Re: WTO the rampage!

Chris Olds (
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 01:36:58 -0800

> I still wonder, political protest over what?

I had expected more clue from FoRK (overall, not to pick on anybody).
Regardless of one's political persuasion (and I know we run the gamut), I
think that the WTO would be a no-brainier to oppose. This is an unelected,
secretive body that has been give the power to override laws passed by the
legitimate government of *any* country, including <insert favorite WTO
member nation here>. The unions are protesting the WTO position that goods
made with child or slave labor may not be discriminated against. The
environmentalists are protesting the WTO position that promotes rainforest
destruction. They are working together because they see that the only
beneficiaries of the current WTO process are large corporations (Boeing is a
host company, I'm not sure about MS). If, as has been proposed,
corporations are given the power to challenge laws as a restraint to trade,
then Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, and Microsoft (to name three large Washington
multi/transnational companies) will be a giant step closer to wielding the
same power as nations. Now, I have friends (whom I trust) that work for
each of these companies, but I don't want them to have that kind of power.

The WTO protest is a broadly based movement that has the potential (IMNSHO)
to unify the remaining forces in favor if social liberalism in this country.
To use European terminology, the greens and the unions may have found each
other, and found out that they have a *lot* in common.

As far as the cops go, after listening to the shoutcast of their comms I
think that they are doing an acceptable job in a tough situation. The
biggest blunder I can see is that they underestimated the need for
visibility early on, and kept the King Co. Sheriff's forces off the street
on Monday. In typical Seattle style, the Times is reporting that Seattle
residents think that protesting is fine, but they are upset about the mess
being made downtown. The Mayor apologized tonight to the people who were
gassed. There have been excesses (tear gas on Broadway, when I-5 was the
eastern edge of the curfew zone), and I'm sure there will be a long round of
meetings about it (Seattle _loves_ meetings). So far, I have yet to hear of
any serious injuries, and given the number of protesters I think the number
of arrests is small (1%? 2%?). I have read multiple reports of protesters
keeping vandals from breaking windows, and of people showing up to scrub
graffiti off walls. This is not an unthinking, uncaring mob. It is a very
large number of thoughtful people practicing non-violent resistance (and
yes, breaking the law) being discredited by a small number of people taking
the opportunity to practice violent criminal behavior.

This is not a simple protest by the wandering unwashed. People of
conviction came to Seattle to try to claim a voice in a process that
threatens to transfer more power from elected governments to transnational
corporations and bureaucrats. If the analysis forwarded by Balachander
Krishnamurthy is correct, the WTO meeting will prove to be a non-event. I'm
thinking that this may be the best we can hope for.

The political protest in Seattle is real, and there are important issues for
both the right and the left. Conservatives, both right and left (and as
distinct from the radical right) should be supporting the goals of the
protesters, even if they deplore their methods. As for the vandals, they
should be treated as the criminals they are. As for the police, if they
exceed the boundaries set by the law and their superiors, they should be
punished as well (the hearings will take years). Seattle is an interesting
choice for such a controversial meeting; there are not many (any?) other
cities in the US that have the same combination of a strong environmental
culture and an equally strong pro-labor culture. Strikes still mean
something in Seattle, and recycling is a reflex. The city is facing up the
fact that it needs to account for an endangered species (Salmon) in
everything from its power generating facilities to its water supply to the
way it deals with street runoff (of which there is a lot - rain happens).
Trade is very important to Seattle, but so are the environment and social
justice. People there respect work, both for production and for the benefit
of society.

Ask yourself what the outcome would be if tens of thousands (10K? 20K? 30K?
50K? more?) of protesters were on the streets of your city. How many severe
injuries would you expect? How many deaths? (50K people implies a
measurable risk of someone dropping dead without provocation!).

'nuff said.