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a WTO account

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  • douglas bush
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 1999
      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
      >Hello friends:
      >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.
      > Your friendly full-service integrated online community.
      > http://www.theglobe.com
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