Protests mark one year anniversary
Celebrating the Battle of Seattle
Revolutionary Worker #1083, December 17, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
November-December, 1999: The Battle of Seattle. Thousands in the street protesting the World Trade Organization. Youth slamming newspaper boxes into Nike Town. Young women up in the face of WTO delegates who were unable to get to the convention. Protesters dressed as endangered sea turtles. Marching bands, drummers and dancers. Indictments of the WTO and the capitalist way of life emblazoned on banners, signs and buildings.
The explosion of concussion grenades and the sting of tear gas. And most of all, youth pulling battle gear from backpacks, donning bandannas and tear-gas masks and surging back at the police.
The power of the people not only shut down WTO's first day of meetings, but contributed to the collapse of the conference. The battle struck a blow for the people of the world, showing that right in the belly of the beast many oppose the destruction capitalist globalization is raining down on the oppressed and the environment. It gave voice to millions who thirst for a better future--youth looking for a totally different way of life. And this spirit lived on in protests during 2000--against globalization in DC, the RNC in Philly, the DNC in L.A. and the WTO in Prague.
This year, people were determined to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Battle of Seattle. On November 30 (N30), in the face of police threats and intimidation, 5,000 people celebrated in the streets. Hundreds more participated in forums, teach-ins, concerts, and film showings marking the anniversary. 800 rallied at Seattle Central Community College, leading to a march of 2,000. 600 marched from the south end of downtown led by the People's Assembly and Jubilee 2000, and all linked up with thousands more in Westlake Park. There were street barbecues, theater, speeches, music, dancing--standoffs with the police.
Later that night the police attacked people downtown. Riot cops pepper-sprayed protesters and, according to some reports, fired rubber bullets and tear gas. Marching in formation they swept protesters down 4th Avenue, banging on their riot shields. They ordered people to disperse while they blocked all means of escape. 140 people were brutally arrested. People going home from school or work were caught in the dragnet and busted. Protest organizers, legal observers, at least one reporter, and representatives of the King County Labor Council who had returned to the scene to negotiate with police for the protesters to leave the scene, were also swept up.
Seattle authorities had tried hard to suppress this anniversary. Last year's battle drove Seattle's police chief from office and almost took Mayor Paul Schell down too. After the international embarrassment to the U.S., every police chief from D.C. to L.A. swore that future anti-globalization protests would not be a repeat of Seattle.
Hundreds spoke out at Seattle city council hearings, exposing the widespread brutality of the police and denouncing the city's crackdown. A city council "study" of "what went wrong" during the protests produced a single theme conclusion, repeated by authorities and the media: "Why weren't the police more prepared and how can they be next time?"
New police Chief Gil Kerlikowske vowed the SPD would be ready this time. The SPD reportedly developed a plan involving "prisoner processing teams," "chemical agent response teams" and "uniformed and plainclothes arrest teams." Police from other cities were lined up as back-up. Seattle police had also acquired 260 more "non-lethal" weapons, including 130 bean bag guns. Mayor Schell and Kerlikowske threatened mass arrests just for marching without permits. Westlake Mall, the final rallying point of several protests, was declared off limits--going there would be considered "provoking a confrontation."
N30 organizers hit back with press conferences, e-mails and broad mobilization. Despite the denial of march and rally permits, organizers remained firm that they would carry through on their plans.
N30 activities were organized by a coalition of groups including the Independent Media Center, People's Assembly, Citiaction, Jubilee 2000, Global Action Seattle, American Friends Service Committee, student groups from Seattle Central Community College, and Community Action Network. N30 was dubbed International Day of Solidarity Against Corporate Globalization.
Things started with a kickoff celebration at Seattle Central Community College--attended by hundreds of students and youth of different nationalities, veterans of the Battle of Seattle as well as activists from the struggle against racism and police brutality.
The Lesbian Avengers came with anti-globalization slogans written on their bodies. One of them said: "We're here to let the police know and to let the state know, and the country and the world know, that we have not stopped fighting for what we believe in. And we have not stopped asking questions and we have not stopped looking for the answers." A black bloc anarchist said, "We're here for everybody, we're here for the world, to support anyone that's been oppressed."
Chanting, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" people headed into the street--where the cops said they couldn't go. At one point, a homeless man told three of his buddies, "Come on, let's get right in the middle of it, they're doing this for everybody." Mark Taylor Canfield, one of the organizers, told the RW, "It's an ongoing series of victories in the struggle against corporate globalization. And today we took the streets in the face of amazing opposition, threats of arrest, political pressure from the downtown business community, the mayor's office and the SPD."
A huge red banner carried by RCP supporters declared, "Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Revolutionary Communist Party. We are committed to revolution. We will never make peace with imperialism. Long Live the RCP,USA." There was great openness to the message of revolution and eagerness to share political strategies.
2,000 marched into Westlake mall, pushing past the 20 cops blocking Fourth Ave. For several hours people celebrated at Westlake. Hundreds of youth faced off the cops, who continued to mass throughout the afternoon and early evening.
Police Hit Back
Early evening many decided to march back to Capitol Hill. Others went to the nearby Labor Temple. Taking advantage of the smaller crowd, the police confronted people at one edge of the mall, pepper-sprayed the crowd and swept down the streets. Meanwhile labor leaders who tried to negotiate for people to leave the encirclement were arrested.
On Dec. 1, the Community Action Network held a mass rally for people brutalized last year, to file claims against the city. The rally provided a forum to expose police brutality--at demonstrations and against the masses every day. Dozens of people came to fill out claim forms. Jonathan Rosenblum, a representative of the King County Labor Council who had been arrested the night before, said the police had stormed over people, hit them with clubs, knocked people over, and indiscriminately arrested anyone there. He said the KCLC represented 150,000 workers and "Union members aren't going to take this lightly."
Ophelia Ealy, the mother of Michael Ealy who was murdered in 1998 by Seattle police, and a member of the October 22nd coalition, said, "I take my hat off to people fighting with the WTO. This lets me know that you are fighting for a cause. And one of the causes we are fighting for is justice for all and to be able to speak out."
People rallied at the jail to support those still inside. As people were released from jail, the crowd cheered. A 17-year-old Native American woman who was arrested told the RW, "One officer kicked me in the face. I got trampled on.... At the juvi center they were calling us trash and throwing us around, and making fun of us like we were nothing." Another young woman jailed for the first time said, "They kept trying to break us down, but it just made us stronger."
The WTO anniversary celebrations showed that the movement against imperialist globalization is powerful and moving ahead. Many activists are starting to get a deeper understanding about the WTO and other predatory imperialist institutions and making the connection between imperialist globalization and oppression around the world, and oppression and racism in this country. The 1999 Battle of Seattle had a big impact on the lives of thousands of youth--who have become activists, increasingly determined to fight for a better future. There is a growing thirst for political information and discussion about how the people can actually make this happen. The spirit of going up in the face of political suppression and intimidation by the state carried the day on Nov. 30--a fitting way to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Seattle.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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