Rattling the global corporate suites in Seattle

Chuck0 chuck at tao.ca
Mon Jan 3 08:46:54 PST 2000

If you want to dismiss the "ninja anarchists," who after all put the anti-WTO protests on the front pages of every newspaper, not the labor march, let's talk about James Hoffa preening for the news cameras, or Michael Dolan telling the Washington, DC IWW that they are not welcome at big labor's press conference.

The fact that big labor didn't join the street demonstrations is revealing. They still want to sit on the capitalist's laps and play footsy with the Democratic Party. Big labor will sell out the workers again and again, like they have been doing for the past 70 years. Maybe if they had joined the barricades instead of marching back to the stadium for more speeches by nationalistic party hacks, things would have turned out differently.

Piss on the anarchists and we'll piss on you.

Chuck0 Groundzero GMB - Washington, DC IWW

Scott Marshall wrote:
> Doug says this fits the general interest guidelines so here it is for those
> who are interested.
> Scott
> *******************************************
> Rattling the global corporate suites in Seattle
> By Scott Marshall
> "They came to Seattle expecting a warm reception. They think Seattle is the
> Mecca of capitalism. We've got something else in mind."
> - George Becker, president of the United Steelworkers of America, speaking
> to over 600 steelworker activists meeting the day before the anti-WTO
> protests in Seattle.
> Instead the World Trade Organization (WTO) was greeted by stormy
> demonstrations and thousands of angry protestors that week of late
> November, early December. It was a sea of humanity, a militant, organized,
> sea of humanity from around the US and around the world. Tens of thousands
> of AFL-CIO trade unionists, tens of thousands of environmentalists, tens of
> thousands of farmers, tens of thousands of youth and students, and tens of
> thousands of religious activists came to be heard.
> Jim Hightower, the progressive radio commentator, captured the bittersweet
> humor of it all when he welcomed thousands of demonstrators to the
> Agriculture and Farmers protest midweek saying, "Welcome to this
> spontaneous and unauthorized outbreak of democracy."
> And when the demonstrators weren't breathing in pepper spray and tear gas
> or dodging plastic bullets, they had a good time with their democracy. It
> was a week long festival of anti-corporate, anti-monopoly people's
> democracy. Farmers from Ghana exchanged views with steelworkers from Ohio.
> Women's rights activists from Burma swapped stories with pipefitters from
> New Jersey. It was that kind of a week.
> In fact, underneath the ridiculous mass media coverage of the Battle in
> Seattle, a remarkable new level of international solidarity and coalition
> was being born. Teamsters and turtle lovers, steelworkers and tree-huggers,
> philosophy students and Montana ranchers, lots of diverse folks discovered
> in action that they are much alike, that their problems stem from the same
> source - monopoly capitalism.
> What a week.
> Tuesday's massive labor march was the keystone event. The morning started
> with typical Seattle weather for that time of the year. It rained. Just a
> drizzle. Enough to keep you cold and miserably damp. But people started
> arriving for the kick off event, scheduled for 10am, as early as eight.
> Anticipation was high. Memorial Stadium, where the rally began, is an old
> fashioned stadium with real grass and an open sky.
> The AFL-CIO marshals opened only two big gates at the foot of the stadium
> to make it easier to register everyone who came. Protesters were met with a
> cheerful smile from a union volunteer and asked to fill out an information
> card. They are serious about keeping in touch with these activists.
> Everyone was also offered a free rain parka - the AFL-CIO ordered 20,000
> the week before in light of the weather reports. Some of the unions passed
> out special Seattle t-shirts and parkas with union logos. As people arrived
> they were also greeted with a copy of the People's Weekly World.
> It was clear, well before 10am, that a little weather wasn't going to stop
> this show. Just before ten, those arriving began to report, having heard it
> on the radio coming in, that the opening session of the WTO meeting had
> been cancelled. The police were using tear gas and rubber bullets on
> demonstrators. Regardless, the whole central downtown district around the
> meeting hall had been shut down.
> Everyone started congratulating each other. "We did it. We're shutting them
> down!" By this time probably 15 to 20,000 were already at the stadium, and
> the word spread quickly.
> The sit-ins downtown had begun much earlier in the morning. These were well
> timed, well organized blockades of key intersections, organized in the main
> by the Direct Action Network. This was a broad coalition of student and
> community activists who planned non-violent civil disobedience to challenge
> the WTO. Their careful planning included training session on tactics and on
> how to conduct themselves in peaceful confrontations with the authorities.
> Their strategy was to block delegates from getting from their hotels to the
> Seattle Trade Center, where the WTO was to convene. Organized teams took
> intersections and chained themselves to each other with elaborate
> structures made of plastic pipe to prevent the police from easily splitting
> them up. While others surrounded the Seattle Center, blocking the doorways
> and sidewalks.
> It was effective. At the time the WTO's opening session was to begin, only
> about 500 of the over 3000 delegates were present in the hall.
> Meanwhile, back at the kick-off rally at Memorial Stadium, cheers went up
> when it was announced that Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, and US
> trade representative, Charlene Barshevsky, could not make it into the
> center for the opening ceremonies.
> An even greater roar of approval greeted Brian McWilliams, president of the
> International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), when he announced that
> his union had shut down all the seaports on the entire West Coast in
> support of the anti-WTO labor march in Seattle.
> By now, around 10am, the rain had let up and the sun was trying to break
> through the gray clouds. The stadium was filling up with union members and
> families, and the speeches were beginning. The crowd warmed up quickly to
> the anti-corporate, anti-monopoly messages. Speakers, though led by
> American labor leaders, were from around the world and across the political
> spectrum. The dominant message was the same, globalization on corporate
> terms is a treat to democracy and to the living standards of all workers.
> Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and
> Municipal Employees union (AFSCME), told the crowd that they are fighting a
> system. That system has a name, it is corporate monopoly capitalism, he
> said. They responded with cheers and applause. A few may have winced at the
> remarks of a farmer's union representative when he said, "Dear comrades and
> fellow workers, I bring you revolutionary greetings from India." But the
> crowd ate it up.
> By twelve o'clock, people were ready to roll, a little impatient with the
> speeches and standing around. Outside the stadium, thousands were milling
> around, talking and stamping their feet against the chill. They were eager
> to get going. A steady stream of demonstrators continued to arrive in buses
> and by foot.
> The AFL-CIO did a great job in organizing the event. Things were will
> planned and choreographed, with one exception. While there were large
> platoons of marshals for the march, they did not seem to be that well
> trained or deployed. They had walkie talkies, but seemed to be in a
> permanent state of confusion as to what they should be doing.
> As people streamed out of the stadium to line up for the march, they were
> left to their own devices as to how to assemble. The larger industrial
> unions, like the steelworkers, the teamsters and the longshore workers had
> their delegations very organized, but many others saw their groups split
> and lost in the crowd. People were crowded together in several large
> parking lots and city blocks of open space for a long time before the march
> began. This state of affairs helps to explain some of the confusion later
> on in the march. More on that later.
> Finally the march began. Like a huge sponge filling up with water, the
> marchers expanded out dozens of city blocks as they stretched their legs to
> walk. At the same time, large contingents of demonstrators joined in from
> feeder marches. Students and environmentalists poured in from side streets.
> A very large contingent of Canadian trade unionists and their families
> arrived just then and streamed off their busses adding to the mass. They
> had been hassled and delayed at the border by US Customs.
> You could identify some of the larger contingents by their colors. The
> teamsters were in bright yellow rain slickers with the union logo. The
> steelworkers in bright sky blue with the union crest on their backs. The
> machinists were also in blue rain slickers. The United Farmworkers marched
> under a sea of red flags sporting the familiar farmworker eagle. Hundreds
> of marshals, mostly from the machinist local at Boeing, wore bright orange
> baseball hats. Union hats were everywhere - IBEW, UFCW, SEIU, UAW, UNITE
> and many more. In all there were contingents from 50 unions, from 25 US
> states and 144 countries in the march.
> There was a large and militant contingent from the French metalworkers
> federation of the CGT. They had prepared chants, and a cocky attitude, that
> thrilled all those marching around them. A group of Japanese farmers wore
> traditional protest head bands and carried large, beautiful hand painted
> protest signs.
> A lot of creative energy went into the signs. Besides long colorful
> banners, there were a variety of individual picket signs. One was a three
> foot wooden cut out of Daffy Duck that proclaimed, "The WTO is Loony
> Toons." One of the environmental groups carried a 15 foot long helium
> filled condom inscribed, "Practice safe trade." A favorite was a Mack truck
> size balloon of an endangered sea turtle. Dozens of families jockeyed to
> have their picture taken with it.
> The march also included a lively contingent from the Communist Party of
> Canada and the Communist Party, USA with banners and signs. It is a sign of
> the times that the contingent was so well received by the marchers around
> them. There was joking and good humor about marching behind the Communists
> banners and questions like, "Hey, aren't you guys supposed to have red flags?"
> At the head of the march was an impressive list of US labor leaders - John
> Sweeney and Linda Chavez Thompson, president and vice president of the
> AFL-CIO; George Becker, president of the steelworkers; Brian McWilliams,
> president of longshore; Steve Yokich, auto union president; Gerald McEntee,
> president of AFSCME; Thomas Buffenbarger, president of the machinists
> union, Jay Mazur, president of UNITE; Ed Fire, president of IUE; Mike
> Monroe, president of the painters; Sonny Hall, president of the transport
> workers; and many others including environmentalists, farmers and faith
> based activists. They marched behind a huge red and yellow banner
> proclaiming, "WTO - it's not working for working families."
> As the march reached the downtown area near the Seattle Center, the
> confusion began. Sweeney and company, at the head of the march, proceeded
> to the central area where the civil disobedience was taking place. They
> sat-in symbolically in a major intersection for a few minutes. This was in
> solidarity with the protesters who were blocking the WTO meeting and being
> arrested.
> Inexplicably, after the leadership grouping of a couple of hundred had
> passed, some of the marshals began to try and divert the main body of the
> march down a cross street and back to Memorial Stadium. Pandemonium ensued.
> Marchers had no idea what was going on. Why was the march being split?
> Obviously someone had gotten cold feet at the idea of taking the march into
> the police riot - an understandable hesitation given that no one had been
> prepared, nor planned for such a confrontation.
> Many ignored the marshals and continued on downtown. The bulk, thinking
> they should be disciplined, began turning down the cross street. Meanwhile
> the marshals got into heated exchanges with each other as to who had
> decided to turn the march back. A large group of marshals began urging
> marchers to ignore the turn and continue on downtown. Thousands continued
> on. Thousands more just assumed this was the natural end of the march.
> Some have tried to turn this confusion into a big political split in the
> Seattle protests. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like the
> childish vandalism of a few "ninja anarchists," this incident has been
> blown way out of proportion by a few. There was some confusion, but the
> march was so massive and otherwise disciplined that the unity of all the
> protesters shown through. There was a high level of unity between those
> committing organized civil disobedience and those in the labor march. At
> its height, the Associated Press estimated that between 50 and 60,000
> people were taking part in the Tuesday protests. Many of us in that sea of
> humanity, felt like it was more.
> Starting that Tuesday morning and continuing for the next two days, the
> police were completely out of control. As we all saw on national TV, they
> waged war. They not only tear gassed, pepper sprayed, shot plastic bullets,
> and threw stun grenades at protestors, they also attacked whole
> neighborhoods not involved in the protests. People waiting at bus stops to
> go to work were beaten and gassed. People, in no way connected to the
> demonstrations, were dragged from their cars and beaten and jailed. In
> those three days, over 600 were arrested and detained. Many were roughed up
> and kept in inhuman conditions without being allowed phone calls.
> Other events.
> While Tuesdays events took center stage, the whole week was a kaleidoscope
> of marches, forums, meetings, concerts and activities against
> globalization. The steelworkers issued their members a weeklong agenda of
> activities to ensure their full participation in the whole range of events.
> In particular George Becker, John Sweeney and Linda Chavez Thompson, and a
> ton of local labor leaders, kept up a hectic pace to "show the labor flag"
> at many of the diverse events - women's rights, environmentalist, youth,
> farmers, peace, and third world debt forgiveness to name a few.
> It is beyond the scope of this article to give a full account, but for some
> highlights. Each day had a theme. Tuesday was labor, Monday was the
> environment. For environment Monday there were conferences, forums and
> teach-ins all day long. Midday there was a colorful march of over 5000 to
> the Seattle Center. The organizers had asked folks to come as their
> favorite endangered species. In the march there were large contingents of
> butterflies, turtles and whales. Anne Feeney, the labor protest singer,
> warmed the crowd up with a song whose chorus was, "capitalism sucks." They
> loved it and sang along.
> Monday evening saw action by a coalition of religious, environmental and
> labor groups calling to break the chains of global debt for the world's
> poorest countries. It is part of an international movement called Jubilee
> 2000 to forgive the debt of underdeveloped countries. Led by Maxine Waters,
> Congresswoman from California and John Sweeney, more than 13,000 activists
> held a candle light march to the Exhibition Hall. Inside the WTO delegates
> were having an extravagant cocktail reception. Demonstrators surrounded the
> hall linking arms and chanted, "Cancel the debt now!"
> A little later Monday evening, there was a People's Gala held in the Key
> Arena, a large city auditorium. Michael Moore was the Master of Ceremony.
> He was identified as "our, or the good Michael Moore." This was the Michael
> Moore of "TV Nation" and "The Awful Truth" fame. Not to be confused with
> the other, or bad, Michael Moore, who is secretary general of the WTO.
> Besides speakers like Jim Hightower, Maxine Waters, and Senator Paul
> Wellstone, the Gala also featured music and comedy. Most of these folks,
> including Anne Feeney, also provided another evening of entertainment,
> Tuesday night, to benefit locked out Kaiser workers.
> On Monday also, the steelworkers union sponsored an important conference on
> "Strategies for Global Trade Unionism." It featured panels and speakers
> from unions around the world - miners from South Africa, Chile and Britain,
> industrial and commercial workers from Ghana, chemical workers from Belgium
> and many others.
> Thursday was Agriculture and Farmers protest day. Again there were day long
> conferences and forums on a wide variety of related issues - food safety
> and security, the rural crisis, bio-engineering and corporate theft of
> genetic materials, global farmworker organizing strategy, and sustainable
> family agriculture versus corporate monopoly agribusiness. And again there
> were farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers from around the globe and around
> the country. Thursday afternoon, once again, more than 5000 marched, this
> time in support of family farmers.
> A cast of thousands.
> You spent the whole week meeting some very interesting people. Many of the
> labor and people's leaders mentioned so far are well known to our readers.
> Others, who played big roles in mobilizing, organizing and influencing
> events are not so well known. Here's three out of a cast of thousands.
> Jose Bove is well known in the European Union countries. In Seattle he
> became an instant hero. His celebrity grew as word spread quickly that Jose
> was the French, goat and cheese farmer who drove his tractor into the
> middle of a McDonalds restaurant being built in the South of France.
> As he explained, this was not the individual act of a frustrated farmer,
> but part of a demonstration organized by his farmers union. He explained
> that there is widespread anger among French farmers at the role of giant
> monopoly corporations like McDonalds for their anti-French practices and
> use of genetically modified foods. While in Seattle Bove led a wine and
> cheese protest eat-in in front of a McDonalds. He called it good eats
> versus bad eats. He was right.
> Vandana Shiva, an activist from India, co-chaired with Mark Ritchie,
> director of the Institute for Trade and Agriculture Policy, most of the
> farmer protest events. Shiva is head of the Research Foundation for
> Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy in India.
> She is also the founder and leader of an organization of farmers in India
> that has waged a militant fight against Monsanto, Cargill, and others
> trying to steal seeds and other genetic materials from Indian peasants and
> farmers. These giant agribusiness monopolies have tried to patent stolen
> genetic code from Indian seeds and then charge Indian farmers royalties for
> their use. She is a fiery speaker who became and instant favorite during
> the weeks of protests.
> Ron Judd is the president of the King County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
> The King County federation includes Seattle. He, his staff and the King
> County council worked day and night for months to make the WTO protests a
> success.
> They also came up with the crowning event of the week. Judd and his staff
> organized a second labor march on Friday. He and the King county council
> persuaded the AFL-CIO, the Direct Action Network and the other
> organizations still in town that another march was necessary. This was a
> march to protest the arrest and treatment of the protesters by the police
> and to reestablish the true theme of the week - protest against the WTO.
> The march was put together on one days notice. Over five thousand marched
> including a great turn out from labor in the Seattle area. The protestors
> took a route that deliberately violated the Seattle Mayor and police
> chief's "no protest zone." Marchers demanded the release of the jailed
> demonstrators and an end to the police violence. In a dramatic finale, the
> marchers spelled out with their bodies the word "democracy," several blocks
> long.
> Incredible levels of unity were built and creative energy released by the
> "Battle in Seattle." The internet is full of stories from individual
> participants. They often describe how returning to their shop or workplace
> they were greeted as heros. Some report fellow workers angry that they were
> not provided with the opportunity to go and participate by their unions.
> Forums and conferences have been planned throughout the country and the
> world. Everyone is determined to build on Seattle. Already there are calls
> for a march on Washington for April when the World Bank and the
> International Monetary Fund will be meeting there.
> Seattle was revolutionary. It was an important turning point in building a
> labor-led, anti-monopoly coalition. A broad, all-people's coalition that
> can truly begin to challenge the anti-democratic, anti-working class power
> and policies of the global capitalist system.
> ##30##

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