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What's Happening in Seattle and Why


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: What's Happening in Seattle and Why
Date: Thu, 02 Dec 1999 11:56:40 -0500
From: Jay Fenello <Jay@Fenello.com>
Organization: Fenello.com, Inc.


What's Happening in Seattle and Why
by Michael Albert

Michael Albert is editor of ZNet and writes regularly on movement

Ballpark 100,000 demonstrators assembled in Seattle. They are farmers
and industrial workers, unionists and environmentalists, young and old,
men and women, from the U.S. and from the third world, and they are
angry and their target is the WTO, and thus also oppressive world trade,
and thus also, just a minor step beyond, the market system and
capitalism itself. They are there to raise social costs to elites high
enough, by their actions on the scene and by the repercussions for
continuing organizing all around the world (75,000 today demonstrated in
France, for example) to curtail or better close down the WTO agenda.

So what do you do if you are in charge of the City and have Clinton due
in town imminently and the whole world, literally, watching? What’s the
elite strategy?

(1) You can sit back and be nice and allow the demonstrators to move
freely and make their points and develop confidence and grow in number
and size and, most important, in their mutual solidarity, with more
people arriving every hour, and education and outreach blossoming each

Or (2) you can try and break the thing up, quickly, even if at great
risk should you fail. It seems to me that the powers that be decided
that to leave hands off was a recipe for sure disaster. They envisioned
the specter of growing numbers, growing willingness to do civil
disobedience, and worst of all, growing solidarity between diverse
sectors, and outreach to new constituencies and realized that throughout
the country and world this would send a message that dissent can
restrain the state. They didn't like that picture.

Their other option – the usual favorite choice of U.S. elites – is to
try to bust up opposition by using brute force, or as much force as they
can get away with, at any rate. The idea in this case is to send an
immediate message that being in Seattle as a demonstrator means braving
gas, truncheons, and rubber bullets, at the very least. The police and
media try to together get the less mobile and less militant
demonstrators to leave, depressed or angry. Then the thinned ranks can
be herded away from the WTO buildings and arrested or crushed.

Judging by early reports, that’s the elite plan, is my guess. The
tactics are very typical – intimidating costumes, quick and eager
violence, curfews, provocations to get demonstrator actions that one can
complain are the source of all the repression. Provoke a little
violence, repress it with a lot...

The demonstrator reaction will hopefully be, of course, not to fracture
but instead to generate more and more organization, discipline, and
steadfast solidarity and militance in marching, and when need be, in
committing non-violent civil disobedience.

What will happen? No one can possibly know, of course. But if you are in
Seattle I think the thing to try to affect is whether Seattle's citizens
-- its cab drivers, its bus drivers, its small shop keepers, its folk on
the street -- become sympathetic to the demonstrators or even outright
supportive of the demonstrators, and whether the union and other more
mainstream demonstrators divorce themselves from the street
demonstrations perhaps even leaving, or, instead, join in the continuing
marches and rallies, telling the Seattle police that their opposition is
workers like themselves, and angry ones. If (a) happens this will be an
important event. If (b) happens, it could well be historic.


Jay Fenello,
New Media Relations
http://www.fenello.com  770-392-9480

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