How to Sing in Police Riots
and Restricted Zones

Notes and Reflections of a Seattle Protest Singer

May 2001

by Jack Chernos

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 Photo by Eric Wagner

     In July 1999 I was looking at the website of Public Citizen when I came across an announcement that the World Trade Organization would be holding a summit in Seattle at the end of November. Reading the agenda for the summit, I found myself getting more and more angry that this organization was planning to expand its control and influence, and a tune with the lyric of "sold down the river" came into my head.

     The next day I sat down with my guitar to see what I could strum up. I hadn't planned on writing a protest song and I hadn't written an explicit protest song in years, but while writing I decided that the raw facts were far more compelling than metaphors ... and that people really needed to hear the facts. With the summit fast approaching, my band and I quickly recorded the song and a few other social/political songs I'd written, and we made several hundred copies with a cd duplicator.

     I’d hoped the cd would be used by college and public radio stations to spread the word about the WTO and the upcoming summit. With a friend helping me with the mailings we also sent a bunch of cds to magazines, newspapers, unions, and environmental groups. Though I thought the unions and environmental groups would appreciate the songs, I didn't think they'd have much use for them. We knew the corporate media wouldn't be interested, but I was surprised by the indifference of what we regarded as more alternative media. Only a few college and public radio stations picked it up and we had absolutely no success attracting the interest of any newspapers or magazines.

     However, early in November I got a call from an organizer from the United Steel Workers of America. They were going to have a billboard truck in Seattle wired up with loudspeakers and they called to ask if they could play the song from their truck. It was to be a role for the song far beyond what I'd imagined ... the Steelworkers adopted Sold Down the River as their anti-WTO anthem and played it from their billboard truck in continuous-loop for five days on the streets of Seattle.

                                       * * * * * * * * *

     The weekend before the summit it was announced that there would be no street or garage parking throughout downtown Seattle and bus service was to be curtailed. I made myself a hitch-hiking sign that said "WTO Protester--Heading Downtown," but didn't need it -- the buses were running pretty much as normal. Monday morning I stepped onto a bus and navigated my Maxi Mouse battery-powered amplifier, mike stand, and guitar case through the isle, trying to avoid collisions with the knees of the commuters. But as I reached the back half of the bus, I noticed a distinctly different demographic. As we headed downtown, more and more protesters boarded until there was barely standing room. At the perimeter of the downtown we disembarked, headed towards the city center, and found ourselves converging with thousands of others! It was a fantastic feeling. Many of us had traveled hundreds of miles to be there, none of us knew what to expect, most of us had been dismissed or scoffed at by friends and family for our strong feelings about global corporatization, and each of us knew that among these people we shared a common understanding and purpose.

     Only ceremonial functions of the WTO were happening on Monday, but a number of street rallies and teach-ins were scheduled. I arrived downtown about ten o'clock and decided on a location under an awning halfway down the block from where a noon rally was to be held. The location was good: there was lots of foot traffic and, since the intersections at both ends of the street were blocked off, not much traffic noise.

     I set up my equipment, adjusted the volume so that about ten feet away was a good listening distance, and started playing the song. At less than two minutes it's short, so I usually cycled back to the beginning once or twice to stretch it out a bit.

The president signed the GATT Treaty into law

Fast-tracked through Congress with only hours of debate

We've ceded our authority in the blink of an eye

To a group of corporations that have purchased the right

They call it "free" trade, I'll tell you what that means

You can have your unions here, but the factory's overseas

Putting poisons in the waters, and paying pennies

        We're being sold down the river

        Sold down the river

        Sold down the river to the WTO!

They're meeting in Seattle to plan the next hundred years

And we need to be there in the streets

When the size of corporations exceeds the finances of nations

The democratic process can not compete

They call it "free" trade, I'll tell you what that means

Your health and safety laws, democratically made

Can be challenged from abroad as barriers to foreign trade

      We're being sold down the river

      Sold down the river

       Sold down the river to the WTO!

     The mood on the street was up-beat and almost festive. Some folks would stop and listen, and often we'd talk a bit. The crowd looked something like the population you might find at a jazz festival: from college students and pierced twenty-something kids, to parents with children, to senior citizens. But just prior to the rally the mood abruptly darkened as heavy boots marching on pavement broadcast the approach of a battalion of riot police about a half block before they came into view. Clad in black full-body armor and bearing short modernistic rifles or long clubs, they positioned themselves at the back of the rally—the extent of the militarization was strikingly incongruous. With their arrival came an atmosphere of impending violence.

                                     * * * * * * * * *

     As the afternoon went on, clouds arrived and it began to drizzle and then rain. At 8:00 pm, there was to be a march from the United Methodist Church to the King Dome, Seattle’s major league sports stadium. By that time it was absolutely pouring. Still, there must have been 7,000 people filling the block and the adjoining plaza. A group of kids danced to drumming in the center of the plaza while most people just stood around in the rain.

     I waited under a crowded awning with my guitar and amp wrapped in plastic garbage bags and chatted with those around me. That week I was consistently impressed by how well-informed the people I bumped into were. Although the newspapers and tv dismissed the protesters as having a vague collective phobia, a vague phobia doesn't result in people traveling hundreds of miles to stand in the pouring rain. The protesters I spoke with were well aware of how the WTO had affected their causes, and those causes were many. At each march and rally there were banners and placards for labor, human rights, democracy, public health, and environmental issues. But it was just this wide variety of causes which helped the media dismiss the agenda of the protesters as vague.

     Eight pm came and went, and it wasn't clear how the march was going to get moving. The Steelworkers' billboard truck pulled away a couple times in the wrong direction, and a white van with megaphones departed at around 8:30. Finally at 8:45 pm the Steelworkers' truck turned on the music and pulled through the crowd and we headed towards the King Dome. We arrived at the chain-link fence surrounding the immense parking lot, and the crowd fanned out to the left and right. The plan was to hold hands and encircle the King Dome in a human chain to demonstrate the magnitude of our numbers. I later heard that it was accomplished -- in the heavy rain and darkness you couldn't tell visually.

     I was soaked, and hoped my cotton jacket would be dry by the morning. I had planned ahead to protect my equipment, but neglected to adequately waterproof myself.

                                   * * * * * * * * *

     In the months leading up to the WTO summit, I attended weekly evening meetings of a San Francisco-based group called Global Exchange. The David-versus-Goliath nature of the confrontation was driven home for me when we were making arrangements to host a group of visiting activists and we needed to figure out how to feed them. After a few people volunteered to handle some meals, we still had a lot of uncommitted breakfasts and lunches. We were discussing options like getting day-old bagels from a bagel shop and were getting increasingly desperate. Those arranging the WTO Summit certainly weren't spending half of their meetings on these sorts of logistics.

     At first the people at Global Exchange estimated that there might be several thousand protesters in Seattle. Then there was talk that there could be tens of thousands. Seeing as how our biggest protests in San Francisco only brought out a little over two hundred people, I thought this was wildly optimistic -- the sort of escalating delusion that comes from associating only with people who share your cause.

     So when my friend, Michael McDaeth, and I arrived at the labor rally on Tuesday morning and saw fifty thousand people in Key Arena, I was absolutely floored. It was as if I'd walked into an alternate universe; where had all these people come from? The stands of the stadium were almost full, the entire field was packed, and the speeches were greeted with huge cheers.

     We left before the end of the rally to position ourselves along the march route a few blocks from the convention center. Michael had brought his video camera and I was planning to play as the marchers passed by. We waited, but no march came. We checked the map to make sure that we were on the march route, and continued waiting, and still no march. We thought that maybe the rally had gone on longer than expected, and waited some more. Finally, after about an hour and a half we decided to head towards the convention center.

     The convention center was where things were happening. As we approached, the crowd grew thicker, until about a half block away from the blockade of buses that surrounded the convention center the people were shoulder-to-shoulder. There were a few broken windows in the area, but nothing that would approach the millions of dollars in damage that was touted by the media. Then at one point there was suddenly a rush of people running through the street. There was such tension and expectation in the air that my first thought was that it was the police, and my instinct was to duck for cover. But then I realized it was a stampede of cameramen; it was the trashing of the Starbucks (which received so much media coverage), and the cameramen were in chase of good footage. It was an absurd scene: one kid with a bandana covering his nose and mouth making a mess in a Starbucks, and a dozen television cameras, lighting, and microphones crowding around the small store front, while the rest of the street was filled with thousands of peaceful protesters.

     I set up to play in the plaza in front of Westlake Shopping Center, and Michael shot video of the crowds and the people we spoke with. The police were using pepper spray at the front lines about two blocks away, while police vans with sirens blaring and mounted police and tank-like vehicles went by every ten to fifteen minutes. Then at around three o'clock, a wild-eyed guy in a tattered T-shirt came running through the crowd shouting. He noticed my microphone, ran towards me, told me while heaving for breath that the WTO had been shut down, and asked to use the mike. I stepped back and he hurriedly made the announcement, thanked me, and ran off yelling, "They've shut down the WTO, people! They've shut down the WTO!"

     In San Francisco I’d seen flyers about shutting down the WTO, but I didn't know how they were planning to manage it or who was involved. And when that guy announced it, I didn't know if they had shut it down for a day or the week or even if the whole organization had folded. The non-reaction of the crowd in my vicinity indicated nobody around really knew or understood either. No wonder the police were taken by surprise -- even the majority of well-informed protesters was surprised.

     It wasn't until we returned to Michael's that evening to watch the news that its importance sank in. Without the shutdown, that week still would have been notable as one of the largest protests outside of Washington, DC in decades, but probably soon forgotten by most. But the shutdown was so surprising, so unique, and so definitive -- it was perfect for the headlines. With Seattle being the first major American media appearance of popular resistance to global corporatization--and, hopefully, with further growth and visibility of the movement--the shutdown may be truly historic.

     The unions, especially the Steelworkers, deserve kudos for the magnitude of their presence. They brought around 30,000 people to Seattle. However, that evening at the press conferences the unions were claiming credit for the shutdown when in fact the union leadership had diverted the march following the big rally from the planned route to the Convention Center. That was why Michael and I never saw the march that morning. It was really a grassroots movement of twenty-something kids that blocked the delegates from entering the Convention Center. Those folks, most of whom were associated with the Direct Action Network (DAN), were the real heroes of the day. They braved pepper spray at point-blank range, tear gas, blows with steel-core batons, and additional abuses while in jail. To form their barricades the DAN protesters even went to such lengths as handcuffing themselves together, keys in hand, with their arms inside concrete-reinforced metal pipes, so that only they could unlock the handcuffs, and the pipes could not be cut away from the outside without danger of dismemberment.

                                     * * * * * * * * *

     Since the trade representatives couldn't get into the Convention Center, many of them could be found in nearby restaurants and cafes. Later in the afternoon Michael and I stopped in a Chinese restaurant for a bite and at the table next to us there happened to be a group of five Turkish trade delegates. At a lull in their conversation we leaned over and asked what they thought of the protests. Although protests follow the WTO wherever it goes, they were bewildered by what was happening. Anti-WTO protests usually have a strong anti-American sentiment since the U.S. generally bullies the other nations into agreements which are strongly to the advantage of the U.S. So they didn't understand why Americans would be protesting. We briefly explained that so-called U.S. interests generally don't coincide with what we consider our interests, but out of civility we left them to finish their meal.

     After they finished eating, one of the Turkish delegates stayed behind to talk with us. Dressed in a dapper brown suit with a black shirt and brown tie, he had a big grin that he eerily maintained the entire time we spoke. ("The smile of death," Michael joked later.) This was my first opportunity to discuss these issues with someone from the opposing side, and I assumed that we were going to discuss technicalities of the operations of the WTO or details of its decisions. Here were a couple of well-informed people -- surely either he, or Michael and I, would come away at least better informed, and maybe even swayed to some extent by our conversation.

     But after about fifteen minutes it became clear he operated under a circular logic that made substantive conversation impossible. Michael and I tried to discuss our concerns about the environment, public health, labor, and human rights, but this guy could not be convinced that we were protesting because we genuinely cared about these issues -- he was sure that we were protesting to protect U.S. corporate interests and actually thought we were getting paid to do so! When we expressed concern about the effects on dolphins of the repeal of portions of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, he thought our real concern was that the WTO had harmed the U.S. tuna industry. When we talked about the repeal of portions of the U.S. Clean Air Act, he thought that we were actually interested in maintaining the competitiveness of the U.S. oil industry. To try and show him that this was not the case, we told him of our concerns about anti-environment and anti-public health decisions that were in the U.S.'s favor, such as the ruling that the European Union must take our growth hormone-tainted beef. But he could not be convinced. Michael and I were dismayed that we were not considered to have enough intelligence to understand why we were protesting and, finally, he was willing to concede that we believed we cared about these issues; but he still maintained that we were being manipulated by U.S. corporate interests to believe we cared.

     Although we made little headway with him, the conversation was illuminating. In his world view--and this sort of myopia is probably pandemic--all entities of any consequence possess "wealth" and all motivations are ultimately based on gaining "wealth": we protesters are either motivated by our own pursuit of wealth, or we are the pawns of wealthy U.S. corporations who manipulate us to protest against wealthy foreign competitors in order to create more wealth for themselves. Our grassroots movement, with its lack of wealth and its lack of interest in gaining wealth, seemed beyond his comprehension.

                                    * * * * * * * * *

     That evening a region of approximately 180 square blocks was declared a curfew zone, and the national guard was called in. Oddly, the television news repeatedly stressed that the national guard was not bringing weapons, as if they were planning on standing around in their combat fatigues with mops and feather dusters. (It turns out their weapons were obtained from local armories.) A group of around a hundred protesters was still out on the streets in the Capitol Hill district and the stand-off was broadcast live on television. The police would fire tear gas into the crowd, kids would throw the tear gas canisters back at the police, the group would retreat a block, and it would happen again. It was outside the curfew zone, no damage was being done to the neighborhood, and no sessions of the WTO were taking place at night, so it was unclear why the police should object to this gathering.

     First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly were trampled that whole week (even before the declaration of a state of civil emergency and outside the restricted zones), and the ACLU has since filed lawsuits against the city of Seattle. Two of the more comically outrageous examples are the confiscation of photocopies of the First Amendment which were handed-out by a protester at the border of the no-protest zone, and a police radio directive ordering that notes of the police actions taken by the green-capped National Lawyers Guild legal observers be confiscated.

                                    * * * * * * * * *

     That evening I went out to see Ralph Nader in a debate at the town hall, just outside the curfew zone. On my way I ventured into the curfew zone by car and initially encountered no police presence. As I wound through the empty streets nearing the Capitol Hill area, the acrid smell of tear gas was noticeable for blocks. Eventually I came upon the on-going confrontation and had a surreal view of it from my rent-a-car behind a queue of two other cars at the intersection. What had not been apparent from the network news, which was replaying only the most dramatic footage of the evening as viewed by telephoto lens from blocks away, was the leisurely pace of the confrontation. Both sides had been at it for hours and neither side seemed to be in any rush.

     By the time I arrived at the debate the auditorium was filled to capacity so I joined about fifty people who were watching on closed-circuit TV in the adjoining room. On the pro-WTO side was a professor from Columbia University, Commerce Department Commissioner David Aaron, and a representative from Proctor & Gamble. The Columbia professor energetically represented the WTO, the Proctor & Gamble representative could barely muster enough energy to speak, and Commissioner Aaron was jovial and glib, as if the whole issue was a humorous misunderstanding.

     Prior to Seattle I'd read what pro-WTO literature I could find, such as publications from the Progressive Policy Institute, the Brookings Institute, and the WTO itself. It amazed me that these defenses were the best their well-financed, highly-educated policy experts could do to support the WTO. The arguments were either clearly misleading, inaccurate, inconsistent, or just plain morally repugnant. A typical example from the last category was the rationale of "who are we to apply our moral values to another culture?" ... as if the wealthy elite in developing countries would be ok with subjecting their own children to slave labor and crippling levels of pollutants.

     I had wondered whether the pro-WTO literature I'd read had been dumbed-down for some perceived unsophisticated audience, but Commissioner Aaron and the Proctor & Gamble representative stuck to the same sorts of defenses. To the accusation that the WTO operates in a secretive undemocratic fashion, they countered that U.S. participation in the WTO was arrived at via our democratic process -- as if once passed into law (fast-tracked through a lame-duck session of Congress that had no chance to read the full text) it should be beyond question. They argued that the prosperity created by "free" trade will result in better environmental and public health protections, despite the WTO's direct attacks on such protections and the environmental disasters routinely created from production in developing countries. They argued that the wealth that morality-free trade creates will trickle down, despite decades of increasing economic disparities both within countries and between countries. And they argued that American labor will benefit and jobs will be created, although it is well-accepted that NAFTA has depressed wages and produced the loss of hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs. Basically, they countered objections to the WTO's immediate direct effects by arguing that there are delayed indirect effects in the opposite direction.

     The audience had been instructed not to laugh or jeer or even applaud, and the silence that greeted the pro-WTO inanities was itself comical. On the anti-WTO side, John Cavanaugh from the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington, DC stayed composed, while Dr. Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy, became visibly angry at a couple of points. Nader was in fine form, unleashing concise, barbed attacks with wry contempt. The audience loved it, and now and again some couldn't help but chuckle.

     I hung around afterward to talk with people. The topic on most everyone's mind was the effects of the broken windows on public perception of the protests. Most people were upset that the protests no longer appeared peaceful. At the time I wondered if maybe a little vandalism was useful since it attracted media attention. However, even a small amount of vandalism will be blown out of proportion by the media and will give the police license to escalate their violence, further distracting from the issues. The Catch-22 of protesting is that if on the other hand nothing dramatic happens, then the media ignores the event.

                                     * * * * * * * * *

     It was absolutely thrilling to be on the streets those days. The feeling was that America was finally awakening from its long, commercialized slumber, and we were part of the birth of a movement.

     Each day I was elated as I rode the bus back to the suburbs and each evening my elation turned to dismay as I watched the events of the day rendered almost unrecognizable by the media. The news focused on the most flamboyant and least articulate protesters and on wacky fringe groups, such as a coven of witches from San Francisco, thereby discrediting the protests without any discussion of the issues. And the infrequent discussions of the issues hardly got past the oversimplification of it as a trade vs. no-trade issue. However, the most pervasive misrepresentation by the media was about the violence. 50,000 people were there to protest but, at most, only a couple of dozen protesters participated in property destruction. Watching the news you certainly didn't get that impression.

     Furthermore, the violence was predominantly police violence and it was predominantly directed against peaceful protesters. While the police attacks on protesters blocking access to the Convention Center could conceivably be considered a response to a provocation of a sort, the media completely ignored the unprovoked tear gassings of peaceful crowds. I happened to be in one such crowd on Wednesday afternoon. Still lugging my guitar, mike stand and amp, I followed the sound of drumming that usually accompanied the spontaneous gatherings that tended to occur. Turning a corner I saw a couple hundred people at the intersection of Pike and First. As I was walking through the crowd I was taken by surprise when the crowd abruptly ended and I came face-to-face with a line of riot police just as they were raising their guns. Although the people weren’t doing anything but standing around, for some reason the police had decided to act. I turned around and got some distance, and when I was halfway down the block the police started firing tear gas canisters into the crowd. Within seconds a cloud of gas filled the street up to the third-story office windows. There hadn't been any warning given by the police, and people who weren't close enough to see the police raise their weapons must have been taken completely by surprise.

     Scores of people came running out of the towering cloud and we retreated before the gas as it drifted down the street. Now and then a kid who had been slow to retreat but had reached the limit of his or her endurance would burst out of the haze at a run. As I retreated from tear gas unleashed on us for lawfully assembling to protest a great wrong, I was taken by a very foreign impulse. I’m not a violent person, but I felt like breaking things.

                                    * * * * * * * * *

     The news did repeatedly show footage of a policeman kicking a man in the groin as he was backing away, but by showing only one such incident they dramatically underplayed the frequency with which excessive force was used by the police. Everywhere you went that week there were people with video cameras, but the police were pretty savvy about that. So there is plentiful footage of police clubbings, but in almost every instance it is either partially obscured by tear gas or other police purposefully blocking the visibility with their hands or bodies. By Wednesday even reporters and camera people with press passes for the summit were being denied access to the police actions.

     With the extent to which the reporting made a point of mocking the protesters and failing to present the issues, it is tempting to conclude that the media had an agenda to do so. But the abysmal reporting was probably just due to a lack of understanding, albeit a somewhat willful lack of understanding given the efforts exerted by the protesters and the non-government organizations to bring the issues to public attention.

     One of my favorite bits of clueless reporting during that period was from the Seattle Times. It read, "How the WTO aroused the ire of such a wide group of protesters remains somewhat of a mystery." I thought the quote so telling, I wrote it on the t-shirt that I wore that week. 50,000 people came from across the country and around the world to protest this organization, but for the major media why was a mystery.

                                   * * * * * * * * *

     The curfew was in effect again on Wednesday night. An evening benefit I was scheduled to play at and a number of other events were canceled due to their locations inside the restricted zone. During the days I had been using a portable, but heavy and awkward, set-up where a distortion box and battery-powered amplifier was strapped to the base of a mike stand and loose portions of the wiring from the microphone and electric guitar were taped down. I was concerned that the situation on the streets would be less predictable on Thursday and I wouldn’t be sufficiently mobile, so I decided to travel lighter and borrowed an acoustic guitar from Michael. But the downtown was a ghost town on Thursday. Most protesters had returned to work or left town, over six hundred people had been jailed, and the holiday shoppers were certainly not coming into the area. Little was happening elsewhere so I buttoned my jacket over the T-shirt with the Seattle Times quote, found an intersection with a couple of less militant-looking police, and nonchalantly but briskly walked past the police line into the no-protest zone.

     The few pedestrians venturing into the no-protest zone were typically businessmen intent on getting from here to there as rapidly as possible. There were groups of police on every corner and private security at the entrance of virtually every major retailer and office building. After being told to move on by the guards in front of a couple different stores, I found an alcove in front of an apartment complex and began singing. Since Sold Down the River was written to educate the uninformed and excoriate the apathetic, the song has a strident angry tone and in a way it was actually more satisfying to sing at unreceptive businessmen than for more sympathetic protesters. I hoped that some of the men in suits were even WTO delegates, but couldn't be sure.

     The police and guards took some notice, but no one hassled me. However, later that afternoon while still in the no-protest zone a new acquaintance and I stopped to ask directions of three people and when another two people carrying protest signs stopped as well, within seconds we were surrounded by riot police and told to disperse.

     Later that afternoon I caught a bus back to Michael's, and flew home that evening as people rallied at the jail to demand the release of those who were arrested. (As of this writing, of the 631 people arrested, no charges were ever brought against 138 of them and charges were dropped for 373.)

                                    * * * * * * * * *

     The WTO summit ended on Friday with no agreement reached on an agenda for the coming round of negotiations. The developing countries had banded together and refused to be bullied. Some WTO delegates from developing countries gave credit to the protesters for buoying their courage to resist. Although it's difficult to gauge to what extent the protests actually contributed to the summit's failure, certainly the shortening of the meetings from four days to three made it more difficult to reach agreement.

     Many protesters felt that one of the most important consequences of the protests was that the WTO had been brought to the attention of the public. Indeed, many people now know of the existence of the WTO and what the three letters stand for. But most of the public still has almost no understanding of the WTO. Although Seattle seemed like a starting point for the education of the public, to a large extent that has been stillborn: US mainstream media coverage of what may be construed as negative aspects of the WTO has been virtually non-existent. For instance, in 2000 the San Francisco Chronicle ran three stories related to the WTO's environmental effects. Two stories covered a Federal Circuit ruling regarding the dolphin-tuna law and one story was on a study of the rapidly-declining population of sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean. But there was not a single mention of the WTO in any of these stories although the Federal Circuit adjucation was a direct result of one WTO ruling and another WTO ruling has led to the removal of protections for endangered sea turtles. I called and asked the Associated Press reporter who wrote one of the dolphin-tuna stories about it shortly after it was written and he claimed he couldn’t remember why the WTO connection was omitted. Curiously, in the article about sea turtles the headline on the continuation page read "International Trade Agreements Slow Protection of Sea Turtles." However there was no mention of international trade anywhere in the article. I spoke with that reporter as well and he said a discussion of the relationship to international trade had been in the story—it was edited out by an editor while the headline accidentally slipped through. In contrast, when there was a tariff dispute between the U.S. and Europe adjudicated by the WTO that had no environmental or public health consequences, that news made numerous headlines.

     The media blackout of the WTO is a shame since it may be a very long time before there is another opportunity to make headlines like Seattle. It is unlikely that protesters will again have the element of surprise that made the shutdown possible, and police tactics have become much more harsh. 350 people were preemptively arrested (I narrowly escaped being one of them) using truck-mounted street-width fences in Washington, DC the evening before the April 2000 IMF/World Bank protests. Meeting centers that make street puppets and give non-violence trainings have been closed down on the pretext that they were fire hazards or were making explosives. And the felony conspiracy law, which only requires that two people discuss a misdemeanor crime (such as peaceful civil disobedience), has been used to arrest and hold organizers on bails as high as a million dollars.

     Although a dramatic battle was won in Seattle, the fight must continue. Huge mergers continue to create corporations more economically powerful than most nations. Politicians continue to kowtow to hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate lobbying. The media substitutes entertainment for information or maintains its focus on a narrow range of political discussion that obscures root causes, disempowering the electorate and producing apathy. And day after day, week after week, with immense resources at their command, the transnational corporations work to further these trends.

     But Seattle did succeed in raising consciousness in America about global corporatization, and Seattle was fantastic because it gave us hope. Martin Luther King was once asked why the progress of civil rights was so long in coming, and his answer was that it was due to the “silence of good people.” Well, in Seattle I marched with tens of thousands of intelligent, highly-informed, altruistic people--people who cared enough to travel hundreds of miles to make themselves heard. They are people who inform themselves about issues absent from the corporate media, people who understand that something is terribly wrong, people who are indignant and outraged, people who take action. These people will not be silent. Because of good, caring, intelligent, committed people like these and because the truth will out, a better world will be made.


Gig poster from January 2000 tour


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