Fwd: yet another account of the wto protest

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at SPAMdojo.tao.ca
Thu Dec 2 03:30:23 MST 1999



Forwarded From: Jonathan Oppenheim <oppenh at black-hole.physics.ubc.ca>

> The following is an account of the WTO shut down, and I am sure
> others will send out their perspectives.  I have barely slept in
> the last week, so please excuse my scattered thoughts and lack of
humor
>
> - long-winded and boring is where I'm at right now.
> The attempted shut down is still continuing, and people can check
> out www.indymedia.org for updates.
>
>
> xxx
> jonathan
>
> ---------------------------------
>
> In the weeks leading up to the event many of us from Vancouver
> began converging on the site to help organize the shut down.
> The Direct Action Network, composed of groups from around the world
> helped facilitate the organizing, and had rented a warehouse to
> provide food and meeting areas.
>
> The area around the Conference Center and Paramount Theater
> where the meeting and opening ceremony was to occur had been
> divided into 12 "pie slices", and various affinity groups
> organized into clusters to claim responsibility for shutting
> down each of the slices.
>
> Vancouver folks, joined by kids from Calgary and Edmonton
> formed into a flying squad of about 100 people.  The role of the
flying squad
> is to weave in and out of the crowd, providing support for any
> blockade which needed more people.  We had set up a communication
> network in order to coordinate efforts between the 12 pie slices,
> and figure out which areas to fly to.
>
> On the actual day of the November 30th shut down (N30), we were
joined by
> many other kids from Vancouver and Ontario, but things were so
chaotic that we
> ended up splitting into smaller flying squads and trying to
coordinate our
> efforts using cell phones.
>
> We began with one of the marches at 7 a.m., while some groups began
to block
> the area around the Paramount Theater.  We quickly left the march,
and headed
> to the weaker back side of the Conference Center, in the "H" slice.
Once
> there, we joined a small crowd who had linked arms and locked down in
front of
> one of the motorcade routes.  Just like at APEC, it was this weak
back area
> that the Seattle police tried to clear first.  At around 8:30, the
riot
> squad, decked out in gas masks, started firing cannisters of tear gas
at the
> passive crowd.  The crowd, many wearing goggles and bandanas
> amazingly held their ground for some time, until the police moved in
with
> pepper spray and more tear gas to push everyone back.  After clearing
the area,
> about 10 delegates were ushered between two walls of riot police.  The
> delegates smiled and waved at us and even snapped pictures of the
crowds on
> either side of them.
>
> At around this time, the police electronically jammed our
communications
> network and all we could here on the radio was a recording which kept
> repeating "this is bullshit, bullshit!"  Fortunately, there was a
smaller
> network of digital cell phones, and secret channels which we were able
> to still use to gather information and relay to the affinity groups.
> Later in the day the police were able to figure out some of the
channels
> we were using, and posed as communications people to feed us false
information.
> Most of the coordination ended up being spontaneous, with people just
running
> back and forth to try to even out the blockades. There were also some
people
> monitoring police scanners, and we were sometimes able to figure out
which
> entrances the police would try to clear.
>
> At around 9:30 a.m. I went with some of the flying squad to another
location
> on the back side of the conference center, in the "E" slice.  This
ended
> up being the second entrance that the police cleared.  This time
however,
> people were a bit angrier after the last gassing, and a few people had
> moved dumpsters and newspaper boxes into the middle of the street
> to form a barricade.  The police then fired canisters of tear gas into
> the crowd, but some brave folks kept throwing them back at the police.
> It was like watching a tennis match, with canister after canister
> getting returned.  "Love-30!".
>
> This prompted the police to fire plastic bullets into the crowd (brian
> has one as a souvenir if anyone wants to see it!).  They also used
> paint guns and aimed assault rifles at the crowd as an intimidation
tactic.
> After getting shot, a protester threw a water bottle at an armored
personal
> carrier.  For a second, I thought it was a Molotov, but it was just
Evian
> water.  The police then pushed the crowd back, some riot squad
members using
> their truncheons.
>
> We spent the rest of the day weaving in and out of hot areas, so that
the
> police would never know which areas were weak (we read in an activist
> zine that chaos was the best tactic). Police cars and equipment trucks
> were used as blockades just by waiting until they got to a strategic
location
> and then lying down in front of them (i saw one woman puncture a
bus's tire to
> form a blockade).
>
> Throughout the day it was incredible how violent the police
> were, and how restrained demonstrators were.  Passive blockades were
usually
> cleared with tear gas (including cannisters which explode high over a
crowd
> and cause explosions which can be heard several blocks away).  Pepper
spray
> (which most felt was worse than tear gas), rubber bullets, horses and
batons
> were also used (also rumors of stun guns).  Often, no warning would
be given,
> and arrests were almost never made.  It was fairly obvious that the
police were
> severely outnumbered (estimates of the crowd tend to be at around
50,000 in
> the middle of the day), and had decided that it was too much work to
arrest
> civil disobedients (At 5 p.m., we were only aware of 15 arrests).
>
> By noon, we had occupied downtown Seattle, and the opening ceremonies
> had been delayed and then canceled.  Less than 500 out of 3000
delegates
> had been able to get in, and those that did get in were often several
hours
> late. Delegates (or anyone in a suit for that matter) were often
prevented
> from entering an area by a single chain of confident protesters.  Most
> delegates scampered around, looking frustrated, trying to find a way
inside.
> Some pretended to be workers looking for their cars, tourists,
reporters or
> observers. One even offered us his gold watch if we would let him in.
Every
> where they went, the delegates were met by taunts, and people
offering them
> photocopied dollar bills.  Some of the delegates were also tear
gassed by
> accident (the police used so much gas that breathing anywhere in the
downtown
> area could sometimes be painful).
>
> By mid afternoon, the mayor and governor had declared a 7 p.m.
curfew, and
> booked the services of the national guard for the following day.  The
police
> then began clearing a corridor along Union St. one intersection at a
time.
> This became increasingly difficult as the large march of labor
> and environmental groups flooded the area, and so, more tear gas was
used.
> Union leaders had announced that the march would not participate in
civil
> disobedience, but a sizeable portion of their members defied union
bosses and
> joined us.
>
> The police then began began to push the crowds out of the downtown
area, away
> from the Union St. Corridor they had created.  Some in the crowd
became
> increasingly angry, and a few smashed store windows and ripped out
newspaper
> boxes.  The GAP, McDonalds, Nike Town, and Nordstroms suffered
damage.
> Later, a group composed mostly of fraternity brothers and sorority
sisters
> looking for thrills looted Starbucks, carrying out bags of coffee.
>
> The property damage created a fairly large rift in the group.  Most
wanted to
> continue with the shut down for the following day, but some were so
> upset over the property damage that they wanted to cancel the shut
down
> and instead clean up the streets.  One person suggested helping the
police find
> the vandals.  Some people were upset that some news outlets had
concentrated
> their coverage on the broken windows, ignoring the physical police
violence or
> the issues that people were protesting (heaven forbid).
>
> In the end, people fortunately favored another shut down attempt and
came
> together again, but the dynamic was a bit weird for a bit.
>
> All in all, I think we kicked serious korporate ass (for one day).
It was
> easily the most awesome show of defiance I have ever seen, with people
> enduring a lot of pain in order to keep occupying their blockades.
No one was
> bored, not even the delegates.
>
> j
>
>



--
Macdonald Stainsby

check the "ten point platform" of Tao at: http://new.tao.ca

"To give food aid to a country just because they are starving is a
pretty weak reason."
   Henry Kissinger, 1974
(former American Secretary of State)













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