World Trade Organisation conference

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A Protester hurls a gas canister back at the police. Seattle N30.
A protester hurls a gas cannister back at police. Seattle N30.

A report from our comrades in Seattle:

WTO Shut Down in Seattle
by Gene Pepi and Tony Wilsdon,

SEATTLE, USA Tuesday, November 30th

More than 50,000 marchers and demonstrators shut down the meetings of theWTO (World Trade Organization) in Seattle, Washington today. The Port of Seattle was shut down as the International Longshoreman's Union shut down all the ports on the US West Coast. Unionized construction workers walked off downtown construction sites and the Downtown area of Seattle was effectively closed down.

The day started with 5,000 non-violent protesters forming human blockades, stopping access to the convention center by WTO delegates. Two major hotels housing delegates, the Westin and the Paramount, were blockaded all day. Only 500 of 3,000 WTO delegates got in the building by 12:45 PM and the meeting was canceled for the day. The local and national media reported and showed police using armored personnel carriers, tear gas, pepper spray, plastic bullets, paint ball bullets and flash-shock grenades in a failed attempt to disperse the demonstrators.

"Tear gas fumes hung over the downtown area making it hard to breathe. The police dressed in their black riot gear, with batons and tear gas guns drawn, looked like the Starship troopers out of Star Wars," reported protester Ramy.

At least 20,000 of the demonstrators were brought there by the AFL-CIO, which held a rally prior to the March. Large contingents of steelworkers, construction workers, longshoreman, public employees of all sorts, farmworkers, truck drivers, teachers, machinists, and every type of unionized workers in the US were present.

A new development for such union rallies in the US were speakers representing workers from all seven continents, from unions affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. This included three speakers from India including environmental activist Vandana Shiva, and one dissident trade union speaker from China.

Contingents from the French CGT and Force Ouvrier union confederations were also present.

Gerald McAntee, president of the a million member public employees union promised, "We will fight the WTO in the streets, we will fight them in the courts, we will fight them at the ballot box, and we will fight them on the picketlines. We will fight them." How this squares with the recent AFL-CIO (national union federation) endorsement of Democrat free trade supporter, Al Gore, for president in the year 2,000 is beyond this reporter.

The union march following the rally went downtown toward the WTO meeting place. It was joined by separate marches of university students and environmentalists. However, the AFL-CIO parade marshals scrupulously directed union marchers away from the protesters in front of the WTO meeting location. The Longshore contingent and several individual union members marched past the marshals to join the protesters.

The local media mentioned nothing about the union rally and march. What they featured was the damage done to downtown businesses, windows broken and garbage dumpsters burned, by a number of black garbed wild anarchist youth, who acted separately from the non-violent blockaders.

Members of the US CWI affiliated organization in Seattle played a key role in initiating an anti-WTO coalition at two universities. This resulted in more than 2,000 students joining the demonstrations. We soldover 100 copies of our publication on a socialist alternative to the WTO. Unfortunately, one of our three planned public meetings, was canceled as an emergency curfew was called to clear the downtown area of protesters.

Protests are planned for the remainder of the WTO week. With the imminent arrival of Clinton, the city has now called out state military troops to salvage the WTO. But they can't hide the fact that the events of today have sent a shock wave around the world, showing mass opposition to the WTO, here in the bastion of booming capitalism.

These events in Seattle shows a step forward in the consciousness of therole of the WTO and free trade as the enemy of a vast number of people.The list includes environmentalists, labor, students, the religiouscommunity and other activists from around the world. The Battle of Seattle will be seen as a milestone in the fight against free trade policies and globalization. If the WTO cannot meet in Seattle, the home of corporate giants Microsoft and Boeing, where are they going to try and meet next. Maybe they will be safe in Antarctica?