[diggers350] WTO Protesters Pepper Sprayed - Military Called Into Seattle FWD

Tom Boland wgcp at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 1 09:31:18 GMT 1999

For protesters' reports, see:
Seattle Independent Media Center

For 90 related photos, see:

FWD  Reuters - 2:56 AM ET December 1, 1999


     By Allan Dowd

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Massive protests threw the start of
global trade talks into chaos on Tuesday as demonstrators fought
with police and worried officials declared a civil emergency and
called in the national guard.

Anti-free trade activists clashed with police on Seattle
streets, while World Trade Organization (WTO) delegates inside
the city's heavily guarded convention center tried to hammer out
an agenda for a new round of trade negotiations.

In scenes reminiscent of U.S. civil rights and anti-war
protests of the 1960s, police in riot gear sprayed tear gas and
shot rubber pellets they called "stingers" to clear protesters
who had clogged the streets and blocked access to the convention
center where the meeting was being held.

Most protesters were peaceful but some looted shops, set
fire to trash cans and fought running battles with police.
Officers made about 60 arrests on charges ranging from assault,
inciting riot and damage to property. Seventeen people suffered
minor injuries.

Seattle police admit they were taken by surprise. "These
demonstrators, particularly those who were bent on violence and
destruction, made it difficult for us," Police Chief Norm
Stamper conceded. "It was a calculated strategy of major,
active and threatening disturbances.

At the posh Westin Hotel, where U.S. Trade Representative
Charlene Barshefsky and her Japanese counterparts were staying,
guests were told to go to their rooms for fear demonstrators
would storm the building.

Undeterred by the protests, trade ministers representing the
135 WTO members went ahead and delivered dry speeches about
their vision for the global trading system.

Barshefsky said negotiators had already made progress toward
narrowing their differences over agriculture and electronic
commerce. "We're very much on track," she said. Other
diplomats were skeptical a breakthrough was at hand.

Seattle Mayor Paul Schell declared a civil emergency and imposed a 7
p.m.-to-dawn curfew for the city's downtown area and
police immediately began clearing the city center.

By midnight the security forces, still firing tear gas, had
driven demonstrators into the city's Capitol Hill area.


Earlier, Governor Gary Locke called up two national guard
units specializing in crowd control and ordered them to assist
police forces already at the scene. "We're very concerned about
public safety," Locke said.

Police skirmished with anti-free trade activists throughout
the day as about 16,000 labor union members and other workers
staged a peaceful march to voice their demand that worker rights
be a part of future trade deals.

Activists chanted "Whose world? Our world. Whose streets?
Our streets" as banners accused the WTO of enriching big
business at the expense of the environment and jobs.

Some protest organizers expressed regret violence broke
out. "There are people who are not part of our movement who
have been the ones who have been orchestrating the violence,"
said Medea Benjamin, director of human rights group Global
Exchange. She said her group and others planned a "clean up"
effort on Wednesday to help repair damage from the rampage.


WTO chief Mike Moore, his voice brimming with emotion,
defended the organization that regulates global trade, saying
that protesters demanding its destruction were working against
poor people and developing countries.

"To those who argue that we should stop our work, I say:
tell that to the poor, to the marginalized around the world who
are looking to us to help them," the former New Zealand prime
minister told a news conference.

But Moore, a 50-year-old one-time labor union organizer,
insisted that the WTO's meeting through December 30, "will be a
success" despite a delayed start.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said he was
optimistic an agreement on farm trade would be reached.
Officials said the United States was also expected to announce
on Wednesday an initiative that would provide the world's
poorest countries greater access to the U.S. market.

President Clinton is due to arrive in Seattle on Wednesday
morning and planned to talk to protesters. Clinton told
reporters that he "strongly, strongly believe that we should
open the process up to all those people who are now
demonstrating on the outside. They ought to be a part of it."

The United States is seeking to create a panel within the
WTO to address labor issues. But the proposal is adamantly
opposed by many developing nations who see it as a protectionist
ploy by rich, developed nations.


Some delegates expressed their frustration at the delay of
the meeting and the pressure they felt the demonstrations were
exerting on this week's negotiations.

"I've never seen any meeting of this sort so badly
organized and mishandled," said one senior developing country
ambassador who heads his delegation at the WTO in Geneva.

U.S. officials were apologetic, but held firm in their
belief that a new round of talks to liberalize trade in
agriculture, services and other business sectors would be
launched this week.

Related Stories LINKED FROM

Protests Mar Start of Global Trade Talks
Global Trade Talks Overwhelmed by Protests
Violence Wreaks Havoc at WTO Meeting Start
Seattle Mayor Sets Curfew to Curb WTO Protests
Seattle Mayor Sets Curfew, Declares Civil Emergency
Protesters Clash With Police Near WTO Meeting
WTO Says Protests Cancel Seattle Opening Ceremony
Protests Force WTO to Relocate, Delay Opening
WTO Opening Delayed As Delegates Kept in Hotels
Protests Delay Start of Seattle WTO Meeting
Protesters Try to Disrupt Trade Talks Start
WTO Braces for Protest As Trade Talks Start
EU Building Common Front for Trade Round
WTO Members, Protesters Clash Over Trade
Protesters Seize the Limelight at WTO Meeting
Protesters Pleased As Scare Closes WTO Meet
WTO Meeting Center Closed by Security Concerns
Labor Groups Challenge WTO on Trade Round
WTO Meeting Hopes to Bridge Gap on Trade Round
Clinton Faces Balancing Act at Seattle Trade Talks


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