As the orderly column of peaceful protest marchers rounded a corner in downtown Seattle, the scene changed suddenly. And dramatically. People were running every which way. Smoke billowed from dumpsters set afire. A young man ran past me clutching the silver “N” he had just snatched from above the entrance to the Niketown store. A voice behind me boomed into a megaphone:
Everybody go down this alley – we think we’ve found a back way into the hotel!
I turned around to see that the guy with the megaphone was Michael Moore – the filmmaker, not the guy by the same name in charge of the World Trade Organization. It was the WTO’s presence in Seattle that sparked this scene 10 years ago today, as 40,000 or more protesters descended on the city.
I’m not big on anniversary journalism, but that protest known as N30 remains the largest anti-globalization protest in North American history. And, 10 years on, this week marks the start of what will no doubt be another series of globally significant protests.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected a week from today in Copenhagen, where negotiators from around the globe are traveling to supposedly try to reach a global accord limiting green-house gas emissions. Will the negotiators succeed? Don’t bet on it.
I feel fortunate that our Seattle-based non-profit news agency, still too new to pay salaries, will have journalists in Copenhagen to give InvestigateWest readers an up-close look at what journalist Naomi Klein recently called “Seattle grown up.” (In fact, protesters are getting an early start today with a nationwide Mobilization for Climate Justice.)
Alex Kelly’s post today introduces you to the team of smart young journalists who have done their own fundraising to get themselves to Copenhagen to deliver the news of what happens at these crucial climate talks.
We’ll be carrying Alex’s dispatches as well as video by his brother, professional videographer Blair Kelly, and the work of photographers Chris Crow and Mark Malijan. They’ll be covering the street protests, of course, and we’ll also be analyzing the news from inside the climate talks.
I still remember the night the WTO talks unexpectedly faltered in Seattle, when I was the last person on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s team still inside the convention center. The debacle had behind it some of the same international dynamics at work in the run-up to Copenhagen, namely restless defiance of the existing order among delegates from the Third World.
On that final night of the WTO’S stay in Seattle 10 years ago, Mike Moore, the director-general of the WTO, tried to tell us that all was well, calling the gathering of trade ministers in Seattle “a remarkable meeting. Much was done. That will not be lost.”
Yes, he really said that, even with the backdrop of ministers slinking home without the trade treaty they set out to achieve. He also, unbelievably, told the delegates who had earlier been held hostage inside Seattle hotels by the violence in the street: “This city, what a magnificent place. If only the world could be like Seattle.” Some in his audience broke out in laughter, mocking him.
Along these lines, look in Copenhagen for another parallel with Seattle. Organizers were warning a few months ago that Copenhagen was a final last chance to reach a global climate pact. Now they say: No treaty? No problem.
Don’t believe that. The need for a worldwide agreement on how to proceed with a technological revolution to keep the Earth habitable for future generations is perhaps the most important challenge of our time. InvestigateWest team will follow that story in Copenhagen.
— Robert McClure