change danced and swirled through the streets of Seattle, whose reality was the real one?
This has to be the most completely documented protest in history. Thousands of people had cameras or camcorders, and the press was everywhere. I ran out and got a video camera myself. As the police became more aggressive, the news media (after initially being pretty hostile or pathetic) got more and more interested and also, after being gassed a few times without warning, became less sympathetic to and identified with the police point of view. Early on some newsies would use the term "we" when speaking of police actions. By the end, the police were the police and the protesters were the protesters from much of majority media, although some continue to seriously misrepresent both the WTO and the protesters. NW Cable News and KIRO in particular did a pretty good job covering the unfolding events after Tuesday night with some notable lapses. Reporters from several stations privately told protesters that they had turned in much more inflammatory footage, showing much more police aggression, than hit the air and that they were under pressure from their stations to make the police look good and the protesters look bad.
WHY DID THE POLICE RIOT?
I wonder if we will ever know, or if it is even possible to know, what or who really caused the police to ignore looters and gas and arrest peaceful protesters? The police were definitely frightened and angry. At least some of it may have been the pressure on them to protect Clinton. We now know that Secretary of State Madeline Albright and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno demanded that Governor Locke do whatever was necessary to enable the WTO talks to take place. (Seattle Times: www.seattletimes.com/news/local/html98/prot_19991216.html) The police certainly got more aggressive as Clinton's arrival got closer, and particularly after he arrived.
Three hundred "unarmed" (with rifles) National Guard troops who turned out to be "armed" with sidearms, joined in to "keep the peace" when an emergency was declared Tuesday afternoon. CNN has since repudiated its earlier "Special Forces" report regarding the numbers of military deployed in Seattle for the protests, but it was still online at the time I wrote this at their website at www.cnn.com/1999/US/12/02/wto.05/index.html
Some of what looked to me like a police riot might be explained by the police trying to undermine Police Chief Stamper. He came from outside and was never embraced by the rank and file who felt he could not lead. Seattle Mayor Schell and Stamper resisted pressure from within the police department to have a major army ready for the protesters, so maybe rank and file decided informally to follow the letter of their orders to show Stamper that he doesn't know everything. And then when the police found themselves totally unable to handle the number of demonstrators who showed up, they freaked. Or maybe they got swept up in the excitement of the moment. It has to be a rush for 400 cops to confront thousands of protestors.
(It is beginning to sound as if Stamper provided pathetically poor direction and leadership - so maybe they are correct. Officers report being left in place with no food or bathroom breaks for hours at a time, with calls and pages for direction going unanswered until eventually their walkie-talkies went dead. Local restaurants took over supplying food to the cops on the street. Stamper has now resigned, will Mayor Schell be next?)
Two public hearings have been held by the Seattle City Council to allow citizens to testify, the first at the library Dec. 8th and the second at Seattle Center on Dec. 14th. Each hearing lasted over eight hours with hundreds of people speaking. One woman testified metro bus drivers taking the cops downtown to confront the protesters said the cops were negative toward the protesters and were looking forward to the action against them. Will anyone follow up on this? Will bus drivers be willing to testify after the incident last month when the mayor turned over to the police testimony against police given with the promise of it being kept secret?
Seattle City Council has now put up a WTO Citizen Comments Survey - the information you put in this will be reviewed by "Seattle City Council's WTO Accountability Review Committee. The Committee is responsible for conducting an objective investigation of decisions made up to and during the week of the WTO. Go to www.pan.ci.seattle.wa.us/leg/council/wtosurvey.htm
To join a discussion board regarding the Seattle Protests, go to www.netidea.com/smk/free-earth/seattle/discussion/
From my point of view it looked as if the police were allowing the property damage to have an excuse to really go after the protesters. If you were watching TV, you may have noticed that the same few shots of black clad, masked young men (the Black Block Anarchists?) smashing windows with crowbars, or that one young woman throwing bags of coffee out of the downtown Starbucks. Actual property damage has been greatly exaggerated by the endless repetition of those few shots. That young woman, whose face flashed round the world, has now come forward to be arrested and stated that she knows nothing about the WTO, she was just caught up in the excitement of the moment.
This website has an interesting analysis. Seattle 1-2-3: How to panic a police force www.brasscheck.com/seattle
The initial teargas attacks began when protesters refused to clear an intersection downtown - before a single window was broken or trash can overturned. Rumors abound that at least some of the so-called "violent" elements in the crowd were really agent provocateurs, smashing stuff to make the protestors look bad - to make the larger public feel comfortable with a violent police response. One black clad "anarchist" reported being tackled by two men dressed exactly like "anarchists" who then showed him their badges and said he was under arrest. Will we ever know more about this?
WAS THERE POLICE VANDALISM?
Many instances of "agent provocateur" instigators setting up activists for arrest took place during the Vietnam War protests. A somewhat similar incident happened again just a few years ago in Seattle. In that case the media reported that a group of white supremacists had been arrested while getting ready to bomb a gay dance club on Capitol Hill. A talk show host called the Hayden Lake enclave (which they belonged to) and got Richard Butler, the leader of that group, on the phone. He, of course, denied that his guys were involved in any bombing plans, but then went on to express concern that one of the members of his group had simply disappeared. He was afraid that the cops had harmed him. (I have been unable to find the dates this happened. I was listening to the radio when the talk show called him.)
A few days later it came out that the missing guy was actually an agent provocateur who had gone to the Idaho group, joined it, and provided lots of financial support. He presented himself as an explosives expert, and then suggested that the group should go bomb a gay club in Seattle. He provided the explosives, trained group members in bomb building and detonation, and was the driving force leading this group from talk to action.
Gee, whose idea was that? How was it decided by federal agents to target gays? In the 60's federal agents at least focused on talking people into attempting to bomb closed post offices, when did they decide to focus fringe group dissatisfaction on killing people?
Again, will we ever know if some of the property destruction was done by the gov to turn the public against WTO opponents?
There will undoubtedly be more infiltration in the future as police forces all over the U.S. study what happened in Seattle to better learn to control/stop future protests. What better way to learn of a group's plans than from the inside? Of course most of these groups publish their plans on the internet, so not much infiltration is needed to learn what is planned. Agent provocateurs might again be used to attempt to turn groups violent or destroy them through internal dissent
Speaking of "violence", I would like to encourage everyone to stop using the term "violence" in relation to property damage. The word "violence" needs to be reserved for damage to the living. If you break a window, does the glass feel pain? The demonstrations may have done violence to your ideas and feelings, or at least confused you, but I have a hard time believing that the buildings thought about it much. The vast majority of the violence which took place in Seattle was cops attacking protestors.
Why did the cops freak out? Never underestimate the paranoia of cops. (At least some of which is justified! Does copdom look like a desirable career to you? It has been reported that the feds were telling Seattle cops that they could expect 5-6 deaths within their ranks during the protests.)
By the end there were few really serious injuries that I know of at this time, and not all that much property damage, but enough to get world media attention. (One doctor treating injuries reported broken teeth, concussions, seizures, a broken jaw, many wounds/cuts and damage to eyes. This has not been discussed on TV as far as I know. Look for his report at www.emperors-clothes.com/) Many many people report the police shooting "plastic bullets" at close range, grabbing demonstrators and shooting pepper spray directly into their faces, indiscriminately attacking and/or arresting non-protesters including elderly people who lived in the neighborhood.
We are extremely lucky that the energy swirling through the streets did not unhinge any of the area's armed loonies and bring them downtown with guns blazing. One cop has been reported to have stopped a guard with one of the delegates who was drawing his gun in response to the protesters. My thanks to him. I realize that this might not be a popular position, but in my opinion, most of the time the cops did a pretty OK job. (I use the police riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago 1968 as a contrast.) The Fire Department Chief refused the request from Schell (? rumor) to turn hoses on the demonstrators. My personal thanks to the Seattle Fire Department for that wisdom and compassion.
TRASHING AND SOCIAL CHANGE
I remember very clearly how horrified most of us were when the glass started breaking during the antiwar protests. Business owners could not find enough glass to fix their windows. At the time I joked that the glass manufacturers of America must be the real force behind the revolution because they were making so much money off it. My next great shock was when the gov started paying attention after the glass started breaking.
Before the property destruction we were all seen as a bunch of annoying students and radicals who could be ignored. After, those who opposed property destruction were seen as the responsible leadership of a movement which must be respected.
Everyone hates negativity in political campaigns, but it continues because it works. Until glass breaks, the status quo appears to ignore the voices of protest.
While I never have and never will participate in window smashing, I also oppose any idea or action that might help the gov prosecute those who do. While I think they are naive to believe that most or even many people would be willing, even able, to not have leaders, I believe their action was necessary to attract worldwide media attention and get the conversation going about the WTO. We humans are so obviously some kind of a troop/pack/herd animal, look at how we live. We as a species are in a crisis around not being able to develop/support the leadership we need at this time in history. I do not support trashing. Still, I love the visionary nature of anarchist writing, thinking and living. I admire their determination to create a different world. I respect their energy and dedication. They have chosen a dangerous path for themselves, and as any people who challenge the US gov through actions which can be interpreted as violent, they should consider what the gov did to the Black Panthers and Weather Underground in the 60's and 70's. They all ended up either in prison or dead.
Property damage is shocking, and it creates change, but using it to create change is fraught with peril. In social change there must always be a goal, a target. Taking aim at the target, a problem to solve, an injustice to be righted, we need to assume there will be unintended results. Be careful of what you set into motion. Even if we hit our target perfectly (unlikely), what other uses will that solution be put to? Please keep in mind that every social problem we have today started out as a solution to an earlier problem.
Just look at what the women's movement has brought about. Some really great things, changes in opportunity and consciousness that have shaken the foundations of who we think ourselves to be. But the women's movement I was so much a part of also helped fuel the moral panic our society suffers under now. Their alliance with the religious right in a war on pornography turned into a war on sexuality, and teaching people to see themselves as victims. Rather than leading us all in learning how to take the energy of the pain of being human at this time in history, and beauty, and compassion for all of life, the women's movement has led to an unreal level of anger between women and men. And a moral panic in our society.
An institution created and fueled as a result of that panic hit Wenatchee in the early 90's, with all those people being falsely accused of child sexual abuse. Most are now out of jail but are forever changed. Many parents and children may never see each other again.
Who could have guessed that fighting for the rights of women and children would lead to women and children becoming the victims of the network set up to help them? Hundreds of people have been jailed all over the U.S. as the result of similar false accusations, Thousands of people are in prison, many falsely accused, many hundreds of thousands more from the war on drugs which grew as the moral panic grew. I hope that the experience of protesters who went to jail will turn some of them into prison reform activists.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BOOMERS?
I loved the mix at this gathering! Young and old, labor and environment, many ethnicities, it was great! Many young people have asked me what happened to the social activism of the boomers? Well, it was primarily fueled by the civil rights movement, the draft and the Vietnam war. When the draft ended, the vast majority of the protesters packed up and went on with their lives. They got jobs, had children, bought houses, and went to the mall.
Black led groups such as the Students Non-Violent Coordinating Committee tossed out all the whites as Black Power found its identity. Many of our leaders - the Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Hampton and others were assassinated either by the gov or with their complicity. The gov also spent millions of dollars arresting and trying people on mainly bogus charges around war resistance (they only got one major conviction I know of, the Berrigan Brothers destruction of draft records), but managed to financially break the progressives. We were practically holding cake sales and car washes to pay for the defense on these cases. Keep in mind that the Pentagon Papers case was dismissed with prejudice (meaning it could be tried again) after the Nixon government tried to bribe the judge with a supreme court appointment. Many of the Black Panther leaders were either murdered by the government, ala Fred Hampton, or imprisoned by the hundreds. The gov continues its war on Black men to this day with roughly one in 4 being under the control of law enforcement currently. It kindof wore us down.
Anarchists who have decided to "smash the state" would do well to look at the Panther experience, along with that of the Weather Underground, to see both how seductive aggressive direct action is, and what happens when the gov comes after you.
Weather Underground people who successfully lived underground for ten-twenty years, until they were finally caught or gave themselves up, report that the most annoying thing about hiding out is that you have to become super law-abiding. Not even a little casual jaywalking. Consider having to live every minute of your lives following every little nitpicking regulation to stay out of jail, and also not having the freedom to speak up any longer. A nice quiet life, is that what you want?
And make no mistake about what it would mean to go to prison. Prison is a horror in this empire. When you go to prison, you more or less disappear. To survive you pretty much must join your own ethnic group. Every stamp you get, every piece of paper, every pen... must come from somewhere. The food is horrible. It took me almost nine months to get approval to send vitamin pills into prison to a friend. Another person I know who was in Allentown federal prison when the Watergate felons arrived said they were really glad to have some high class lawbreakers for company because suddenly the food was edible, hot water was available, the press were around to report on conditions and so on. Before the Watergate crowd arrived the inmates had had to sue the administration to force them to stop serving the prisoners old "C" rations which had been declared unfit for human consumption by the military and grabbed by the prison before it hit the landfills.
WINS AND LOSSES
How it looks to me - A few hundred cops and etc. tried to prevent tens of thousands of protesters from stopping maybe 5000 people from having some meetings. The meetings were stopped for the first five hours, at the opening ceremony a protestor got on stage - near the end protesters were able to get a banner up inside the convention center, and the meetings ended without any trade agreements signed and no future plans. The media of the world discussed the WTO and its plans widely. Even the Prez said that the protesters will have to be allowed to become part of the process in future decisions. After a lifetime of radicalism I never imagined such a success. How sweet it is!
"This is what democracy looks like, this is what democracy sounds like" resounded through downtown - I could not agree more. I do not want to dismiss anyone's distress over the forms the expression of democracy took. (Except for the distress of the corporations who didn't get their way with us. I don't consider them persons, even though our courts do, and I hope they lose their personhood soon. If they are distressed by the disruption of their plans, hooray!) Downtown merchants are complaining mightily about their lost $$$ but I wonder if it is really lost? People will still buy for the holidays and maybe in the end it won't be too bad for them. The cops have set up a charity selling T-shirts to help them out.
Their employees took a hit as they did not get paid for the days they lost and I sympathize most with those workers and small businesses who lost income (and with people who were accidentally swept up in the drama with an unwanted outcome). Like the people who disdain union membership and cross picket lines, I hope those employees eventually come to understand that without these protests, their jobs could easily be downgraded to "compete on a level playing field" with jobs in China and Mexico. How many have already lost their health and pension benefits, or seen them cut in the name of corporate profits? I would be extremely surprised if any of the fatcat businesses who had to close for a few days decide to pay employees who missed work. But management, who are on salaries rather than hourly, will they see their pay docked for those days off?
Many protesters are distressed by the police actions, and by both the trashing and the media emphasis on it. The message did get out. The vast majority of the public saw it as a mainly peaceful protest and were horrified by the police response. To the protestors, you have accomplished much much more than you could possibly have imagined. This is what democracy looks like.
BEING THERE NOVEMBER 30TH
There is no precedent for the coalition that came together to protest, and stop, the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments), fast track and now the WTO. All the heavies were here from all the organizations representing the environment, labor, family farmers, communities of faith, social justice, consumers, health, and more. Downtown was a carnival Tuesday until the teargas began hitting, and even during the gassing most of that time. I did not get any video footage of police attacks because I attempted to mainly stay where people were celebrating. What creativity! It was wonderful!
I was there with my sister, Roxie, and when the gassing started we found an open drugstore to buy saline and tissue. We then walked around washing people's eyes who had been gassed and we got lightly gassed ourselves a couple of times. That stuff is nasty! If this is the mild response against protesters, I hope to never experience extreme measures. Once again I discovered that I am a scaredy cat about facing cops. The protesters who held their ground while being tear gassed, and who regrouped again and again, have my undying respect and admiration.
About six pm the word spread that a 7pm curfew had been declared. While my sister and I were deciding what we wanted to do, a pack of young males, ages maybe 14-17, who did not look a bit like protesters, ran past us through the crowd yelling. As a couple of middle-aged women, we decided to walk rapidly in the opposite direction. I hope in retrospect that everyone will be willing to make careful distinctions between peaceful protesters, property damaging anarchists, and casual looters who jumped at the opportunity.
That said, I believe all the groups, individuals, and the actions at the protests played a valuable part in this drama. A world culture is being born - will it serve life, or will it serve money? We each choose in a thousand ways, every day, with our actions and our words, how we live, how we spend our money - what we honor - life or money. We choose leaders, or to become leaders, to create the world we want to live in. Not choosing, like not voting, is supporting having the choice made by others.
Watching the police line advance in their anonymous RoboCop costumes, badge numbers hidden, slapping those long riot clubs against their palms in unison like Darth Vader wannabes masturbating, my sister commented, "Obviously these guys have seen Star Wars, but why of all available roles did they decide to represent the forces of the Dark Star? Don't they remember how the movie ended?"
The protesters were organized into affinity groups of 2-15, which made it much harder for the police to have real control. This may have been another reason the cops went a little nutty, because over time they became more and more aggressive toward whoever was in their way. They are just so accustomed to having people follow their orders. Not that day! Some of the protestors were pretty provocative - I doubt I could just stand there while people spit on me. And some cops did get hurt from thrown rocks and bottles. Maybe cops dressed in $2000 riot outfits could not catch the fast young rowdies, so grabbed whoever was handy. This over time included Richard McIver-a Seattle City Council member, medics wearing big red crosses, reporters, at least one WTO delegate whose papers they threw away, and a lot of people who were trying to avoid arrest.
As it was getting dark, Roxie and I walked up to where we had parked our cars on Capitol Hill (parking was a BIG problem downtown), washing eyes as we went, and took my car to the "Convergence" on Olive and Denny. There we looked for something useful to do. The medical team didn't need any help so we joined the kitchen staff and washed dishes for three hours.
The young people there were great. One couple from Canada, learning we were old 60's rads, asked Roxie, "Were you guys a lot more organized than we are?", causing Roxie and I to almost roll on the floor laughing. These kids are organized! But so serious. I agree with Roxie that after meeting them we older folks can feel more hope for the future of the earth because we will leave it in their good hands. I hope many of them choose to become activists for their whole lives.
One of the most amazing things I saw repeatedly was what looked to me like a graceful equality between men and women, so complete that it appeared to be unremarkable to those practicing it. Over and over I saw young women and young men speaking to the group with megahorns with no tension over who was going to get the horn next. In fact the groups appear close to leaderless, with everyone having a time to speak until consensus is reached.
Doing dishes in that kitchen was pretty strange, it like something out of a medieval castle only more primitive. Hot water came from a big vat on the stove. Bleach was not allowed and there was no place to stack dishes once they were washed. Note for the future - if you ever attend some big counterculture gathering, check out the kitchen before you eat anything. I don't know that anyone got sick, but if they didn't it was more luck than planning.
Speaking of illness, this protest was a major opportunity for some kind of flu that has swept across the country now. The pepper and tear gas made my throat and lungs raw, and I now think it knocked down my immune system because I was coughing by the end of the protests. I have been ill since, about two weeks. Many people are emailing WTO listservs about getting sick as there is some fear that the gov may have used some sort of non-lethal nerve gas against protestors. As far as my own illness goes, it seems like ordinary flu (which I very seldom get) given a boost by damage done to my lungs by the gas.
There is concern that the police may have used a non-lethal nerve gas in some areas as people have reported a completely different set of symptoms completely unlike those from teargas and pepper spray. Will we ever know?
Inside the Convergence we kept hearing that the police had followed protesters up onto Capitol Hill (this was still Tuesday night) and were coming in our direction with more teargas, so at about 11:30pm we decided to leave. Driving back to Roxie's car, we got gassed again even with the windows closed, hopped out and washed more eyes for awhile, and then had to drive way around to avoid the main confrontation to get to her car. (Note for future teargas encounters - have a bottle of saline with a squirt top, first wash area around eyes with eyes closed, then wash eyes. A dry handkerchief to breathe through during the gassing seemed to help lessen effects on nose and throat.)
After walking probably 5-6 miles during the day and being lightly gassed several times, we were exhausted, so went home to watch TV. It was impossible during the day to really know what was happening beyond a few feet. The cops would not allow any news helicopters into the air but the noise from their Navy UH60 Blackhawk was ever present. Only they had an overview of how many people were there and what was happening. I wonder if they filmed? We will probably never know.
Wednesday I awoke with a lot of aching personal reasons to get in bettershape. As I did while running up the hill to get away from the TAC Squad in maybe 1969 or 70, I vow to do a whole lot better from now on. On TV the downtown confrontation between the protesters and the police looked like an involuntary fitness program, and more than I was up to, so I hesitated to go join in.
I could not stay away. About 4pm I went downtown and drove around the edges of the confrontation, trying to decide what to do. Finding my lack the information the previous day unacceptable, I first bought a handheld TV to follow the action with. (As someone who watched TV about 15 minutes a month before this, I now have one in my pocket. Life is so unexpected.)
Being too chicken to join any of the groups being chased around by the cops, I was in a quandary. As seven pm drew near, I wondered if it would even be reasonably safe to be downtown in a car. I watched on TV as the main body of protesters decided to leave downtown and began walking north on 4th Ave. Guessing that they would turn up Denny towards Capitol Hill, I drove north and turned east up Denny. I arrived exactly as the main body of protesters turned up the hill. Following them, separated only by one copcar and one minitank (they call it a Peacekeeper) covered with cops. I tried several times to get right behind the protesters, but was yelled at and waved back by the cops.
A guy on a motorcycle who pulled up beside me suggested the group would probably go to Seattle Central Community College so I cut over behind the college, parked and joined the group in front. These folks have sortof town meetings to make decisions, and it is very interesting to watch them come to a consensus. Standing on Capitol Hill at 10pm with nothing to do and nowhere to go, pumped from the energy of the crowd and taking however minimal a part in an incredible protest, I did not want to go home! I wanted to hang out with the group and talk. If Schell had allowed/encouraged protesters to camp out at Seattle Center or maybe Volunteer Park, in my opinion most of the problems on Capitol Hill would not have happened.
Watching and filming as the group moved south on Broadway, they closed one lane of traffic, then turned around at Pine and moved north, closing the other lane, I got kindof bored after awhile and went back to my car and drove around. A couple of blocks east of Broadway, near the Capitol Hill precinct, I saw a group of maybe 30-50 cops standing in the street looking rather purposeful and scary. I watched for them for awhile with nothing happening so I drove around to Broadway and parked in front of Dick's Drive-in several blocks north of the marchers. Sitting there trying to decide what to do, I learned the cops had begun their offensive as suddenly people started running toward me wiping their eyes. I got hit with more teargas while making a u-turn out of the parking place to leave.
This was Wednesday night about 10pm or so. Parking further away and walking back, I walked toward chaos. It was hard to grasp what was happening with the clouds of teargas, people running to get away, the cops in their bizarre outfits, Capitol Hill residents coming out of their homes and businesses yelling at the cops to go away, protesters and residents regrouping, chanting, and falling back from the stun grenades, plastic bullets, and ever exploding canisters of gas.
I cannot think of a neighborhood in Seattle that would have been a poorer choice for the cops to start a war in. Many, many political activists live there, it is the center of gay culture, and numbers of residents already feel that the police are an occupying army. The neighborhood council has done a great deal of work to educate the police and improve relations between them and the people who live there, but tension persists. I doubt the Tuesday and Wednesday night police actions helped.
WHAT WILL HISTORY SAY?
At the end of this article there are several web addresses for further information on the WTO protests. I hope everyone who was involved will write up their experiences and post them on the web. History is written by those who write it down, and those who make sure the records remain available.
I hope that people who question the government, and the multinationals who own it, avoid buying into the attempt to split the participants into the "good" non-violent protestors and the "bad" violent ones? Even the fairly good reporting had a slant that was usually pro-police. I often find that I think news coverage of something is good in direct relation to how little I know about it. When I participated in the million queer march on Washington in 1993, the official word was maybe 600,000. I was there. I called a friend who worked for CBS who was at work in the newsroom there. He agreed that it was at least one million, maybe 1.2, but also said that there was not "support from above" to put that on the air.
At the time I bought all the local newspapers with articles about the march. One had a front page picture of the Names Quilt spread out one the lawn with only a few people walking between the squares looking at it. The caption stated that the photo was taken at 5pm on the day of the march. It certainly did not look as if a million people were there. The only problem was that I had been standing exactly there at 5:30pm the day of the photo, and I would have been there at 5pm except it was so jammed that it took me a half hour to work my way over to the quilt. I mean totally jammed, difficult to avoid accidentally stepping on the quilt! So this was a deliberate lie by the newspapers to try to make the march look unsuccessful.
You all know you cannot always believe the majority press don't you? And that there will always be spectators who will try to tell you afterwards how you should have done something? Given those conditions, don't worry so much about their approval. Are you aware that N30 (November 30th) was an international day of action? That there were N30 protests in cities all over the world? For more info on what else happened around the world - November 30th International Day of Action - www.n30.org/ The next world day of action will be Mayday 2000, what will you do?
The criticism I personally find the most annoying is from the people who are now saying that the WTO was going to break down anyway from internal disagreements and we are silly to think we had anything to do with it. I disagree, we had a huge impact. But in the end we never know how something might have turned out if something were done differently. All we ever know is what did happen.
To those who say that the protests were insignificant I present the following -
- The British Council has made a commitment to present world leaders with views on the future of the World Trade Organization (WTO) expressed in a new online debate at www.commonwealthvoices.org. NGOs, activists and citizens across the world are invited to participate.
- ARTICLE 19 www.article19.org, the International Centre Against Censorship which campaigns for the promotion and protection of freedom of expression, is facilitating the forum.
- OneWorld www.oneworld.net, which harnesses the democratic potential of the internet for human rights and sustainable development, has set up the site.
- The British Council www.britishcouncil.org will present key outcomes of this debate to Commonwealth leaders and other decision-makers.
Activists from around the world are writing and calling to say hello, and to let us know we are appreciated and we are not alone. One of our tasks is to counter the dismissals, put downs, lies and spin of the supporters of the status quo, or of those who have drowned in their own cynicism, with our own descriptions of what happened and what we are doing. The people of the world will never speak with one tongue, or act as one. Let each group find their own way to express both opposition to the money machine and their support of life and creativity. Let a thousand flowers bloom.
FROM THE PRINTING PRESS TO THE INTERNET
Gutenburg changed life more than any other person in history by making it possible for all of us ordinary people to own books and to learn to read and write. Life was very different when only the elite were educated and could communicate other than face to face.
In the 60's a technological change occurred that enabled ordinary people to produce newspapers. The invention of cold type systems in printing made it possible for anyone with a couple of hundred bucks to put thousands of copies of a newspaper on the streets. The Underground Press was born.
Previously it took a hot type machine costing maybe $150,000, and a journeyman with five years of training, to physically create the plates for printing a newspaper. The new technology enabled activists and students during the Civil Rights Movement and then the Anti-Vietnam War Movement to effectively counter the lies of the status quo. Before the computer driven cold type systems came along, Gestetner duplicator machines and the mail had been the only way to put out newsletters previously, and that was what the Liberation News Service used to spread the word to the Underground Press in the 60's.
The only way for our point of view to reach the public now, and the history books of the future, is for us to write it down and see that it reaches everyone. Now we have the internet. We are probably going to have to defend it so get ready.
I also recommend two books - "A People's History of the United States - 1492 to the Present" by Howard Zinn and "Lies Across America - What our Historic Sites Get Wrong" by James Loewen. Besides being amazing sources of information which contradicts huge amounts of what you have been taught about this country, they both show the importance of having a media able to counter the lies told by the "official story".
The Independent Media Center has compiled a one hour video "Five Days that Shook the WTO" from the 2 1/2 hours broadcast on Deep Dish TV on that subject. If you would like to order it, send a check of $10-$20 (income sliding scale) plus $2.50 for shipping made out to "Independent Media Center" to:
ATTN: Tape Request
1415 3rd Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
DECEMBER 2ND AND 3RD
What a difference a day makes, or an order from the Mayor to stop attacking protestors! After Wednesday there were now almost 600 people in jail, or on buses waiting to be processed, many with no water, food or access to toilets. People were not being allowed phone calls or access to attorneys. Many reports got out of very rough treatment of some prisoners at both the Sandpoint facility and the jail. Amnesty International is calling for an investigation.
Protestors going downtown still expected to be gassed and arrested, not knowing that enough people had called the Mayor to complain about the police riot the night before on Capitol Hill, which was televised for hours. There would be no more teargas. They gathered on Capitol Hill and marched to Victor Steinbreuck Park for a rally of over 5000 people. Leaving there and going to Weyerhauser, across from the Four Seasons Hotel full of WTO delegates, protestors and cops faced each other for a very tense hour with no attack from the cops. People then decided to march to the jail and demand the release of those inside, with the cops blocking the entrance to the freeway but otherwise just standing by.
From then on police either did nothing or provided an escort when groups of protesters decided to march somewhere. This was somewhat disruptive to traffic, but most people appeared to be tolerating it fairly well. Quite a few people who were not involved appeared to have returned to life as usual. The change in police attitude and behaviour was simple astounding! And it was fun to have escorts around town.
People stayed camped out outside the jail until Saturday when the vast majority of protestors were released. The labor march and rally used people to spell out DEMOCRACY on the street. The WTO delegates went into overtime but were unable to accomplish anything. Thousands of activists from around the world met each other face to face and celebrated the birth of a global rights movement.
DID WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
During the Seattle WTO talks the big four - U.S., Japan, Canada and E.U., continued their previous habit of meeting privately, making decisions and then presenting these decisions to the developing nations on a "take it or leave it" basis. The U.S. never waivered in its insistence on the GFLA, Global Free Logging Agreement, which would have made national laws protecting forests from invasive species and the control/labeling of genetically engineered food, trees and seeds just one more "barrier to free trade" and therefore illegal.
In the week after the failure of the talks, I spent many hours watching videos of the meetings inside the WTO which were televised on WTV. They were absolutely fascinating, particularly the sessions on genetically modified foods. These sessions from within the WTO confirmed my worst fears that the companies which are pushing the "frankenfoods" are doing so with no concern about the possible long term consequences of unleashing these little genetic bombs on the enviroment. Like the companies patenting lifeforms, selling sterile seed, and recycling industrial wastes into food fertilizer to save money, the people who make these decisions seem oblivious to the need to even look for possible unintended side effects. What you don't look for, you seldom find. Go to www.americanlands.org "information" and "global trade" for more information.
hile some delegates from developing countries were offended by the protesters and their demands for environmental and labor protection, others found them interesting. One delegate said that the presence of the protesters showed him that there was not an absolute consensus in the developed world to back up our governments demands, and that his government would re-examine first world demands in light of the protests.
Over 1500 groups from 89 countries have signed the "No New Round - Turn-A-Round" letter. For more information or to find how you can be part of this citizen fight for justice, go to www.tradewatch.org.
These 1500 groups are part of what a RAND research group called an NGO (non governmental organization) swarm, with no central leadership or command structure, multiheaded, impossible to decapitate, and able to sting its target to death (or at least stun it, like they did to the MAI plans).
Governments have been very effective in controlling or eliminating opposition organized by a single group, or attempting to organize a new political party to oppose the established parties, but a movement comprised of thousands, or even million of groups worldwide, each addressing their own area of concern while communicating and forming coalitions via the internet has incredible power.
While it is too soon to really tell how much impact this protest had, it is already being acknowledged worldwide. It looks like a new day to me.
Is my generation, the boomers, beginning to reawaken? I hope so. Do me a favor. If you are in your twenties or thirties, any time you meet someone in their 40's or 50's, I hope you will ask them what kind of world they had hoped to create when they were young. Encourage them to recall their dreams. And then remind them that every society in the world is controlled mainly by people over age 50. That's them, even if they do not realize it. They now have experience, position, money — they could help you create that world of peace and justice now. They were going to do it for their children. Guess what, it's not too late. Every minute seven more people turn fifty in the U.S. If you are over 40 I also ask you to do me a favor. Get off your butts and go to work creating the world we yearned for in our youth.
But we who are older need you who are younger to remind us. Inspire us to help you write a new chapter in the human story, a story where we honor each other, and honor the earth.