Shortly after the end of WWII in 1947, 23 countries signed a general agreement on tariffs & trade (the GATT) with the purpose to liberalize n' expand world trade needing stability & a sense of global community as the key. For 5 decades afterwards the GATT grew adding more member countries & becoming the World Trade Oragnization (WTO) in 1995. With over 150 nations united in the wiriting of a constituition for a single global economy, the WTO controls 90% of world trade & unlike the GATT can impose punishing crippling fines on member countries that don't abide by its laws. Along with the expansion of free trade, the WTO promises to help developing countries benefit fully from the global trading system in a multitude of diverse areas such as transport, labour, energy, communications, culture/entertainment, food & agriculture. But heavy criticisms are levelled citing very little to do with trade nor being free - infact this is an imposed (instead of voted for) system of governance with no control by the people. many are angered that the WTO can esentially break down the borders of countries so that large corporations can be free to operate meaning that aid is just a ruse for plunder and that money values n' profit should obsenely rule over life values with human rights & the environment being subordinated to the needs of commerce. This expense over people will particularly devastate the third world as the WTO forces its will onto the developing nations & western governments: 1995 in the USA sees clean air rules gutted with alarming increases in asthma cases, Europe 1998 sees genetically modified foods pushed onto unwanting consumers & the caribbean 1998 witnesses small scale banana growers being crushed by big brand names. Despite all the problems & vocal backlash such as deep concern for public health, poverty, real wages, fraudulent marketing & human rights, the WTO grows becoming more powerful than ever. The meeting in Seattle dubbed the 'Millenium Round' would see new issues added to the existing rules. To a great many this meeting would be a battle for the future...
10yrs ago today, heavy protest activity & demonstrations in Seattle,WA surrounded the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference of 1999 which was meant to launch a new millennial round of trade negotiations. Nicknamed the "N30", when the WTO convened at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center (CTC) in the city center's downtown core, the talks were quickly overshadowed by massive n' controversial street actions by citizens & multiple groups outside the hotels and the CTC in what became the 2nd phase of the anti-globalization movement in the USA. The scale of the demonstrations — with even the lowest estimates puting the crowd at nearly 50,000 — dwarfed any previous gathering-ever in the country against a world meeting of any of the organizations and transnational corporations generally associated with economic integration & development, environmental effects and increasingly, interests & concerns of the Third World nations (such as the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), or the World Bank). The events which saw the talks frequently delayed n' disrupted and the outside police presence of growing resistance, excessive force & brutality, culminated in several instances of property damage & rioting that soon came to be referred to as the "Battle of/in Seattle" amidst the alarming repeated use of tear gas used to disperse huge crowds. Strict curfews & bans on protests would be imposed for the duration of the meetings. During the weeklong protests (Nov 29 to Dec 3), the previously uninterested media found themselves suddenly forced to report on the unfolding scale of the widening story from the marches of grassroot collectives to the tactics on part of both police & protesters as each side faced violence. Seen as a larger improvement over earlier actions (such as that in Australia of Dec 1997), to many in North American anarchist & radical circles, Seattle 1999 was viewed as a success. The WTO's collapse in spectacular fashion in the face of unprecedented blockading and protest from civil society & governments around the world, was seen by many as an essential important belief to use the moment & gained ground as an opportunity to change course and develop an alternative, humane, democratically accountable & sustainable system of commerce that would benefit all. And such a process envisioned rolling back the power & authority of not just the ruling organizations but also in reflecetion, what had come to be labeled in the 90's as the sinister "New World Order". Criticism over the city's response to the demonstrations led to the resignation of Seattle police chief Norm Stamper & arguably played a role in the 2001 mayoral primary election results. The massive size of the protest pushed Seattle $3 million over its estimated budget of $6 million, partly due to city cleanup & police overtime bills and in addition, the damage to commercial businesses due to vandalism & lost sales was estimated at $20 million.
In Jan 2004, the city settled with 157 individuals arrested outside of the no-protest zone during the WTO events, agreeing to pay them a total of $250,000. In Jan 2007, a federal jury found that the city of Seattle had violated protesters' 4th Amendment constitutional rights by arresting them without probable cause or hard evidence.
After the state of emergency, after the rioting & teargas, after the certain loss of law enforcement credibility through excessive police brutality; when the threat of freedom n' democracy (so dubbed according to several media outlets) had cleared & the ultimate collapse of talks resulted, governments would never again be caught off guard as 2 mile exclusion zones would become standard at further international meetings like the WTO and G8 summits; restricting peoples right to dissent even more: in Qatar 2001, the WTO recognizes that access to essential medicines should have primacy over commercial interests. The WTO also agreed to address the needs of poorer countries only to see developing countries walk out of the 2003 Mexico meeting after it was clear that the real agenda was to expand the failed WTO business model. That same year, a leader of the Korean Federation of Advanced Farmers Association (President Lee Kyung Hae) sacrifices himself in protest by standing on top of police barricades & infront of tv cameras stabs himself. He dies during surgery. As further local markets are flooded with imports, an astounding 40,000 Indian farmers commit suicide to escape their debt. 2003 also saw over 36 million people across the globe take part in the largest anti-war protest in history against Bush's invasion of Iraq. By 2007, little progress had been made concerning the WTO Qata promises & the poor countries still end up ignored while millions of American jobs are offshored alongside declining wages & soaring tainted food. Millions more remain frustrated demanding their voices be heard with dignity & respect. But the will of the people committed to anti-globalization activism in sending a loud message by hitting the streets seeking alternatives and saying no to the WTO, IMF (International Monetary Fund) & World Bank programs, will not be broken in trying to better the world: from Washington,DC to Miami, Honduras, Ecuador, Genoa, Switzerland, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Phillipines - everywhere n' somewhere, the fight goes on and the battle continues against the huge institutions & their inter/multinational conspiring, corporate takeover methods (complete with false n' negative spin disinformation) that represent everything worng. The crisis is far from over...
THE BATTLE IN SEATTLE
by Mickey Z
When activists made global headlines by essentially shutting down the meetings of the WTO in Seattle in late Nov 1999, the term "anti-globalization" was bandied about without much serious explanation. The majority of those in the streets were not against the literal concept of global interaction; it was the current form of remote control imperialism euphemistically known as trade or globalization that inspired one of the most successful demonstrations in history. Explains American economist, activist, writer & speaker, Michael Albert of ZNet: "The WTO is an international organization... a forum for negotiating international trade agreements and the monitoring & regulating body for enforcing agreements The idea is simple - instead of only imposing on Third World countries low wages and high pollution due to their weak or bought-off governments, why not weaken ALL governments & agencies that might defend workers, consumers or the environment... not only in the Third World but everywhere?
Created in 1995, the WTO is a bonanza for corporate profit that slipped in under the public radar. Says Weisbrot, Research Director of the Preamble Center, in Washington, D.C: "Most of America slept right through the birth of this 134-nation organization, including many in Congress who voted to ratify U.S. membership. In the fall of 1994 Ralph Nader's Public Citizen offered $10,000 to any member of Congress that would read the 500-page treaty and answer 10 simple questions to prove it. Republican Senator Hank Brown of Colorado, who had voted for NAFTA & planned to vote for the WTO, took the bet. He passed the quiz with a perfect score, collected the winnings (for a charity of his choice), and then proceeded to announce that having read the agreement, he felt compelled to vote against it." Brown's vote was not enough. Thus, when the truth about the WTO eventually became more widely know, the only vote left was by raising hell. The organization's decision to hold its annual meeting in Seattle provided activists with the stage they needed to be heard by millions. It wasn't perfect... or anything even close. Different factions within the protestors feuded over goals, issues & tactics... and the more liberal marchers inexplicably joined the norm's chorus in denouncing so-called anarchists for violent behaviour. Even the corporate media recognized that paradox, with the Los Angeles Times stating: "Leaders of the peaceful demonstrations have lashed out at the anarchists, accusing them of undermining their anti-globalism (sic) message by breaking windows & destroying property. The anarchists in turn accused the Seattle protesters of protecting the same private-property interests that the WTO represents."
Infighting & compromises aside, those 5 days in Seattle injected American dissidents into an internationalist movement. In their book, 5 Days That Shook the World: Seattle and Beyond, Authors Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn declared that the "street warriors" who were "initially shunned & denounced by respectable 'inside strategists', scorned by the press, and gassed n' bloodied by the cops & National Guard", were able to: shut down the opening ceremony; prevent President Bill Clinton from addressing the WTO delegates; get the corporate press to actually mention police brutality & force the cancellation of closing ceremonies. Chuck Munson of Infoshop has listed the many accomplishments of the movement, post-Seattle. These include: the international Indymedia network; the return of a direct action/confrontational style of protest; putting organizations like the WTO, World Bank & IMF under the microscope; establishing the Internet as an activist's most valuable tool of communication; and inspiring millions across the globe to put their passions into action. Wrote St. Clair and Cockburn: "Ours is a worldwide guerilla war of publicity, harassment, obstructionism. It's nothing simple, like the 'Stop the War' slogan of the 1960's. Capitalism could stop that war & move on but American capitalism can't stop trade and survive on any terms it cares for." As Albert of ZNet has articulated, the goal is to globalize equity not poverty, solidarity not anti-sociality, diversity not conformity, democracy not subordination, and ecological balance not suicidal rapaciousness. Indian novelist, essayist, environmentalist & activist for socio-political issues, Arundhati Roy adds: "In the present circumstances, I'd say that the only thing worth globalizing is dissent." To that, I'll add: the only thing worth diversifying is dissent.
The running battle of activists organizing heavy property damage against Western industrialized economies seems neverending ---
The WTO, World Bank & IMF brought the anti-globalization movement out of the shadows and unprepared riot police were overwhelmed. The National Guard was called in to restore order, arresting hundreds
The Summit of the Americas outside the provincial National Assembly drew 20,000 against free trade who tore down a makeshift concrete n' wire fence in mere seconds that had taken over a week to build. A wall of shielded riot cops launched tear gas into the crowds while their horsebacked colleagues stood guard adding to the chaos
The G8 summit in Genoa saw an escalation of police brutality turn tragic when 23yr old protestor Carlo Giuliani was shot dead resulting in subsequent meetings transfered to remote areas
The G8 gathering at a remote ski resort goes off without too much drama
The G8 meet actually on an island just off the coast with a no-fly zone in place & surface-to-air missiles readied fo a potential terrorist attack or arrival of protestors by air
The G8 in Gleneagles encounter a renewed fervor in their detractors which sees 91 arrests & the seizure of numerous weapons
The G8 results in a thousand people injured including 146 cops who got caught up in a street fight with rowdy activists
The G20 summit in London resulted in thousands of angry protestors taking to the streets against the corpoarte commercial juggernaut: the utopians vs. the pinstripes. A bank was stormed & before long an innocent newspaper vendor lay dead in a hospital from a heart attack thanks to severe police negligence
During the G77 talks, South Africa leads a delegation of developing nations to walk out on Canada's address pusing to abandon much of the Kyoto protocol. The suggested proposal of a new global warming pact is yet but another example of the widening, bitter rift between rich countries & the third world