‘This!’ recounts Seattle protests

Last year hoards of protesters took to the streets of Seattle to exact justice on globalization and the World Trade Organization.

But according to ralliers, the media misportrayed them as violent and disorganized.

And a year later, with the battle still raging, a new book seeks to tell the “real story.”

Compiling anecdotes and essays of protesters, “Globalize This!” aims to change people perceptions of the protests, and educate them about this ongoing battle, giving voice to those who some feel the media stifled.

Between Nov. 30 and Dec. 3, 1999, about 50,000 protestors converged on Seattle seeking to shut down meetings of the World Trade Organization.

And according to essayists in “Globalize This!” the experience was spiritual, revolutionary, and most of all, successful. Medea Benjamin writes, “The labor, human rights, and environmental movements succeeded through militant direct action in shutting down the first day of the WTO conference.” The real power of the Seattle protests was that “the protests turned the WTO from an obscure acronym into a household name.” Similarly, “Globalize This!” further explains the battle against the WTO, detailing the past, present and future of what Seattle exposed to millions.

“Globalize This!” is a political book with specific goals. The articles are often strongly worded and convincing, but lack specific evidence to back them up. The essays that are complete and thoroughly proven are very powerful. If this book achieves its goals of educating the masses about the crimes of the WTO and the power of the resistance against it, the propositions in the final chapter are a step closer to being realized.

The protesters represented a myriad of organizations, beliefs, races, cultures and causes. William Greider, in his essay “It’s time to Go on the Offensive. Here’s how,” recalled seeing a group of young activists dressed as sea turtles marching alongside a group of truck drivers from a teamsters union. The unity of such diverse causes, from environmental concerns to labor union protests, according to Greider, “suggests the flavor of this loose-jointed new movement.”

The editors, Kevin Danaher and Robert Burbach, chose a variety of voices to tell the story of Seattle. “Globalize This!” includes articles, personal essays, declarations and specific demands for the future. Contributors include professors, writers, journalists and activists.

The book begins with a section about the protests themselves. The contributors told moving stories of police brutality, activist unity and courageous, nonviolent demonstrations. Most of the protesters had finished training sessions in non-violent protesting and organization. There was no centralized power, instead an intricate web of cell phones and pagers kept thousands united. Groups were organized and assigned to certain areas of the city. Their goal was to prevent the WTO delegates from reaching the Convention Center. With each group able to make its own decisions, they were more apt to withstand police brutality. Starhawk, a nonviolence trainer, writes, “No authoritative figure could have compelled people to hold a blockade line while being tear-gassed—but empowered people, free to make their own decisions, did choose to do that.”

Seattle police became uncontrolled and unreasonable. The attacked seated protestors with clubs, tear-gas, and rubber bullets. Activists would be sprayed with pepper spray, and then the police would rub the spray into their eyes, enhancing the painful effects.

The second part of “Globalize This!” tracks the complaints against the WTO and the history of the organizations. The major criticisms against the WTO are that it is undemocratic, harmful to poor people of Third World countries, undermining human rights and public health, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Vandana Shiva writes, “the national elites have formed a new alliance with global corporations. They want and need the WTO because WTO rules offer them protectionism from the people and insulation from democracy.”

The book concludes with a series of calls to action and prescriptions for amending the damages. Detailed new economic strategies for world trade are outlined, based on “the life cycle instead of the money cycle,” write the editors.

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