OT: Seattle WTO Conference to face Protestsgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Protests Mount Against Seattle WTO Meeting
Updated 6:48 PM ET November 28, 1999
By Chris Stetkiewicz
SEATTLE (Reuters) - As thousands of delegates flock to Seattle for the biggest trade talks in history, opponents are mounting an equally impressive campaign to demand labor and environmental safeguards, threatening to disrupt or shut down the summit entirely.
Several activists have already been arrested for unfurling anti-World Trade Organization banners across local landmarks, and protesters vow to disrupt the four-day 135-nation summit through escalating acts of civil disobedience.
Protesters declined to elaborate, citing legal concerns and hoping to preserve the element of surprise, but some said they may use human chains to block streets leading to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center housing the meetings.
"Our stated goal is to shut down the WTO and to prevent them from having a meeting," said Denis Moynihan of Direct Action Network, a collection of activist groups.
Moynihan added that "certainly over 1,000" activists are willing to risk arrest to get their point across.
Hundreds of demonstrators paraded through one Seattle neighborhood on Sunday singing and carrying large puppets to rally WTO opposition, eyewitnesses said.
Many wound up outside a downtown Gap Inc. (GPS.N) clothing store, encouraging holiday shoppers to return their purchases to protest alleged labor abuses by the firm's overseas suppliers.
A rare sunny Seattle day allowed a clear view of a small plane trailing a banner reading "People over profits -- Stop the WTO." But a more aggressive early morning protest by the Rainforest Action Network was postponed over "technical and safety" concerns, spokesman Mark Westlund said.
Westlund declined to describe the action. Activists from his group attended a "boot camp" for protesters in rural Washington state last summer that taught skills like scaling walls and hanging banners. On Saturday, two women were arrested for rappelling down a concrete wall along Interstate Route 5 for about 90 minutes and hanging a banner protesting the "corporate rule" of the WTO.
The two climbers and a man who assisted them, all in their twenties, were arrested and later released.
Three people were arrested last Tuesday for hanging a banner from a downtown Seattle Old Navy clothing store, which is owned by Gap Inc.
These protests were preludes to a massive rally set for Tuesday, when the summit officially kicks off, in which 50,000 or more will march to the convention center to present a list of demands to WTO chief Mike Moore. Moore has not said whether he will meet the protesters.
The giant AFL-CIO labor union will lead that procession and its organizers have pledged to conduct a peaceful march, with no verbal abuse of authorities and no property damage.
But some groups joining the march insist they will break laws if they must to protest what they call undemocratic WTO processes which have gutted or threatened measures to protect endangered species such as sea turtles and workers rights.
"We will use other methods to stop the WTO," said activist Ken Hankin. "It's important to the people of Seattle, the United States and the world that we prevent the WTO from taking over."
Members of the WTO, which grew out of the predecessor General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, hope to launch a new round of global trade talks here, with farm subsidies, dumping of cheap steel and labor standards among the key topics.
President Clinton, who will attend part of the summit, has said he welcomes the protesters. Hecklers and demonstrators have disrupted several speeches by White House advisors and officials in Seattle a
-- fyi (be firstname.lastname@example.org), November 28, 1999
Just when I was despairing of this generation----LOOK AT THEM!!!! YES!!!!!
-- John Q (email@example.com), November 28, 1999.
Brings a tear to my eye, remembering the good old days of being tear-gassed in Chicago. (Brought a few tears to my eyes THEN, too.) Yes, there's hope for them yet.
-- The Whistler (I'm Here, I'm There, I'm Everywhere@so.beware), November 28, 1999.