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IAC - reports on WTO/Seattle
THE BATTLE OF SEATTLE: Demos against the WTO and imperialism
Bulletin from the International Action Center - includes eyewitness accounts from Dec. 1 and 2.
By Key Martin reporting from Seattle
SEATTLE--WED, 1 DEC 1999
Seattle, Wash.--Police marched through downtown Seattle the night of Nov. 30 firing teargas, rubber and plastic bullets, and "flash and bang" concussion grenades to clear thousands of youth from the streets, after protesters closed down a World Trade Organization meeting with peaceful protests.
President Bill Clinton was expected to arrive shortly after midnight to address the WTO the next day.
A dusk-to-dawn curfew in downtown was invoked as Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a "state of emergency" and Washington Gov. Gary Locke called out the National Guard. Helicopters with searchlights and cameras circled as police continued to fire teargas up into the residential Capitol Hill area. Overlooking downtown, this district was supposed to be outside the curfew.
Cops began arresting people as residents from the Capitol Hill community-- angered over the teargassing of their neighborhood--joined the protests.
Beginning early in the day thousands of youths had linked arms just outside the police perimeter around the WTO meeting at the Seattle convention center. They blocked every street, alley and doorway, preventing delegates from entering the area. Police attempts to dislodge them with pepper gas failed as they stood their ground.
"Whose world? Our world. Whose streets? Our streets,'' chanted the protesters.
Many youths had come prepared with gas masks or bottles of water and bandanas. Some were part of Direct Action Network. They were joined by feeder marches from the University of Washington. The Peoples Assembly, with a large participation from the Philippine, Korean and other Asian communities, joined later. It ended its march by singing the Internationale in three languages.
40,000 march for labor
A few hours later a labor contingent that included John Sweeney, Linda Chavez-Thompson and other leaders of the AFL-CIO marched with what one local station estimated to be 40,000 union members and youths from Memorial Stadium to the Convention Center area, stretching as far as the eye could see.
The march included large delegations from the Steelworkers, Machinists, Service Employees and AFSCME. In addition to raising labor issues, many signs read "Free Mumia Abu-Jamal." Organizers found a widespread awareness of Mumia’s case among the rank-and-file unionists.
Taxi drivers struck for the day over the city’s tightening of restrictions.
Longshore workers shut down docks
The most militant labor contingents were from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which shut down the docks in Seattle and elsewhere on the West Coast in solidarity with the WTO protests.
ILWU President Brian McWilliams addressed a pre-march rally in the packed stadium telling the crowd, "There will be no business as usual today ... demonstrating to the corporate CEOs that the global economy will not run without the consent of the workers everywhere. ... The interests of working people transcend international boundaries."
McWilliams said labor was there "to tell the agents of global capital that we will not sit quietly by while they meet behind closed doors to carve up our world."
The rally was also addressed by the new general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Velinzima Vavi. "I come from that country that has enjoyed its freedom only for a few years after many decades of slavery. I want to tell you that freedom is under a new threat today, the threat of corporate greed, corporate tyranny, a new form of terrorism led by the WTO itself, a new form of colonialism led by globalization. ... Those greedy corporations are involved in a desperate attempt to throw a new wedge between workers of the developed and workers of the developing countries. Today we want to tell them that their endeavors are not going to succeed."
Labor delegations from 120 countries marched, including a large participation from Canada.
Cops step up repression
As soon as the labor march left the downtown area, the police began to take a harder line, firing more pepper gas and then plastic bullets. Police denied the use of the plastic bullets, but this writer was struck with one. Protesters gathered them up off the ground to show the media.
Many live media reports ended abruptly as reporters suddenly began gagging and coughing from the pepper spray and teargas.
The pretext for the "state of emergency" was a series of minor incidents much earlier in the day. Windows in McDonalds and several stores, including a number of overpriced Starbucks cafes, were broken and a recycling dumpster set on fire. The incidents were replayed over and over on television, as if to justify police attacks that began pushing peaceful protesters out of downtown block by block. Without warning, police assaulted large groups with teargas, plastic bullets and concussion grenades.
Protesters were jubilant, however, over the reported closing of the WTO. As of Dec. 1, some were still occupying a number of key intersections around the Convention Center area, many on streets already closed by the police.
Protesters kicked or threw the canisters back as they played a dissonant version of the national anthem over a sound system through the teargas clouds. Police rode around standing on running boards attached to the sides and back of armored cars. But the protesters retreated only as far as they had to as police advanced through the downtown office buildings and across the interstate highway. At midnight police were still assaulting people and making arrests in the neighborhoods above downtown.
Protests are expected to continue as thousands of youth have become radicalized by the police violence.
SEATTLE--WED, 1 DEC 1999
Seattle, Wash.--Protesters converged once again on downtown Seattle on Wednesday in protest both of the World Trade Organization and of the police brutality that had occurred the day before as police forcefully suppressed protest. Demonstrators once again were met with tea gas and plastic and rubber bullets. About a thousand demonstrators left the afternoon protest of Steelworkers and Longshoremen to converge on the convention center area. In midst of rush hour traffic, while attempting to disperse the demonstration, police unleashed a barrage of tear gas and concussion grenades on protesters, cars and buses sitting in rush hour traffic, and bystanders.
The cops marched through the streets rhythmically banging their billy clubs, sounding a fascist drumbeat as they pursued the protesters down the street. They would speed on armored guards and then screech to a halt and open up a barrage of tear gas. In one such incident a man in a wheel chair was severely injured and could not get out of the area. People in rush hour traffic couldn't leave their cars. On close inspection all the cops had pepper spray cans as well as billy cubs in their hands, both of which they used indiscriminately.
Protesters stood their ground from rush hour till the early morning. Moving up hill from downtown to the Broadway area, demonstrators only dispersed after being hit with a massive barrage of bullets and a new projectile, cylindrical wooden bullet unleashed on the crowd.
A number of protesters reported Wednesday that they had been assaulted, pepper sprayed, and arrested by plain clothes police outside demo area as leaving. Today's protests were also marked by mass arrests. Over 400 people have been detained and some were tear gassed while in police custody.
Medical workers who were trying to treat those who were injured were themselves assaulted by police and had equipment seized and trashed. Protesters in detention refused to come out of the buses in protest of the way in which they were detained.
There were several serious injuries that we are aware of by people who were fleeing the tea gas attack.
In response to demonstrators wearing tear gas masks for their own self defense, police last night removed them and used pepper spray at close range. Now authorities have outlawed wearing the masks downtown and have said they will arrested anyone caught with one on. People came out of their houses with water to help wash tear gas and pepper spray off demonstrators, as the community joined into protests in large numbers as it grew throughout the night. Police pepper sprayed an entire news van, causing the KIRO radio host, who was reporting live, to began gasping for air in the midst of her descriptions of the protests and police brutality. Even delegates to WTO were tear gassed and sprayed.
In addition to raising the effects on the corporate imperialism of the WTO, the banners of the International Action Center help up a banner with three-foot high letters demanding "Free Mumia" could be seen in the marches amidst the tear gas.
At a press conference Thursday morning, it was announced that the protests will continue; there will be a 11 am procession.
International Action Center
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