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[diggers350] WTO Protesters Pepper Sprayed - Military Called Into Seattle FWD

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  • Tom Boland
    For protesters reports, see: Seattle Independent Media Center http://www.indymedia.org For 90 related photos, see:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 1999
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      For protesters' reports, see:
      Seattle Independent Media Center

      For 90 related photos, see:

      FWD Reuters - 2:56 AM ET December 1, 1999


      By Allan Dowd

      SEATTLE (Reuters) - Massive protests threw the start of
      global trade talks into chaos on Tuesday as demonstrators fought
      with police and worried officials declared a civil emergency and
      called in the national guard.

      Anti-free trade activists clashed with police on Seattle
      streets, while World Trade Organization (WTO) delegates inside
      the city's heavily guarded convention center tried to hammer out
      an agenda for a new round of trade negotiations.

      In scenes reminiscent of U.S. civil rights and anti-war
      protests of the 1960s, police in riot gear sprayed tear gas and
      shot rubber pellets they called "stingers" to clear protesters
      who had clogged the streets and blocked access to the convention
      center where the meeting was being held.

      Most protesters were peaceful but some looted shops, set
      fire to trash cans and fought running battles with police.
      Officers made about 60 arrests on charges ranging from assault,
      inciting riot and damage to property. Seventeen people suffered
      minor injuries.

      Seattle police admit they were taken by surprise. "These
      demonstrators, particularly those who were bent on violence and
      destruction, made it difficult for us," Police Chief Norm
      Stamper conceded. "It was a calculated strategy of major,
      active and threatening disturbances.

      At the posh Westin Hotel, where U.S. Trade Representative
      Charlene Barshefsky and her Japanese counterparts were staying,
      guests were told to go to their rooms for fear demonstrators
      would storm the building.

      Undeterred by the protests, trade ministers representing the
      135 WTO members went ahead and delivered dry speeches about
      their vision for the global trading system.

      Barshefsky said negotiators had already made progress toward
      narrowing their differences over agriculture and electronic
      commerce. "We're very much on track," she said. Other
      diplomats were skeptical a breakthrough was at hand.

      Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a civil emergency and imposed a 7
      p.m.-to-dawn curfew for the city's downtown area and
      police immediately began clearing the city center.

      By midnight the security forces, still firing tear gas, had
      driven demonstrators into the city's Capitol Hill area.


      Earlier, Governor Gary Locke called up two national guard
      units specializing in crowd control and ordered them to assist
      police forces already at the scene. "We're very concerned about
      public safety," Locke said.

      Police skirmished with anti-free trade activists throughout
      the day as about 16,000 labor union members and other workers
      staged a peaceful march to voice their demand that worker rights
      be a part of future trade deals.

      Activists chanted "Whose world? Our world. Whose streets?
      Our streets" as banners accused the WTO of enriching big
      business at the expense of the environment and jobs.

      Some protest organizers expressed regret violence broke
      out. "There are people who are not part of our movement who
      have been the ones who have been orchestrating the violence,"
      said Medea Benjamin, director of human rights group Global
      Exchange. She said her group and others planned a "clean up"
      effort on Wednesday to help repair damage from the rampage.


      WTO chief Mike Moore, his voice brimming with emotion,
      defended the organization that regulates global trade, saying
      that protesters demanding its destruction were working against
      poor people and developing countries.

      "To those who argue that we should stop our work, I say:
      tell that to the poor, to the marginalized around the world who
      are looking to us to help them," the former New Zealand prime
      minister told a news conference.

      But Moore, a 50-year-old one-time labor union organizer,
      insisted that the WTO's meeting through December 30, "will be a
      success" despite a delayed start.

      U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said he was
      optimistic an agreement on farm trade would be reached.
      Officials said the United States was also expected to announce
      on Wednesday an initiative that would provide the world's
      poorest countries greater access to the U.S. market.

      President Clinton is due to arrive in Seattle on Wednesday
      morning and planned to talk to protesters. Clinton told
      reporters that he "strongly, strongly believe that we should
      open the process up to all those people who are now
      demonstrating on the outside. They ought to be a part of it."

      The United States is seeking to create a panel within the
      WTO to address labor issues. But the proposal is adamantly
      opposed by many developing nations who see it as a protectionist
      ploy by rich, developed nations.


      Some delegates expressed their frustration at the delay of
      the meeting and the pressure they felt the demonstrations were
      exerting on this week's negotiations.

      "I've never seen any meeting of this sort so badly
      organized and mishandled," said one senior developing country
      ambassador who heads his delegation at the WTO in Geneva.

      U.S. officials were apologetic, but held firm in their
      belief that a new round of talks to liberalize trade in
      agriculture, services and other business sectors would be
      launched this week.

      Related Stories LINKED FROM

      Protests Mar Start of Global Trade Talks
      Global Trade Talks Overwhelmed by Protests
      Violence Wreaks Havoc at WTO Meeting Start
      Seattle Mayor Sets Curfew to Curb WTO Protests
      Seattle Mayor Sets Curfew, Declares Civil Emergency
      Protesters Clash With Police Near WTO Meeting
      WTO Says Protests Cancel Seattle Opening Ceremony
      Protests Force WTO to Relocate, Delay Opening
      WTO Opening Delayed As Delegates Kept in Hotels
      Protests Delay Start of Seattle WTO Meeting
      Protesters Try to Disrupt Trade Talks Start
      WTO Braces for Protest As Trade Talks Start
      EU Building Common Front for Trade Round
      WTO Members, Protesters Clash Over Trade
      Protesters Seize the Limelight at WTO Meeting
      Protesters Pleased As Scare Closes WTO Meet
      WTO Meeting Center Closed by Security Concerns
      Labor Groups Challenge WTO on Trade Round
      WTO Meeting Hopes to Bridge Gap on Trade Round
      Clinton Faces Balancing Act at Seattle Trade Talks


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