a WTO account
- this is a firsthand account of the seattle protests from a really good
college buddy of mine. he's a great guy whom i love and respect a ton, and
has participated in a lot of research and activism in trade related issues.
thought some folks might be interested.....
>From: "Derek Churchill" <chuchuska@...>
>To: "amy benson" <amy_benson@...>, "Tony Dunford"
><antdunfo@...>, "Soames Floweree"
><flowerree_soames@...>, "Scott Squire" <scott_squire@...>,
>"Ralph Rynning" <Ralph.Rynning@...>, "Rachael Kirby"
><raeandandy@...>, "Nicole Fischer"
><nicole.fischer@...>, "Margo" <mclabovitz@...>,
>"Macarena Palominos" <mpalomin@...>, "Kristen Brown"
><kristen.brown@...>, "Katrina Anderson" <katrellen@...>,
>"Jose Velez M." <jnvelez@...>, "Jose Cordeu" <jcordeu@...>,
>"John Mitchell" <majendie@...>, "Dug Bush" <abushi@...>,
>"Donna" <AldfRosen@...>, "Amy Flowerree" <amyf@...>
>Subject: Derek's account of the WTO in Seattle
>Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 15:14:36 -0800
>By now you've probably all seen the T.V. images of the great "Battle of
>Seattle", and are wondering whatever happened to this supposedly laid back
>town. After one of the most amazing weeks I can remember, I figured I
>should send out a first hand account to counter everything you saw on TV
>and read in the papers.
>Starting on Monday, the main thing I can say is that I was there. I went to
>workshops, rallies, heard a wide array of speakers, went to a debate with
>the US Undersecretary of Trade and Ralph Nader, marched in various marches,
>took part in the blockades of the Sheraton and the Convention center, got
>tear gased, engaged police in nice chats, tried to stop the anarchists from
>breaking windows, was right in the thick of the "riots", protested outside
>the King County Jail were the arrested protesters were behind held, and
>generally was in the thick of it most of the week. The only things I missed
>were getting arrested, doing any destruction myself, or getting beaten or
>kicked by the stormtrooper cops.
>First, THERE WERE NO RIOTS! Confrontations between several dozen angry
>anarchists and rabble rousers yes, but there were no full scale riots. The
>images of tear gas filled streets and police pointing their weapons at
>people suggest a far more violent scene that actually happened. I never
>felt really scared or that I might get hurt. You always felt you could to
>get out of situations if they turned ugly, although they never did. If
>anything, I feared being hit or pepper sprayed by the police far more than
>violence from any protester. Plus, 99% of the protester were peaceful. Not
>all were civilly obedient, but they were peaceful. All the vandalism was
>done by a tiny minority and often incited by the police.
>Beyond the vandalism and tear gas, the most powerful part of the whole week
>was seeing the streets of Seattle filled with over 40,000 protesters. The
>sea of people, colors, signs, chants, puppets, and costumes deeply
>impressed upon me the power of mass mobilization. To be part of that
>energy, part of a mass of people who question mainstream American culture
>and believe in a better world, that was really powerful. There were so many
>types of people: old, young, children, moms, hippies, construction workers,
>laborers, steel workers, machinists, students, professionals, office
>workes, etc. In no way could you write off this mass of humanity as a bunch
>of young radicals. President Clinton got the message and hopefully will at
>least push the WTO to become more open and transparent. There is absolutely
>no reasonable justification for the closed and secretive decision making
>process, other than corporations and countries can push their agendas
>without public knowledge and "meddling".
>To see so many movements come together (Labor Unions, greens, human rights
>groups, church groups, etc) gave me a powerful shot of hope that
>progressive forces in this country are waking up. While these groups have
>many disagreements, I think the basic belief that corporations have too
>much power will hold them together until the balance of power in this
>country, and indeed in the world, improves dramatically. If these groups
>stay focused on reducing corporate power, Seattle will only be the
>beginning. Personally, I was shaken out of complacency and energized to get
>more involved. I think a lot apolitical folks were energized as well. I
>have a little more understanding of how something like the Vietnam war
>protests shaped a whole generation of activists.
>The POLICE. Wow, they really fucked up. As Ralph Nader said. "Of course
>they were caught off guard, nothing like this has happened in 30 years".
>Thanks to their bad planning, however, 5000 or so civilly disobedient
>protesters were able to shut down the meetings on Tuesday. This was no
>small feat. A bunch of activists shut down a major international meeting!!!
>The shut down contributed to the eventual failure of the meeting to produce
>any new agreements. By Tuesday around 5 pm, once they'd received an
>emergency shipment of tear gas to replenish their short supply, the police
>started playing hardball and cleared downtown quickly and ruthlessly. On
>Wednesday, with bruised egoes fueling them, they continued their aggressive
>stance and effectively turned downtown into a police state. Squadrons of
>them would march down the streets in their full storm trooper suits all
>banging their batons against their shields in unison. Police cars raced up
>and down the streets while the national guard occupied roof tops and manned
>armored personel carriers. It was a scene right out of Robo Cop. With
>little regard for the hundreds of T.V. cameras and video cams filming them,
>they kicked, pepper sprayed, dragged, beat, and gased all sorts of people,
>many of whom were just trying to get from one place to another. They roamed
>well out of the "no protest" zone and filled the city with tear gas. They
>arrested over 600 people. On Wednesday night, they chased a group of
>protesters into Capitol Hill and proceded to gas and concussion bomb the
>neighborhood until 2 AM. Needless to say they didn't make too many friends.
>All sorts of uneccesary police brutality was recorded on film and many
>people in the city are really angry. By Thursday the protests became as
>much about police brutality and free speech as they were about the WTO.
>There are now legions of civil rights lawyers collecting evidence and
>planning to file suits againts the police department. The downtown
>businesses are also planning to sue to recoup their lost sales and repair
>costs for all the broken windows. Its a real mess.
>Now some of you may be saying that the police force was needed to restore
>order. Sure, they were 200 or so people who needed to be apprehended for
>vandalism, but the acts of these few in no way warranted the all out
>assault on the city. In my opinion, something is profoundly wrong when you
>have to declare a police state to hold an international meeting.
>On Thursday, after being flooded with angry and phone calls, the riot
>police stuck to keeping the Convention Center and main hotels clear and let
>the protesters march peacefully. The State Patrol even escorted us on their
>motorcylces. It was clear that the Polics knew they overstepped and were
>trying to keep a lower profile.
>Protests went on all week all over the city and kept in the media. I heard
>that many delegates were furious that the protesters got all the media
>attention. It was dissapointing that the "violence" and "riots" got most of
>the attention, but that's the media for you. It makes me think about how
>slanted the day to day information I get from newspapers and TV is. In
>hindsight, the protesters could have trained more people to contain the
>vandals. TV footage of protesters non-violently stopping vandals would have
>sent a powerful message and would have shifted the focus of the coverage.
>Many protesters tried, but the vandals would just moved somewhere else.
>Actual trained teams were necessary.
>I'm curious as to how the whole event was portrayed in papers around the
>country. Despite the sensationalism, the media did make the WTO a household
>world across the country. People may not know what the WTO is, but they
>know a lot of people are angry about it. That in itself is a major
>accomplishment. More than ever before, trade agreements will be the highly
>politicized issue they should be.
>As this week unfolds, the Mayor and Police Chief are in the hot seat as you
>might imagine. Many people feel the city's image has been shattered,
>downtown shopping hurt, and the civility of Seattle damaged. I'm more
>inclined to view the week as a wake up call. Many people are angry in
>America. They're angry at government, corporations, police, any type of
>auhtority. Underneath the veneer of the booming economy, people have a deep
>sense that there are fundamental things wrong with this country. Seattle is
>no exception. If progressive forces can channel this anger, there's hope
>yet. So lets all WAKE UP AND GET ACTIVE.
>I'll leave you with my favorite quote of the week. Jim Hightower, a
>populist radio host from Texas, was commenting on feeling overwhelmed by
>the power of system. He said, "Remember this if you're ever feeling like
>its hopeless, no matter how tall a building is, even the smallest dog can
>lift his leg on it."
>If you have any comments or questions feel free to email me.
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