The Battle of Seattle
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 99 00:07:14 -0800
Subject: The Battle of Seattle
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[ Fun_People ]=-
[The head of the WTO is a man named Michael Moore who speaks with an
Austrailian accent (to my ear). Do not confuse him with this Michael
Moore; the two Michaels are *very* different... -psl]
Sender: "Michael Moore's newsletter" <MICHAELMOORE@LISTSERV.AOL.COM>
December 7, 1999
They never knew what hit them. They had assumed it would be business as
usual, the way it had been for decades. Rich men gather, meet, decide the
fate of the world, then return home to amass more wealth. It's the way it's
On the morning of November 30, 1999, as government officials from 135
nations attempted to meet with the largest gathering ever of corporate
executives, tens of thousands of average everyday working Americans shut
down the city of Seattle and physically prohibited the hoped-for historic
and official merger of the earth's political and business elite. I was
there. I saw it first-hand. It was a sight I had never seen.
But there it was. It was a massively representive body of Americans (and
Canadians and Brits and French, etc.), all of us standing there on the
streets between Pine and Pike -- Teamsters and turtle-lovers, grandparents
and Gap clerks, the homeless and computer geeks, high school students and
Alaskans, nuns and Jimmy Hoffa, Jr., airplane mechanics and caffeinated
slaves from Microsoft. A few were professional protesters, but the majority
looked as if this was their first exercise in a constitutionally protected
redress of grievances. There were no "leaders," no "movement," no idea of
what to do except stop the World Trade Organization from holding its secret
Only the anarchists seemed organized. They even had their own anarchist
The big labor march grew so large (that's what happens when so many workers
are temps), it broke into six or seven separate marches, choking off the
entire downtown area of Seattle.
The beauty of all this is that it just happened. And why should anyone be
surprised? After two decades of downsizing, wage stagnation, lost health
benefits and the deliberate destruction of the middle class, the bubble
sooner or later had to burst.
The Fortune 500 brought this on themselves. If they hadn't been so greedy,
if they had been willing to share even a sliver of the pie, then maybe
Seattle wouldn't have happened.
But the rich decided to take a piss on their biggest supporters -- their
loyal workers, those Reagan Democrats -- and there's nothing uglier than a
Teamster who voted for Nixon realizing he's been had.
It was funny watching how the media presented the Battle of Seattle
("violent protests" was the mantra), and while a McDonald's and a Starbucks
had their windows broken, the truth was that 99% of the participants
destroyed no property and took great pains to treat the city of Seattle with
endearing respect. Seattle is, after all, the only city in the history of
this country to have a general strike (the entire town refused to show up
for work back in 1919).
The liberal mayor of Seattle, who at first did not want to be known as a
West Coast Mayor Daley, eventually lost his cool and let his police force
run amok. Tear gas and rubber bullets started flying toward the
grandparents and the nuns. All civil liberties were suspended. They even
had the audacity to use the term, "no protest zones." Hey, this is America,
buddy! Seattle may be considered one of those groovy "Pacific Rim" cities,
but that doesn't make it Singapore.
Clinton came to town on the second day. He was so badgered by the protests,
he ended up committing a sin so serious, it was like he was burning his
draft card all over again. He completely changed his position and called on
all WTO countries to enact laws prohibiting trade with nations that use
children in sweatshops and do not honor the rights of all workers to
organize a union. Whoa! You see, free trade is an absolute with the WTO
(e.g., trade must never be used as a tool to accomplish "social" goals).
So, for Clinton to climb the space needle (or was he chased up it?) and then
declare that the human rights of workers were more important than making a
buck, well, this was nothing short of Paul being knocked off his horse and
seeing Jesus! You could almost hear the collective seething of the hundreds
of CEOs gathered in Seattle. Their boy Bill -- the politician they had
bought and paid for at so many coffee klatches and Lincoln Bedroom stays
--- had betrayed them. You could almost see them reaching for their Palm
Pilots to look up the phone number of The Jackal.
It was a tremendous victory for everyone who lives from paycheck to
paycheck. We owe a lot to those brave souls who got arrested and spent the
rest of the week in jail.
This is by no means the end of Big Business. The richest 1% still own 90%
of everything in this world. They will not go down without a fight.
But they have been put on notice that people from all walks of life have
had their fill and will not let up until we have a fair, just, and
democratic economy. This week, Seattle was the Lexington and Concord of a
movement that now cannot be stopped. Mark it down, this last great,
important date of the 20th century -- November 30, 1999 -- The Battle of
Seattle, the day the people got tired of having to work a second job while
fighting off the collection agents and decided it was time the pie was
shared with the people who baked it.
© 1999 Peter Langston