WTO Taught Us a Lot More Than Trade Issues
- News for Anarchists & Activists:
Local News : Wednesday, November 29, 2000
WTO taught us a lot more than trade issues
By Terry Tazioli and Andrea Otanez
Seattle Times staff
Fat City car repair sits right under the Monorail tracks at
Fifth Avenue and Denny Way. Service adviser Chris Carlson
had ringside seats to history.
"(The demonstrators) were coming and going, away from the
Center toward downtown and back. All directions. We were OK,
but the McDonald's around the corner ... do you remember
that? They boarded up their windows. They had to close."
But did he know what the show was about?
"I think the WTO registered somewhere on my consciousness,"
he said. "But that's about it."
Carlson could be speaking for many in the Puget Sound area.
His understanding of the World Trade Organization was vague
before protests against it paralyzed downtown Seattle a year
ago this week.
Activists have argued that the 50,000 demonstrators who
mobilized in Seattle taught the world about the volatile
issues linked to WTO.
But a year later, what has the public learned? A sampling
from around Seattle shows that lessons from last year's
chaotic meetings are as much about vandalism and disruption
as about global economics and the environment.
"It's a shame," Carlson said. "It's all about the riot. I
don't know whether any of that helped anyone."
One who learned a lot
A year ago, Wilbur Hathaway, who works at Post Options
Business Center Inc. on Capitol Hill, couldn't tell WTO from
Now he can. And he can tell you about environmental
standards, trade rules, human rights and working conditions.
But he can tell you about other things, too: "The
incompetence of the mayor; demonstrators who didn't know why
they were there."
And today's anniversary?
"A media event. Any good leftist would find it hard to avoid
a publicity event like this."
WTO equal riots for her
Vera Venton, who lives in Seattle's Central Area, has one
simple question for those gathering today to mark last
year's protest: Why?
"You just pray that things are peaceful."
Venton hadn't heard of WTO a year ago. Now she equates it
with riots. And she heard nothing new.
"Everybody's aware of the problems. They've been here for a
long time, and they're going to continue to be with us year
after year. I think we're dealing with them, but it's going
to take time."
Message muddled by mayhem
Jesse Young, a Chicken Soup Brigade volunteer who lives on
Capitol Hill, also links WTO with the chaos that invaded his
"It was strange to have riots going on a few blocks from
The proximity forced him to pay attention to the protesters.
But their message got muddled with the mayhem.
"I honestly can't say I'm more educated now than I was
No way for downtown today
At Puget Sound Chrysler-Plymouth in Renton, colleagues John
Edwards of Auburn and Robert Smith of Puyallup talk
knowledgeably about WTO - something they couldn't do a year
But they learned even more about the police.
"The good that came from this," Edwards said, "is that we
saw the true colors of our police department."
"It doesn't give you much trust in them," Smith agreed.
Neither thinks the protesters made their point.
"They built a fire instead of extinguishing one," Smith
Would they venture to downtown Seattle today?
"Hell no," they said in unison. "That's why we're out here."
A movement ignited
Terri Knapp believes something important was ignited - and
it still has momentum.
"What's important about this movement is that it's a bunch
of issues, not just one: the environment, fair wages in the
U.S. and around the world," said Knapp, of Seattle. "It's
about the rights of people everywhere - children, workers in
Her longtime interest in the environment was deepened by
"I think about the environment every day. I also think twice
about ... what I buy and why I'm buying.''
They don't care about WTO
A couple at the Wallingford Senior Center - she's 86, he's
88 - say they don't know much about WTO, and don't care.
They were disgusted by the skirmishes and marches that
clogged downtown last year.
"These people out there doing this business ... you can
disagree with people, but that kind of protesting is wrong,"
said the woman, who asked not to be named.
Her husband reinforced his wife's point: "I can see people
disagreeing in a friendly way, but so far as parading and
doing damage, I don't go for that. To my way of thinking
those kind of people are rabble-rousers.''
A missed opportunity for city
Lee Hodges was left with one impression: violence.
"The issues are important, but when you damage property
you've lost your rights," said the former Seattle resident
who now lives in Phoenix.
She and her husband were visiting Seattle yesterday, and
were here a year ago to run in the Seattle Marathon.
"The WTO would have been a marvelous opportunity for the
city; to have all that money flow through," she said.
But that chance was lost to what she called "professional
"Just like Marshall McLuhan said in the 70s: `The medium is
the message.' And their medium was violence.''
Questions linger a year later
Curiosity drew Seattleites Sondra and James Goehle downtown
to witness the demonstrations last year.
"I was very impressed by their organization," said Sondra
Goehle. "It was amazing."
Now, both question what came of it.
"What kind of message does an anarchist have?" James added.
"Do they expect people to rise up against world trade? World
trade is an inevitability."
"I don't know what they would expect ordinary people to do,"
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.