WTO Shutdown 20-Year Anniversary Series: The Shutdown WTO Organizers History Project and Common Dreams have produced this series of ten people's history accounts and forward-looking lessons from organizers who were in the streets of Seattle in 1999—at the very end of last century. Articles in the series—including archival photos and videos—will be published over ten days to commemorate and reflect on the events that happened 20 years ago this month. Read all the articles in the series here.
The following piece was reprinted from the 1999 Voices of the WTO
The No to WTO/Seattle International People's Assembly was held in Seattle at the Filipino Community Center last November 28-30, 1999. Four hundred participants joined the two day conference and led the march/rally on the morning of November 30th in downtown Seattle. One of the main objectives of the Seattle International People's Assembly was to expose the disastrous effects of the WTO and resist imperialist globalization, After a year of preparations, delegates from various organizations, citizens' movements and NGOs from twelve countries in Asia, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Canada and USA came together, participated in discussions and shared their experiences on how the globalization policy on free trade affects them. At the end of the two-day conference, in a unity statement, the delegates resolved to oppose imperialist globalization.
A television reporter stated that, "There's a couple of thousand anti-WTO protesters with colorful flags and banners marching along 4th Avenue. It seems this is a group of 'freelancers' separate from the ranks of the legal marchers from Seattle Coliseum." The march/rally of the People's Assembly was "one of the most electrifying moments of the day," wrote another reporter.
Despite the denial of "permit to march" from the Seattle mayor office, we managed to march militantly. From the seven hundred participants that started the march, our rally increased to a couple of thousand along 4th Avenue where we were blocked by dozens of police. Our contingent drew thousands more of the unorganized protesters as we shifted our route to 3rd Avenue. We managed to avoid a possible dispersal by the police where they started firing tear gas, pepper-spraying, shooting rubber bullets and beating up unorganized protesters along 4th and University. We managed to secure the point of convergence ahead of the labor marchers, and the numbers buoyed us to the front of the entire big march!
"Victory to the people'' shouted by the marchers as the other marchers jubilantly approached the main point of convergence in front of the Westlake Mall where we put up an hour program. Speakers from different organizations and participants of the People's Assembly took turns to denounce the WTO and expose the role of the Monopoly Capitalism, and specifically, US imperialism.
After several speeches, songs and chanting, the People's Assembly marchers surged forward and led the huge march along 4th and Pine Street and headed towards the Paramount Theater on 9th Street where the opening of the WTO summit was to be held. They joined others in trying to shut down the WTO. Once it was declared that the WTO had "failed to meet," the People's Assembly marchers triumphantly chanted, "Long live international solidarity!" and sang the "Internationale," and proceeded to disperse.
"After a long intense march, we made our point... we shut them down. Victory belongs to the people."
Shutdown WTO 20 years:
“I salute all the activists who continue to intensify our resistance against monopoly capitalism”
On November 30, 2019, Ace Saturay joined the 20 year commemoration in Seattle. He said,
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Warm Greetings. Today, November 30, we celebrate the People's resistance against World Trade Organization(WTO). After 20 years, we have so much to learn, especially from the people who actively organized, mobilized and participated to Shutdown of the WTO.
I personally recognized the role of all the activists, militants, progressive organizations, Direct Action Network, Union Workers and People of Color who had joined hand in hand and worked under the banner of "NO to WTO!"
One biggest factor that I can say that Shut the WTO down was the commitment of every activists to educate, organized and mobilized every community from North to South Seattle and from West to East of Seattle with the flavor of international Participants from Canada, Europe, Africa and Asia. The task was done in the span of 6 months before the WTO.
The 300 international delegates to Seattle International Peoples's Assembly joined the call to "Say NO to WTO!" , firmly united in the task of exposing and opposing WTO and advancing the people's resistance against Imperialist Globalization. We Shut down the WTO, though their policies continue to ravage the environment, devastate countries and subjugated entire peoples with ruthlessness, in the name of free trade and profits.
During the Seattle People's Assembly we adopted a resolution to form the
International League of Peoples' Struggle, ILPS. Through ILPS different organizations, associations, and progressive individuals participated and mobilized everywhere
Confronting Imperialist Globalization, Like the WTO, IMF, WB and APEC.
I salute all the activists who continue to intensify our resistance against monopoly capitalism, and we welcome the millenials to join and unite to advance International Solidarity.
Seattle People's Assembly, No to WTO