GENTECH archive


Fuller version of St. Clair's Seattle Diary

I posted this in a version which I didn't know had been "edited". If you
attended WTO/Seattle this version contains comments/details which are
interesting additions to the other version

edited by alexander cockburn and jeffrey st. clair

December 16, 1999

By Jeffrey St. Clair

Seattle has always struck me as a suspiciously clean city, manifesting a
tidiness that verges on the compulsive. It is the Singapore of the United
States: spit-polished, glossy, and eerily beautiful. Indeed, there is,
perhaps, no more scenic setting for a city set next to Elliot Bay on Puget
Sound, with the serrated tips of the Olympic Mountains on the western
skyline and hulking over it all the cool blue hump of Mt. Rainier.

But Seattle is also a city that hides its past in the underground. It is
literally built on layers of engineered muck, like a soggy Ilium. The new
opulence brought by the likes of Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks and REI is
neatly segregated from the old economic engines, the working docks and the
steamy mills of chemical plants of south Seattle and Tacoma. It is a city
that is both uptight and laid back, a city of deeply repressed desires and
rages. It was the best and the worst of places to convene the WTO, that
Star Chamber for global capitalists. On this week Seattle was so tightly
wound that it primed to crack. The city, which practiced drills to prepare
itself against possible biological or chemical warfare by WTO opponents,
was about to witness its own police department gas its streets and
neighborhoods. By the end of the week, much of Seattle's shiny veneer had
been scratched off, the WTO talks had collapsed in futility and acrimony
and a new multinational popular resistance had blackened the eyes of
global capitalism and its shock troops, if only for a few raucous days and


I arrived in Seattle at dusk and settled into the King's Inn, my ratty
hotel on Fifth Avenue two blocks up from the ugly Doric column of the
Westin, the HQ of the US trade delegation and on Tuesday and Wednesday
nights the high-rise hovel of Bill Clinton. On the drive up from Portland,
I had decided to forego the press briefings, NGO policy sessions and
staged debates slated at dozens of venues around Seattle. Instead, I was
determined to pitch my tent with the activists who had vowed in January to
shut down Seattle during WTO week. After all, the plan seemed remotely
possible. The city with its overburdened streets and constricted geography
does half the job itself. And, in an act of self-interested solidarity,
the cabbies, who held festering grudges against the city on a variety of
claims, had just announced plans to time a taxi strike to coincide with
the protest.

Around 10 PM, I wondered down to the Speakeasy Cafe, in the Belltown
District, which I'd heard was to be a staging area for grassroots greens.
On this warm late November night, there were stars in the Seattle sky,
surely a once a decade experience. I took it as an omen. But I was
clueless as to its portent.

The Speakeasy is a fully-wired redoubt for radicals: it serves beer,
herbal tea, veggie dishes and, for a $10 fee, access to a bank of
computers where dozens of people checked their email and the latest news,
from Le Monde to the BBC, from to the New York Times. I ran
into Kirk Murphy, a doctor who teaches at the UCLA medical school. I'd
gotten to know Murphy slightly during the great battles to fight
DreamWorks and its ill-fated plan to bury the Ballona Wetlands in Los
Angeles under acres of concrete, glass and steel. The doctor was wearing
an Earth First! t-shirt and drinking a Black Butte Porter, the microbrew
of choice for the radical environmental movement. Dr. Murphy knows a lot
about treating victims of police brutality and he had prepared a handbook
for protesters on how to deal with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets
and concussions. Hundreds of copies had been printed and would be passed
out to volunteer medics and protesters before the big march on Tuesday.

"Do you think it will come to that?" I asked.

"Well, I hope not," Murphy said. "But if it doesn't, we probably won't
have accomplished much, eh?"

Murphy told me that the direct action crowd was assembled at a warehouse
on East Denny, up toward Seattle Community College. It was a 20-minute
walk and I arrived at midnight to a scene of controlled chaos. The Denny
Street warehouse was far more than a meeting place; it was part factory,
part barracks, part command and control center. Later on it would become
an infirmary.

Inside affinity groups were planning their separate direct actions; others
were constructing giant street puppets, bearing the likeness of corporate
titans and politicians, such as Clinton and Charles Hurwitz; and another
group, led by Earth First!ers from Eugene, were constructing what one
referred to as the Trojan Horse, a twenty foot-tall, armored siege tower
on wheels, capable of holding 14 people. It was meant to be rolled up near
the convention center, allowing the people inside to climb out a hatch in
the roof and scale over the Metro buses, which the security forces had
parked as barricades near the building. I knew the chief architect of this
creation and asked him if he wasn't wasting time and money on such an easy
target, like Saddam Hussein had done with his giant, billion dollar cannon
destroyed in the first air strike of the Gulf War. "Just wait," he said, a
spark of mischief in his eye.


And the revolution will be started by.sea turtles. At noon about 2,000
people massed at the United Methodist Church, the HQ of the grassroots
NGOs, for a march to the convention center. It was environment day and the
Earth Island Institute had prepared more than 500 sea turtle costumes for
marchers to wear. The sea turtle became the prime symbol of the WTO's
threats to environmental laws, when the WTO tribunal ruled that the US
Endangered Species Act, which requires shrimp to be caught with turtle
excluder devices, was an unfair trade barrier.

But the environmentalists weren't the only ones on the street Monday
morning. In the first showing of a new solidarity, labor union members
from the Steelworkers and the Longshoremen showed up to join the march. In
fact, Steelwoker Don Kegley, led the march, along side environmentalist
Ben White. (White was later clubbed in the back of the head by a young man
who was apparently angry that he couldn't complete his Christmas shopping.
The police pulled the youth away from White, but the man wasn't arrested.
And White played later down the incident.) The throng of sea turtles and
blue-jacked union folk took off to the rhythm of a chant that would echo
down the streets of Seattle for days: "The people united will never be

I walked next to Brad Spann, a burly Longshoreman from Tacoma, who held up
one of my favorite signs of the entire week: "Teamsters and
TurtlesTogether At Last!" Brad winked at me and said, "What the hell do
you think old Hoffa thinks of that?"

The march, which was too fast and courteous for my taste, was escorted by
motorcycle police and ended essentially in a cage, a fenced in area next
to a construction site near the convention center. A small stage had been
erected there hours earlier and Carl Pope, the director of the Sierra
Club, was called forth to give the opening speech.

I'd never met Carl Pope before and was surprised by what I encountered. He
is a tiny man, with a shrill and squeaky voice, who affects the look and
hair-flipping mannerisms of RFK circa 1968. Nearing 90, Dave Brower still
has the look of a mountain climber, Pope looks like the only climbing he
does is on a StairMaster. I couldn't follow much of what Pope had to say,
except that he failed to utter the names of Clinton or Gore. The speech
was delivered with a smugness that most of the labor people must have
heard as confirmation of their worst fears about the true nature of
environmentalists in suits.

Standing near the stage I saw Brent Blackwelder, the head of Friends of
the Earth. Behind his glasses and somewhat shambling manner, Blackwelder
looks ever so professorial. And he is by far the smartest of the
environmental CEOs. But he is also the most radical politically, the most
willing to challenge the tired complacency of his fellow green executives.
I told him: "Brent, you're the Chomsky of the environmental movement." He
chuckled, evidently pleased at the comparison.

He was slated to give the next talk and I asked him what he thought of
following Carl Pope, a Gore promoter, whose staffers had just plunged a
few knives in Blackwelder's back following Friends of the Earth's
endorsement of Bill Bradley over Al Gore. He shrugged. "We did our
damage," Blackwelder said. "Our endorsement of Bradley stung the Sierra
Club almost as much as it did Gore." But Blackwelder isn't under any
illusions about Bradley, either. "Bradley's a free trader," Blackwelder
said. "We pleaded with him to at least make a strong statement in
opposition to the US position on the timber tariff issue. But he wouldn't
budge. There was a real opportunity for him to stick it to Gore and prove
himself as the better green."

Blackwelder's speech was a good one, strong and defiant. He excoriated the
WTO as a kind of global security force for transnational corporations
whose mission is "to stuff unwanted products, like genetically engineered
foods, down our throats. " Afterwards, I asked Blackwelder what would
happen if Clinton announced some environmental sideboard. "The plague of
Clinton is to say one thing and do another," Blackwelder said. "He talked
this line before with NAFTA. But even with the sideboards, everything we
said about NAFTA has come true, only worse." I told Blackwelder that I had
heard Clinton was going to meet in Seattle on Wednesday with the heads of
the National Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund and the Sierra Club. "That's
what I hear, too," Blackwelder said. "But he won't meet with us, because
he knows we'd call his bluff."

After the speechifying most of the marchers headed back to the church. But
a contingent of about 200 ended up in front of McDonald's where a group of
French farmers had mustered to denounce US policy on biotech foods. Their
leader was Jose Bove, a sheep farmer from Millau in southwest France and a
leader of ConfAedAeration Paysanne, a French environmental group. In
August, Bove had been jailed in France for leading a raid on a McDonald's
restaurant under construction in Larzac. At the time, Bove was awaiting
trial on charges that he destroyed a cache of Novartis'
genetically-engineered corn. Bove said his raid on the Larzac McDonald's
was in response to the US's decision to impose a heavy tariff on Roquefort
cheese in retaliation for the European Union's refusal to import American
hormone-treated beef. Bove's act of defiance earned him the praise of
Jacques Chirac and Friends of the Earth. Bove said he was prepared to
start a militant worldwide campaign against "Frankenstein" foods. `These
actions will only stop when this mad logic comes to a halt,' said Bove. "I
don't demand clemency but justice."

Bove showed up at the Seattle McDonald's with rounds of Roquefort cheese,
which he handed out to the crowd. After a rousing speech against the evils
of Monsanto, and its bovine growth hormone and Round-Up Ready soybeans,
the crowd stormed the McDonald's, breaking its windows and urging the
customers and workers to join the marchers on the streets. This was the
first shot in the battle for Seattle. Moments later the block was
surrounded by Seattle police, attired in full riot gear. Many of them
arrived on armored personal carriers, a black military truck referred to
affectionately by the TV anchors on the nightly news as "the Peacekeeper."
But this time cops held their distance, merely making sure that no one had
been injured. They cordoned off the block until the crowd dispersed on its
own in about an hour. At this point, there was still lightness in the air.
A big Samoan cop cracked a smile as a protester waved a hunk of stinky
cheese in front of his face.

I returned to my hotel early that night. Too exhilarated and exhausted to
sleep, I fell back on the bed and flipped on the television. A newscaster
was interviewing Michael Moore, the pudgy-faced director of the WTO. "I've
always been on the side of the little guy," Moore proclaimed.


Less than 12 hours later, Seattle was under civic emergency, a step away
from martial law. National Guard helicopters hovered over downtown,
sweeping the city with searchlights. A 7 PM curfew had been imposed and
was being flouted by thousands-those same thousands who captured the
streets, sustained clouds of tears gas, volleys of rubber bullets,
concussion grenades, high powered bean cannons and straightforward
beatings with riot batons. The bravery of the street warriors had its
tremendous triumph: they held the streets long enough to force the WTO to
cancel their opening day. This had been the stated objective of the direct
action strategists, and they attained it.

At dawn of Tuesday the predicted scenario was somewhat different. There
was to be the great march of organized labor, led by the panjandrums of
the AFL-CIO , with James Hoffa Jr. in a starring role. Labor's legions-a
predicted 50,000-were to march from the Space Needle to the Convention
Center and peacefully prevent the WTO delegates from assembling.

It never happened. Instead the labor chiefs talked tough but accepted a
cheap deal. They would get a Wednesday meeting with Bill Clinton, with the
promise that at future such WTO conclaves they would get "a seat at the
table". So instead of joining the throngs bent on shutting down the
opening of the WTO, the big labor rally took place at noon around the
Space Needle, some fifteen to twenty blocks from the convention center
where the protesters on the front lines were taking their stand. When the
labor march finally got it under way around 1 PM, it's marshals directed
most of the marchers away from the battle zones down by the convention

For the direct action folks, the morning began in the pre-dawn hours, in a
steady rain. More than 2,000 people assembled in Victor Steinbrueck Park,
on the waterfront north of Pike's Place market. Once again, steelworkers
and Earth First!ers led the way, carrying a banner with the image of a
redwood tree and a spotted owl. The march featured giant puppets, hundreds
of signs, the ubiquitous sea turtles, singing, chanting and an ominous

As the sky finally lightened, I found myself next to a group of black men
and women trailing a white van. They turned out to be one of the more
creative groups in the march, a collection of hip-hop artists from across
the country. The van, dubbed the Rap Wagon, carried a powerful sound
system capable of rocking the streets. The rappers were led by Chuckie E
from New York, who improvised a rap called "TKO the WTO." Walking with me
as up Pine Street to the Roosevelt Hotel was an 18-year old from South
Central LA named Thomas. I asked him why he was here. "I like turtles and
I hate that fucker Bill Gates," he said. Thomas and I held hands, forming
a human chain at the intersection of 7th and Pine, intent on keeping the
WTO delegates from reaching their meetings.

A British delegate was prevented from entering the convention center after
he left the Roosevelt Hotel. He tried to bust through the human chain and
was repulsed. Angered, he slugged one of the protesters in the chest and
ran down the block toward where we were standing. When he reached the
corner a tiny black woman confronted him, shouting in his: "You hit
somebody! I saw you." Whack. The delegate punched the black woman in the
face, sending her sprawling back into Thomas and me. The scene could have
turned ugly, as protesters rushed to protect the woman. But the lead
organizer at the corner took control, ushering the delegate outside the
protest area.

Meanwhile, a block down the street another frustrated WTO delegate pulled
a revolver from his coat pocket and aimed it at protesters blocking the
entrance to the Paramount Hotel, where the opening ceremonies were
scheduled. The police rushed in with their clubs and pushed the protesters
away from the gun-wielding man, who was neither detained nor stripped of
his weapon.

Around 10 AM, my friend Michael Donnelly and I found ourselves at 6th and
Union, the site of the first major attack by police on protesters. This
was hours before any acts of vandalism had occurred. A band of about 200
protesters had occupied the intersection and refused to move after the
police gave an order to disperse. About ten minutes later, a Peacekeeper
vehicle arrived. Tear gas canisters were unloaded and then five or six of
them were fired into the crowd. One of the protesters nearest the cops was
a young, petite woman. She rose up, obviously disoriented from the gas,
and a Seattle policeman, crouched less than 10 feet away, shot her in the
knee with a rubber bullet. She fell to the pavement, grabbing her leg and
screaming in pain. Then, moments later, one of her comrades, maddened by
the unprovoked attack, charged the police line, Kamikaze-style. Two cops
beat him to the ground with their batons, hitting him at least 20 times.
As the cops flailed away with their four-foot long clubs, the crowd
chanted, "the whole world is watching, the whole world is watching." Soon
the man started to rise and he was immediately shot in the back by a cop
who was standing over him, cuffed and hauled away.

By now another five or six cans of tear gas had been throw into the crowd
and the intersection was clotted with fumes. At first I was stunned,
staring at the scene with the glazed look of the freshly lobotomized. Then
my eyes began to boil in my head, my lips burned and it seemed impossible
to draw a breath. When it's raining, the chemical agents hug close to the
ground, taking longer to dissolve into the air. This compounds the tear
gas' stinging power, it's immobilizing effect. I staggered back up 6th
Avenue toward University, where I stumbled into a cop decked out in his
Star Wars storm trooper gear. He turned and gave me a swift whack to my
side with his riot club. I feel to my knees and covered my head, fearing a
tumult of blows. But the blows never came and soon I felt a gentle hand on
my shoulder and woman's voice say, "Come here."

I retreated into a narrow alley and saw the blurry outline of a young
woman wearing a Stetson cowboy hat and a gas mask. "Lean your head back,
so that I can wash the chemicals out of your eyes," she said. The water
was cool and within seconds I could see again. "Who are you?" I asked.
"Osprey," she said, and disappeared into the chemical mist. Osprey.the
familiar, totemic name of an Earth First!er. Thank god for Edward Abbey, I
said to myself.

But the battle going on at 6th and University was far from over. The
police moved in on a group of protesters from Humboldt County who had
locked themselves down, and thus immobilized themselves in the middle of
the intersection. They were ordered to evacuate the area, which of course
they couldn't and wouldn't do. Suddenly, the cops attacked ferociously,
dousing them in the face with spurts of pepper spray and then dropping
tear gas canisters almost on top of them. Then the valiant police fell
upon the helpless protesters with their batons. Two of the dozen or so
protesters were knocked unconscious, but the group held its ground hours
and by 2 PM the cops had backed off. The University intersection had been

Who were these direct action warriors on the front lines? Earth First!,
the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment (the new
enviro-steelworker alliance), the Ruckus Society (a direct action training
center), Food Not Bombs, Global Exchange and a small contingent of
Anarchists, dressed in black, with black masks, plus a hefty international
contingent including French farmers, Korean greens, Canadian wheat growers
and British campaigners against genetically modified foods. A group of
Britons cornered two Monsanto lobbyists behind an abandoned truck carrying
an ad for the Financial Times at the very moment of police onslaught, and
at last glimpse the Monsanto men were covering their eyes with their
neckties and fleeing back to their hotels.

Even in the run-up to WTO week in Seattle, the genteel element-foundation
careerists, NGO bureaucrats, policy wonks-were all raising cautionary
fingers, saying that the one thing to be feared in Seattle this week was
active protest. The Internet was thick with tremulous admonitions about
the need for good behavior, the perils of playing into the enemies' hands,
the profound necessity for decorous-ie passive-comportment. Their fondest
hope is to attend-in mildly critical posture -- not only the WTO conclave
in Seattle, but all future ones. This too is the posture of labor. In
answer to a question from CNN's Bernard Shaw, whether labor wanted to kill
the WTO, James Hoffa Jr. replied, "No. We want to get labor a seat at the

By noon, around the convention center, the situation was desperate. The
Seattle police, initially comparatively restrained, were now losing
control. They were soon supplemented by the Kings County sheriffs'
department, a rough mob, which seem to get their kicks from throwing
concussion grenades into crowds, with the M-80-like devices often
exploding only inches above the heads of people.

As the day ticked away the street protesters kept asking, "Where are the
labor marchers", expecting that at any moment thousands of longshoremen
and teamsters would reinforce them in the fray. The absent masses never
came. The marshals' for the union march steered the big crowds away from
the action and the isolation of the street protesters allowed the cops to
get far more violent. Eventually, several phalanxes of union marchers
skirted their herders and headed up 4th Avenue to the battlegrounds at
Pine and Pike. Most of them seemed to be from the more militant unions,
the Steelworkers, IBEW and the Longshoremen. And they seemed to be pissed
at the political penury of their leaders. Randal McCarthy, a Longshoreman
from Kelso, Washington, told me: "That fucker, Sweeney. No wonder we keep
getting rolled. If he were any dumber, he'd be in management."

By darkness on Tuesday the 2,000 or so street warriors had won the day,
even though they were finally forced to retreat north and east out of the
center. Suppose 30,000 union people had reinforced them? Downtown could
have been held all night, and the convention center sealed off. Maybe even
President Bill would have been forced to stay away.

Oh, yeah, what about that siege tower? Well, it turned out to be an
excellent diversionary tactic. When the Seattle police's SWAT teams
converged to disable the Earth First!ers strange contraption, it gave the
direct action groups time to secure their positions, successfully
encircling the convention center, the nearby hotels and WTO venues. It an
odd way it may have been a key to the great victory of the day.


Wednesday was the turning point of the week. After the vicious crackdown
of Tuesday night, where even Christmas carolers in a residential area were
gassed, many of us wondered who would show up to confront the WTO, Bill
Clinton, the police and the national guard the next morning. More than a
thousand, it turned out. And the numbers grew as the day wore on. The
resistance had proved its resilience.

The morning's first march headed down Denny Street from Seattle Community
College toward downtown. The 250 marchers were met at about 7 am by a line
of cops in riot gear at 8th avenue. A sobering sign that things had become
more serious was the sight of cops armed with AR-15 assault rifles. Some
brave soul went up to one of the deputies and asked, "Do those shoot
rubber bullets?" "Nope," the cop replied through a Darth Vader-like
microphone embedded in his gas mask. "This is the real thing." Dozen of
protesters were arrested immediately, placed in plastic wrist cuffs and
left sitting on the street for hours-more than were arrested all day on

I can't extend enough praise to the National Lawyer's Guild, which sent
dozens of legal observers to Seattle to record incidents of police
brutality and advise demonstrators on how to act after being arrested. On
Denny Street that morning I met Marge Buckley, a lawyer from Los Angeles.
She was wearing a white t-shirt with "NLG Legal Observer" printed across
the front and was furiously writing notes on a pad. Buckley said she had
filled several notepads on Tuesday with tales of unwarranted shootings,
gassings and beatings.

"Look!" Buckley said, as we trotted down the sidewalk to catch up with the
marchers who had abandoned Denny Street, seeking another entry point into
city center. "How weird. The people are obeying traffic signals on their
way to a civil disobedience action." A few moments later I lost track of
Buckley, when the police, including a group mounted on horses, encircled
the marchers at Rainier Square. I slipped through the line just as the
Seattle police sergeant yelled, "Gas!" Someone later said she had been

I wouldn't be surprised if Buckley had been nabbed. The police had begun
targeting the "command-and-control" of the demonstrators--people with
cellphones, bullhorns, the known faces and suspected organizers, medics
and legal observers. Several of the plainclothes cops at the Denny Street
encounter had photos in their hands and were scanning them to identify the
lead organizers. As the marchers occupied the intersection singing "We
Shall Overcome", about 20 police formed into a wedge and quickly attacked
the protesters, seized a bald-headed man talking on a cellphone (it seemed
nearly everyone in Seattle had a cellphone and a camera) and dragged him
back to the police line. The man was John Sellers, director of the Ruckus

On Wednesday afternoon, I encountered Kirk Murphy, the doctor. His Earth
First! t-shirt had been replaced by a business suit and a rain jacket. I
raised my eyebrows at him. He said, "I'm trying hard not to look like part
of the support team. They've arrested a lot of our medics and I need to
stay out of jail to help the injured."

These targeted arrests may have been meant to turn the protests into the
chaotic mess the city's pr people were characterizing it as to the media.
But it didn't happen. The various groups of protestors, sometimes in the
hundreds, huddled together and decided their next course of action by a
rudimentary form of consensus. Everyone was given a chance to have a say
and then a vote was taken on what to do next and, usually, the will of the
majority was followed without significant disruptions. The problem was
that it slowed down the marches, allowing the police and National Guard
troops to box in the protesters, most tragically later Wednesday evening
at Pike's Place Market.

As the march turned up toward the Sheraton and was beaten back by cops on
horses, I teamed up with Etienne Vernet and Ronnie Cummings. Cummings is
the head of one of the feistiest groups in the US, the PureFood Campaign,
Monsanto's chief pain in the ass. Cummings hails from the oil town of Port
Arthur, Texas. He went to Cambridge with that other great foe of
industrial agriculture, Prince Charles. Cummings was a civil rights
organizer in Houston during the mid-sixties. "The energy here is
incredible. Black and white, labor and green, Americans, Europeans,
Africans and Asians arm-in-arm. It's the most hopeful I've felt since the
height of the civil rights movement."

Vernet lives in Paris, where he is a leading organizer for the radical
green group EcoRopa. At that very moment the European Union delegates
inside the convention were capitulating on a key issue: the EU, which had
banned import of genetically engineered crops and hormone-treated beef,
had agreed to a US proposal to establish an scientific committee to
evaluate the health and environmental risks of biotech foods, a sure first
step toward undermining the moratorium. Still Vernet was in a jolly mood,
lively and invigorated, if a little bemused by the decorous nature of the
crowd. "Americans seem to have been out of practice in these things," he
told me. "Everyone's so polite. The only things that are burning are
dumpsters filled with refuse." He pointed to a shiny black Lexus parked on
Pine Street, which the throngs of protesters had scrupulously avoided. In
the windshield was a placard identifying it as belonging to a WTO
delegate. "In Paris that car would be burning."

Somehow Etienne and I made it through four police barricades all the way
across town to the International Media Center, a briefing area hosted by
Public Citizen in the Seattle Center, a cramped Greek Revival-style
structure. I was there to interview my old friend, Dave Brower and
Steelworker David Foster. The Dave's were late and to pass time I sat down
in front of a TV. There was Bill Clinton speaking at the Port of Seattle.
His verbal sleight-of-hand routine was in masterful form. He denounced
Tuesday's violence, but said the WTO delegates should listen to the
"legitimate" protesters. He said he disagreed with most of their views,
but said that should at least be permitted to observe the proceedings.
Later that day Clinton met with the obeisant green leaders, including
National Wildlife's Mark van Puten, the Sierra Club's Carl Pope and World
Resources Institute chairman William Ruckleshaus. Ruckleshaus is also a
longtime board member of Weyerhaeuser, the Seattle-based transnational
timber company. On Thursday, environmentalists held a large demonstration
outside the downtown offices of the timber company's realty wing. Needless
to say, Carl Pope didn't show up for that one.

Clinton talked about having the WTO incorporate environmental sidebars
into its rulemaking. But then the administration didn't back away from its
Global Logging Amendment, an accelerated reduction in tariffs on the
global timber trade. George Frampton, head of the Council on Environmental
Quality and former head of the Wilderness Society, appeared at a press
conference later in the day and stiff-armed the greens. "Knowledgeable
environmentalists shouldn't have anything against the measure," Frampton
said. .His voice reeked with condescension. In fact, this was the one
issue on which all the big groups were united in opposition to the US

"This follows the tried and true Clinton formula: kiss 'em, then fuck
'emover," Steve Spahr, a bus driver and computer repairman from Salem,
Oregon told me.

Clinton called the events outside his suite in the Westin "a rather
interesting hoopla." The president expressed sympathy for the views of
those in the streets at the very moment his aids were ordering Seattle
Mayor Paul Shell (who people took to calling "Mayor Shellshocked") to use
all available force to clear the streets. There is now no question but
that the most violent attacks by the police and the National Guard came at
the request of the White House and not the mayor or the police chief. And,
in fact, CNN has reported that Clinton has once again flouted the Posse
Comitatus Act by sending in a contingent from the US military to the
scene, More than 160 members of the Domestic Military Support Force were
sent to Seattle on Tuesday, including troops from the Special Forces
division. Clinton, of course, has been quite happen to blame Mayor Schell,
the Seattle police, and the WTO, itself, for both the chaos and the
crackdown, while offering himself as a peacemaker to the very battle he

Eventually, Clinton shut up and Brower and Foster walked into the room.
Brower was breaking new ground once again by pulling together a new group
of trade unionists and greens. At 87 years old, Brower, the arch druid, is
finally beginning to show his age. He walks with a cane. A pacemaker
regulates his heartbeat. He is fighting bladder cancer. And he can't drink
as many dry martinis as he used to. But his mind is still as agile as an
antelope, his intellectual vision startlingly clear and radical. "Today,
the police in Seattle have proved they are the handmaidens of the
corporations," said Brower. "But something else has been proved. And
that's that people are starting to stand up and say: we won't be
transnational victims."

Brower was joined by David Foster, director for District 11 of the United
Steelworkers of America, one of the most articulate and unflinching labor
leaders in America. Earlier this year, Brower and Foster formed an
unlikely alliance, a coalition of radical environmentalists and
Steelworkers called the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment,
which had just run an amusing ad in the New York Times asking "Have You
Heard the One About the Environmentalist and the Steelworker". The groups
had found they had a common enemy: Charles Hurwitz, the corporate raider.
Hurwitz owned the Pacific Lumber Company, the northern California timber
firm that is slaughtering some of the last stands of ancient redwoods on
the planet. At the same time, Hurwitz, who also controlled Kaiser
Aluminum, had locked out 3,000 Steelworkers at Kaiser's factories in
Washington, Ohio and Louisiana "The companies that attack the environment
most mercilessly are often also the ones that are the most anti-union,"
Foster told me. "More unites us than divides us."

I came away thinking that for all its promise this tenuous marriage might
end badly. Brower, the master of ceremonies, isn't going to be around
forever to heal the wounds and cover up the divisions. There are deep,
inescapable issues that will, inevitably, pit Steelworkers, fighting for
their jobs in an ever-tightening economy, against greens, defending
dwindling species like sockeye salmon that are being killed off by the
hydrodams that power the aluminum plants. When asked about this potential
both Brower and Foster danced around it skillfully. But it was a dance of
denial. The tensions won't go away simply because the parties agree not to
mention them in public. Indeed, they might even build, like a pressure
cooker left unwatched. I shook the thought from my head. For this moment,
the new, powerful solidarity was too seductive to let such broodings
intrude for long.

But if anything could anneal the alliance together it was the actions of
the Seattle cops and National Guard, who, until Wednesday afternoon had
displayed a remarkable reluctance to crackdown on unionists. The
Steelworkers had gotten permission from the mayor for a sanctioned march
from the Labor Temple to the docks, where they performed a mock "Seattle
Steel Party", dumping styrofoam steel girders into the waters of Elliot
Bay, then, showing their new-found green conscience, they fished back out
almost immediately ).

When the rally broke up, hundreds of Steelworkers joined with other
protesters in an impromptu march down 1st Avenue. As the crowd reached
Pike Place Market, they found paramilitary riot squads waiting for them
and were rocked with volleys of military-strength CS gas, flash bombs, and
larger rubber bullets, about a half-inch in diameter. The carnage was
indiscriminate. Holiday shoppers and Metro buses were gassed. In an effort
to jack up the intimidation, the cop squads were marching in almost
goose-stepping fashion, smacking their riot clubs against their
shin-guards to create a sinister sound with echoes back to Munich. This
was the most violent of the street battles that I witnessed, involving
hundreds of police and more than 20 tear gas attacks.

There is a certain species of pacifist (often out of the Quaker tradition)
who finds any outward expression of outrage embarrassing. Thus it was that
demonstrators at nearly every corner and barricade where being cautioned
"not to retaliate" against police attacks. They were even warned not to
throw the tear gas cans back toward the police lines. But, of course, that
was the safest place for them. They weren't going to hurt the cops, who
were decked out in the latest chemical warfare gear.

That night at Pike Place Market a can of tear gas landed at my feet. Next
to me were a young woman and her four-year-old son. As the woman pulled
her child inside her raincoat to protect him from the poison gas, I
reached down, grabbed the canister and heaved it back toward the advancing
black wall of cops. The can was so hot it seared by hand. Expecting to be
shot at, I dove behind the nearest dumpster and saw a familiar face. It
was Thomas, one of the rappers I'd walked with on Tuesday morning. We
huddled close together, shielding our eyes from the smoke and gas. "Now
all these muthafuckas up here have a taste of what it's like in Compton
nearly every night," Thomas screamed.

When the cops are on the streets in force, black people always pay the
price. As Thomas and I were ducking flash bombs and rubber bullets,
Seattle police were busy harassing Richard McIver, a black Seattle City
Councilman who was on his way to a WTO reception at the Westin Hotel. Even
though McIver flashed the police with his embossed gold business card
identifying him as a councilman, the police denied him entry. They roughly
pulled him from his car and threatened to place him in handcuffs. Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, the Democrat, witnessed this scene from Ohio. "I'm 58
years old," McIver said. "I had on a $400 suit, but last night I was just
another nigger."

Later that night, in the Capital Hill residential district, a Seattle cop
accosted a man on the sidewalk, poked him in the chest with his baton,
kicked him in the groin and then, for good measure, shot him in the neck
with a rubber bullet. The man wasn't a WTO protester, but a resident who
had been gassed out of his home. The image, which was caught on television
cameras, helped to turn the tide against the police and, by extension, the
WTO itself.

Seattle police said they responded aggressively only when their officers
were hit with rocks and bottles. Well, frankly, this is bullshit. Seattle
isn't Beirut. There's no rocky rubble on the streets of the Emerald City.
In fact, there weren't any glass bottles, either. In the eight or nine
confrontations I witnessed, the most the cops were hit with were some
half-full plastic water bottles and a few lightweight sticks that had been
used to hold cardboard signs.

In the end, what was vandalized? Mainly the boutiques of Sweatshop Row:
Nordstrom's, Adidas, the Gap, Bank of America, Niketown, Old Navy, Banana
Republic and Starbucks. The expressions of destructive outrage weren't
anarchic, but extremely well-targeted. The manager of Starbucks whined
about how "mindless vandals" destroyed his window and tossed bags of
French Roast onto the street. But the vandals weren't mindless. They
didn't bother the independent streetside coffee shop across the way.
Instead, they lined up and bought cup after cup. No good riot in Seattle
could proceed without a cup of espresso.

These minor acts of retribution served as a kind of Gulf of Tonkin
incident. They were used to justify the repressive and violent onslaughts
by the police and the National Guard. Predictably, the leaders of the
NGO's were fast to condemn the protesters. The World Trade Observer is a
daily tabloid produced during the convention by the mainstream
environmental groups and the Nader shop. It's Wednesday morning edition
contained a stern denunciation of the direct action protests that had shut
down the WTO the day before. Pope repudiated the violence of the protests,
saying it delegitimized the position of the NGOs. He did not see fit to
criticize the actions of the police.

But even Carl Pope was outdone by Medea Benjamin, the diminutive head of
Global Exchange, who her sent her troops out to protect the facades of
Niketown and the Gap from being defaced by protesters. Benjamin told the
New York Times: "Here we are protecting Nike, McDonald's, The Gap, and all
the while I'm thinking, 'Where are the police? These anarchists should
have been arrested.' " Of course, Nike is used to police intervening to
protect its factories from worker actions in places like Indonesia and
Vietnam and it's depressing to see Benjamin calling for such crackdowns in

The assault on Niketown didn't begin with the anarchists, but with
protesters who wanted to get a better view of the action. They got the
idea from Rainforest Action Network activists who had free-climbed the
side of a building across the street and unfurled a huge banner depicting
a rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike, with the slogan, "Don't Trade
on Me."

Occupying the intersection in front of Niketown was a group of Korean
farmers and greens, several were dressed in their multicolored traditional
garb. It's no secret why they picked this corner. For decades, Nike has
exploited Korean workers in its Asian sweatshops. These folks cheered
wildly and banged their copper kettles when a climber scaled the facade of
Nike's storefront, stripped the chrome letters off the Niketown sign and
tossed them to crowd, as Nike store managers in the window a floor above
eating their lunch. The action should have warmed the hearts of nearly
everyone, even the Seattle Downtown Beautification Association. For one
brief moment, the city of Seattle had been rid of an architectural blight.
As Harper's magazine reported a few years ago the black-and-silver
neo-noir stylings of Niketown outlets bear an eerie resemblance to the
designs concocted by Albert Speer for the Third Reich.

That night I went to sleep with the words of John Goodman, a locked-out
steelworker from Spokane, ringing in my head. "The things I've seen here
in Seattle I never thought I'd see America."


By Thursday morning I was coughing up small amounts of blood, 600
demonstrators were in jail, the police were on the defensive over their
tactics and the WTO conference itself was coming apart at the seams.
Inside the WTO, the Africa nations were showing the same solidarity as the
protesters on the streets. They refused to buckle to US demands and coaxed
from US Trade Rep. Charlene Barshevsky : "I reiterated to the ministers
that if we are unable to achieve that goal I fully reserve the right to
also use an exclusive process to achieve a final outcome. There's no
question about my right as a chair to do it or my intention to do it, but
it is not the way I want this to be done." Despite the heavy-handed
bluster, the African delegates hung together and the talks collapsed.

Beyond the wildest hopes of the street warriors, five days in Seattle have
brought us one victory after another. The protesters initially shunned and
denounced by the respectable "inside strategists", scorned by the press,
gassed and bloodied by the cops and National Guard:

 * shut down the opening ceremony
 * prevented Clinton from addressing the WTO delegates at Wednesday night
 * turned the corporate press from prim denunciations of "mindless
anarchy" to bitter criticisms of police brutality;
 * forced the WTO to cancel its closing ceremonies and to adjourn in
disorder and confusion, without an agenda for the next round.

In the annals of popular protest in America, these have been shining
hours, achieved entirely outside the conventional arena of orderly protest
and white paper activism and the timid bleats of the professional
leadership of big labor and environmentalists. This truly was an
insurgency from below in which all those who strove to moderate and
deflect the turbulent flood of popular outrage managed to humiliate
themselves. Of course, none of this seemed to deter the capitalists. On
the week, the Dow shot up more than 500 points.

I walked out to the street one last time. The sweet stench of CS gas still
flavored the morning air. As I turned to get into my car for the journey
back to Portland, a black teenager grabbed my arm. Smiling, he said, "Hey,
man, does this WTO thing come to town every year?" I knew immediately how
the kid felt. Along with the poison, the flash bombs and the rubber
bullets, there was an optimism and energy and camaraderie on the streets
of Seattle that I hadn't felt in a long time. It was the perfect antidote
to the crackdown by the cops and to the gaseous rhetoric of Clinton, Carl
Pope and John Sweeney.



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