Seattle girds for WTO conference anniversary

Associated Press

SEATTLE — This will not be another Seattle.

Mayors from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles have made that vow as they braced for the same virulent outpourings of protest that thrust Seattle onto the world stage in a cloud of tear gas during last year’s World Trade Organization meeting.

Now, activists are converging again at the scene of their greatest coup against corporate globalization.

But they may not be returning to the same city.

"One of the biggest things we learned with WTO is that Seattle is not Mayberry with high-rises. People don’t play nice anymore," said City Council member Judy Nicastro, who joined activists in the streets and laments the tension she has seen growing in the past year between some citizens and police.

"It’s been a really mixed bag for Seattle in the aftermath," she said. "Activists are even more distrustful of police, and the police feel under siege and are very distrustful of the activists and the public officials who participated."

The meeting of the organization that sets the terms of global trade drew some 50,000 activists of all kinds to a city that long has prided itself on openness and encouragement of dissenting views.

But police were quickly overwhelmed by demonstrators bent on blocking streets and shutting the WTO meeting down. By the time the tear gas cleared, about 600 people had been arrested; shattered windows and other property damage totaled some $3 million; and Seattle had become a global symbol of both defiance and civic haplessness.

Police Chief Norm Stamper announced his early retirement soon after the protests. It’s uncertain whether Mayor Paul Schell will be able to overcome continuing criticism of his WTO performance and win re-election next year.

Now police are girding for demonstrations on "N30," the international solidarity day against corporate globalization on the Nov. 30 anniversary of activists closing WTO opening ceremonies.

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske has promised that demonstrators filling streets without a rally or march permit will be arrested.

So far, no groups have applied for permits, though about 5,000 demonstrators are expected, possibly including the black-clad anarchists who smashed windows and ransacked stores last year.

At a news conference this week, Schell said the city would attempt to protect protesters’ right to free speech, but not at the cost of others’ rights.

"Free speech is one of our country’s highest values," he said. "But we cannot allow it to become the freedom to vandalize, the freedom to interfere with others or the freedom to interrupt city business. … We think our citizens understand the difference."

Capt. Jim Pugel, field commander of police forces during WTO, called the protests last year "a complete wake-up call. If it hadn’t happened in Seattle, it might have happened in Washington, D.C., or Philadelphia or any of the other cities. Unfortunately, it happened here."

The WTO legal fallout promises to continue long after the one-year anniversary. Suits have been filed over alleged free-speech restrictions last year, and activists are encouraging those jailed, tear-gassed or who have other grievances to file formal claims or join a proposed class-action lawsuit.

"The reason we need to do this is because we, as a community in Seattle, have not said strongly enough to our public servants that they are not using appropriate strategies," said Erica Kay, a local environmental activist who was jailed for five days during WTO and is organizing plaintiffs for a class-action suit against the city, Schell and Stamper.

But Chris Cain, a remodeling contractor whose WTO involvement inspired him to launch an N30 sponsoring group, Global Action Seattle, said "we need to try and keep people focused on the real issue, because there is something far greater at stake here than rubber bullet wounds or tear gas."

Cain said many others were converted during WTO, and they’re determined to keep spreading the anti-globalization message.

"Organizations that were here and planned those protests and got the whole thing started — they’re not here now. They’ve gone on continuing their struggle. We’ve been left here as a group of activists with the responsibility of carrying the torch and continuing the education process."

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

Heavy traffic northbound on 1-5 in Everett, Washington on August 31, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
On I-5 in Everett, traffic nightmare is reminder we’re ‘very vulnerable’

After a police shooting shut down the freeway, commutes turned into all-night affairs. It was just a hint of what could be in a widespread disaster.

Anthony Brock performs at Artisans PNW during the first day of the Fisherman’s Village Music Fest on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
At downtown Everett musical festival: ‘Be weird and dance with us’

In its first night, Fisherman’s Village brought together people who “might not normally be in the same room together” — with big acts still to come.

Two troopers place a photo of slain Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Gadd outside District 7 Headquarters about twelve hours after Gadd was struck and killed on southbound I-5 about a mile from the headquarters on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge reduces bail for driver accused of killing Marysville trooper

After hearing from Raul Benitez Santana’s family, a judge decreased bail to $100,000. A deputy prosecutor said he was “very disappointed.”

Pet detective Jim Branson stops to poke through some fur that Raphael the dog found while searching on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Branson determined the fur in question was likely from a rabbit, and not a missing cat.(Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lost a pet? Pet detective James Branson and his dogs may be able to help

James Branson, founder of Three Retrievers Lost Pet Rescue, helps people in the Seattle area find their missing pets for $350.

Community Transit leaders, from left, Chief Communications Officer Geoff Patrick, Zero-Emissions Program Manager Jay Heim, PIO Monica Spain, Director of Maintenance Mike Swehla and CEO Ric Ilgenfritz stand in front of Community Transit’s hydrogen-powered bus on Monday, May 13, 2024, at the Community Transit Operations Base in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
New hydrogen, electric buses get trial run in Snohomish County

As part of a zero-emission pilot program from Community Transit, the hydrogen bus will be the first in the Puget Sound area.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Video: Man charged at trooper, shouting ‘Who’s the boss?’ before shooting

The deadly shooting shut down northbound I-5 near Everett for hours. Neither the trooper nor the deceased had been identified as of Friday.

Two people fight on the side of I-5 neat Marysville. (Photo provided by WSDOT)
Road rage, fatal police shooting along I-5 blocks traffic near Everett

An attack on road workers preceded a report of shots fired Thursday, snarling freeway traffic in the region for hours.

The Port of Everett and Everett Marina on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is Port of Everett’s proposed expansion a ‘stealth tax?’ Judge says no

A Snohomish resident lost a battle in court this week protesting what he believes is a misleading measure from the Port of Everett.

Pablo Garduno and the team at Barbacoa Judith’s churn out pit-roasted lamb tacos by the dozen at the Hidden Gems Weekend Market on Sunday, April 28, 2024, at Boom City in Tulalip, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Eating our way through Tulalip’s Hidden Gems weekend market

Don’t miss the pupusas, pit-roasted lamb tacos, elotes and even produce for your next meal.

Reed Macdonald, magniX CEO. Photo: magniX
Everett-based magniX appoints longtime aerospace exec as new CEO

Reed Macdonald will take the helm at a pivotal time for the company that builds electric motors for airplanes.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.