November 30th, 1999. The last protest of the century, and the millennium. It happened in Seattle, about the WTO conference that was to start the millennium round of free trade negotiations. But "free trade" is bad for people, and people, citizens, shut down the WTO, and reclaimed the streets of Seattle. Hooray!

In December 1999, at Seattle, unauthorized protestors attempted to block the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetins taking place there. Riots ensued, wrecking downtown Seattle. The unprepared police react with brutality. The Battle of Seattle resulted in over 400 arrests.

Move forward 5 months. Washington D.C. Protestors try again. The police, having trained for weeks, arrest them all. The meeting went on relatively peacefully.

Just a few thoughts on the whole deal. The protestors themselves were a diverse mix of (as far as I can tell or have read from the papers):

Alright, nice diversity (as we all know, today, diversity is always good, no matter what it is). But are they cohesive as a group? They all want different things. In fact, for many of these things, the WTO has nothing to do with it. Sounds to me like a bunch of people who just want to protest. A short list:

  • The WTO is NOT a political tool of Western nations, and hence, civil rights record should not be a factor in admissions. I recall the admission of Burma despite a pretty incriminating record of abuses. That was probably because they had oil. How is that for hypocrisy.
  • When civil rights is mentioned, China is the big villain. Even though there are plenty of countries so much worse than China, everyone must complain about China. God knows why.
  • Seattle was one of the cities in the USA that benefitted so much from free trade, but then again, most of these people came from lots of places to cause trouble. Choosing Seattle as a protesting ground puzzled many people because they seemed to ignore all the benefits of free trade and bitch about imagined negatives.
  • Are the environmentalists saying that WTO supports the wrecking of the environment? They don't have anything to do with it. In fact, by lowering barriers restricting trade, developing countries would have more capital to deal with the problem. And even if they don't, the WTO (or the IMF for that matter) is not the organization to bitch at for this. The WTO is not responsible for corporate actions.
  • Globalization is not a bad way to go. It encourages cooperation between nations, as far as I know. I don't know too much about this so I won't, but so far globolization isn't too bad from the looks of it.
  • America is a country of immigrants, so what makes an American? Incoming immigrants have just as much right to a job as anyone else. Getting hired depends on qualifications, not nationality. If you don't have the credentials, go get some.
  • I'm not going to bother talking about the anti-corporates, because there is no point. Corporations will always be there, and believe it or not, they are efficient business machines, IMHO.

  • Don't blame the police. If you start wrecking Starbucks and McDonalds and other stores in the middle of downtown Seattle, you would expect heavy police reaction. If you start harassing innocent delegates to the conference by physically abusing them and dragging them away from the meeting, I don't think the cops will be too happy about that either. Obey the law. See also Defamation of the police.
  • Washington was a similar case, but less publicized and less dramatic than Seattle, because the cops moved quickly. All in all, as far as I care, the riots were all a waste of time. They were demonstrating the wrong way, and to the wrong people.

    To set the record straight, the protesters to the WTO never did any acts of vandalism or harmed any delegates. Peaceful protesters blocked delegates, but never harmed any. The acts of vandalism were started by a large group of Portland Anarchists who didn't care about the WTO, but found it to be a good excuse to cause violence because of the large crowds. Many of my friends were protesters and it was all a very peaceful protest until the Anarchists began destroying things.

    Not the last protest of 1999, just the last one you heard about because it was grossly misrepresented in the media. I myself registered about 1000 silent protests between 11/30 and 12/31 of that year.

    Want to relive the fun and fury of the WTO mayhem? Want to take the role of the Law Enforcement Officials or the People In The Streets? Well now you can.

    The Battle For Seattle is a war game brought to us by DTP games designer Citizen X. You can grab the 96 unit counters, 11x17" area map of downtown Seattle, and the 3-4 pages of rules and charts right off his site for free. Simply print out and play.

    The rules play heavily on media exposure and the effects it has on both sides of this event. This is not your normal attack versus defend style game, though there are still elements of that. Instead this game covers the problems crowd control, media spin, mob cohesion and resource timing.

    This is a great microgame that will offer you up both an educational and entertaining look deeper into what goes on during civil unrest.

    The battle of Seattle is seen as one of the defining moments in the so-called 'anti-globalization' movement in the developed world, (the defining moment for the rest IMHO would be the Zapatista uprising). It is a subject of heated, often moronic, usually misinformed (on all sides) debate.

    It is so hard to debate because very basic ideas that people don't think about become disputed. For example, the media called the protests violent, but many people's definition of violence only involves damaging people, not property.

    The protesters/activists/revolutionaries/all round troublemakers/whatever were varied. Some environmentalists, some anti-capitalists, some trade unionists, some just unhappy with the state of things(ists). Each had different goals, short and long term. This is a source of much criticism, however some (including myself) see it as a source of strength.

    For those outside the movement, it drew attention to the WTO. It showed that our leaders are making momentous decisions without consulting their people, in secret. More importantly, it showed everyone that a large number of people were angry, and that there is resistance to global corporatism. It is said that for every person who was at Seattle, five more were radicalized (I can attest to being one).

    For those who were there, it was a picture of what can come. Something which is overlooked, was the nature of the protests. The organizational structures were diverse, and very democratic. Meetings were held to decide how things were going to be done, new non-heirarchical organizational methods were experimented with. It was a way of developing new styles of management, a working representation of an alternative.

    When looking at the event, one must not look for specific goals of the protesters as a whole. It should be viewed as a representation of anger at the general state of things. Many people there didn't even know much about the WTO, they just say it as a symbol of corporate power. It was not an organized, carefully planned attempt to make specific changes. It wasn't cohesive, it wasn't even 'it', for 'it' would be a singular thing.

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