Category Archives: WTO Extra (12/15/99)

Caught at the WTO

On Wednesday I headed to the no protest zone. People said I would be arrested on sight since the police had already swept up 200 protesters. There were police and National Guards in riot gear on every corner, and blocking many streets. I found 200 protesters in a drizzly intersection. We began to march, and the police blocked our action to the convention center, but let us march around. We met another contingent of 300 and marched until it was time for the labor rally at the docks. Many of us got impatient and about 1,000 began to march downtown.

As we approached the \”No Protest\” zone, police blocked our path, then tossed teargas grenades into the crowd. We retreated, and the police opened fire with rubber bullets. An armored car came down a side street and tried to block it. They blasted me in the face with a fire-extinguished sized container of pepper spray. I stumbled down the street, led by some of my friends who grabbed me. I was blinded for the next 10 minutes.

We decide to march north, the only direction open to us. As we crossed under a freeway, police attacked from the side and teargassed, but the wind blew it back at them. I was at the rear, and as I turned away, I was hit in the back with a rubber pellet shotgun. We managed to get to 1st street, but the police were closing in. They teargassed us along with many bystanders and motorists. We were now the captives of the police. Soon, city buses came, and they cuffed us one by one, dragging us on to the bus.

We were taken to Sand Point, where we sat for three hours, with no food, water, or bathroom facilities.

The police finally got to our bus, and told us they would physically remove us if we didn\’t leave when commanded. Given that choice, we took over the bus. At 3 a.m., they dragged us off the bus. We were given jail uniforms and wrist bands that said \”John WTO,\” since we refused to give our names.

We spent hours in holding cells, with only turkey baloney sandwiches. On Friday night, some of us were taken to court in Seattle. We were finally taken in to see the judge, and she decided to dismiss our charges, but gave the prosecutor two years to refile charges against us, since we refused to give our names.

The police told us to get our stuff and leave, but half of us returned and stayed in solidarity with the other WTO prisoners. Finally at midnight, we got to see our lawyers for the first time and we decided to use solidarity to clog the court system. We were released at 2 a.m. on Sunday, and all the others over the next 24 hours (except the dozen or so felonies).

Squat Seattle

The first major anti-WTO action created a HOME out of a vacant building. During the week hundreds of protesters and homeless folx worked together to make the autonomous zone breathe fire into the steel and glass leviathan of corporate Seattle.

It\’s the 5th day of occupation. 5 squatters are huddled by a window.

\”The fucking media\’s scapegoating this squat for all the shit that went on downtown. They think we\’re the headquarters of the entire Black Bloc, that we\’re coordinating the entire resistance out of this building. They could move on this place like they did MOVE and no one would blink an eye,\” says Tom.

Spyda agrees. \”The media\’s been setting us up for the last three days so when we go down they can say we were violent riffraff all along. They\’ve been given hours of lucid, articulate quotes about housing and social fucking justice and all they can talk about is anarchists from Eugene.\”…

…the first day of the occupation. It was evident that those involved understood the seriousness of the takeover. Within two hours the activists had installed a sink and a toilet, cooked hot meals for 90, reinforced barricades, conducted interviews with mainstream and independent media, and organized security and radio communications teams…

…Everyone in the building worked hard to meet the ultimate goals of the building\’s liberation: providing housing for the homeless! This objective directly bonded to criticisms of the WTO as a global machine fueled by the blood of the working class and the rape of natural resources for capital and consumerist growth…

How to Shut Down the WTO with One Eye Open

Working as the point man for the East Bay wingnut affinity cluster, I arrived in Seattle 10 days early to scope out troublemaking opportunities. I got off the plane, headed downtown, and made my way to 420 E Denny Way, home of the direct action network, home to thousands of dedicated activists, home to sprawling tactical maps and lockbox manufacturing stations, the base of what was surely a massively pre-planned action. Theoretically, at least. The scene that greeted me was distinctly different. There was a big room. And, perhaps, a map or two. A few people standing around looking like they knew how to make lockboxes. But signs of a massively pre-planned action? Nope, none of that was to be found.

There were big obstacles to planning the N30 action. Lots of affinity groups were working together. Most had never met before. A good chunk of us were secretive and didn\’t want to share our plans with anyone else. Hardly anyone knew their way around Seattle. Hell, most of us barely knew where the targeted area was. Yet, somehow, come November 30th, we controlled downtown Seattle.

This happened because of a few distinct reasons. First off, locals had been setting up infrastructures for the event months in advance. We didn\’t know what was going to happen, but the structure was fairly evident. The city would be divided into thirteen pieces, each one the responsibility of a different affinity cluster. High powered UHF radios would link the different clusters, and low powered walkie talkies would allow the affinity groups to communicate across shorter distances.

The morning started out well. Flags and banners were distributed, contingents were formed, people started marching out. At this point the high tech, super organized radio traffic consisted mostly of updates on how big the crowd was.

The East Bay wingnuts, organized as our own flying squad, split off from the march to assist an emerging blockade fairly early in the procession. That was when the organization began to fall apart. No one was using the correct radio channels.

Soon, however, all issues over channel usage became moot, as all our radios were jammed. One channel featured a loop tape of a cursing man. Another channel had somebody reading full names of the organizers out over it. We turned our radios off and took to wandering the streets, which at this point, worked as well as any other tactic would have. The streets were packed with people, it was easy enough to find hot spots. By around three o\’clock communications somehow resumed, just in time for us to deal with what was becoming an increasingly brutal police situation.

Police had begun pepper and tear gassing people, and the crowds had thinned to the point that some sort of coordination was needed. \”More lockboxes needed on 4th and Union,\” went one call, \”puppets to University,\” went another. One intersection was asking for lockdown volunteers, while another was calling for media.

Every now and then I would run into the other two tactical folks in my immediate area and we would try to develop a plan. Of course, a coherent plan never emerged. We were all very tired, chunks of our affinity groups had disappeared, and we were scared of being tagged as organizers and going to jail on conspiracy charges.

In the end our preparations helped. We shut down the city, scared the police, impressed the media. And we learned something about planning for these events. The main lesson, detailed tactical plans don\’t really work for large crowds in unpredictable situations. Tightly organized affinity groups do work. Radios are fun to use, but they don\’t really help too much. The most important lesson I learned? If you\’re going to take over a city, provide security for two thousand activists and attempt to have some role in the guidance of crowds while keeping your ass out of jail, sleeping the night before may help.

N30 International Reports

Manilla,Bacolod and Iloilo Phillipines
Some 8,000 people protested in front of the US mbassy chanting anti-WTO slogans. Thousands also protested against the 1995 Mining Act which allows 100 percent foreign equity in local projects but has been challenged by tribespeople who say natural resources are their heritage and should not be exploited by overseas companies

Euston Station UK
A rally of nearly 2,000 gathered at Euston Station to highlight the links between free trade and privatization of transportation. The rally later turned into a more militant protest when about 500 people tried to block the main traffic artery. An unmarked police van was set on fire.

Halifax UK
A Nestle factory was occupied and a banner displayed outside. 16 were arrested.

Leeds UK
In the Leeds city center, around 50 protestors were faced by over 300 cops. In the face of these great odds, people stuck around handing out leaflets outside scummy companies.

Manchester UK
Lloyds Bank was occupied by 50 activists who then proceeded to block the street outside.

France

75,000 people in 80 different cities in France protested the dictatorship of the WTO. On November 25, 5,000 French farmers with their sheep, ducks, and goats, feasted on regional products under the Eiffel tower in protest of the impact of trade liberalization. 800 miners clashed with cops ransacking a tax office.

Geneva, Switzerland
27 people aided by many outside who were blocking traffic, occupied WTO headquarters. One group, posing as \”visitors\” occupied the stairs leading to Michael Moore\’s office with a banner reading \”No Commerce, No Organization: Self Management\”.

Greece
Protestors clashed with riot police throughout the day and night at demonstrations outside the US embassy. The protests were about a wide variety of issues including world trade.

Brisbane, Australia
Activists protested outside the stock exchange

Milan, Italy

A group of \”white Coveralls\” occupied a McDonalds in Milan, locking themselves to the building fa├žade, hanging enormous banners, denouncing neo-liberalism and its effects, and distributing flyers to the amused passers by. A squatter band provided music.

New Dehli, India
A group, including writer Arundhati Roy, went to the US embassy to deliver more than 11,000 postcards protesting a dam in Maheshwar. They were arrested and held for 2 hours because of a regulation saying 10 people were too many to enter the embassy.

Elsewhere
Other protests November 30 against the WTO, the US and global capitalism were conducted in: Iceland, Prague, Limerick, Ireland, Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Padua, Italy, Cardiff, Wales, Bangor, Wales, Totnes, UK, and San Francisco