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Wto Riots - the Battle in Seattle

Essay by   •  November 22, 2010  •  Case Study  •  1,251 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,607 Views

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The WTO riots commonly referred to as "The Battle in Seattle" had a very big impact on Seattle. The WTO riots pretty much shutdown downtown Seattle for 5 days. Businesses lost millions of dollars from lack of people and vandalism. People all over the world watched the WTO riots from there homes on television. Many people realized that if you want something to happen bad enough you can make it happen. There were further losses in tourism due to damaged reputation, and/or public anxiety in living or visiting Seattle.

The World Trade Organization was established on January 1st, 1995. There are 147 member countries as of April 23rd , 2004. The budget for the WTO is 162 million Swiss francs as of January 1st, 2004. The number of Secretariat staff members is 600. The head staff member is Supachai Panitchpakdi and he is a director-general.

The founding of the WTO primarily the interest of the United States. Just as it was the US which stopped the founding of the International Trade Organization (ITO) in 1948, when it felt that it would not provide an overwhelming economic dominance in the post-war world, so it was the US that became the leading campaigner for the Uruguay Round and the founding of the WTO, when it felt that more competitive global conditions had created a situation where its corporate interests now demanded an opposite stance.

The WTO performs various functions including administering WTO trade agreement, organizing forums for trade negotiations, handling trade disputes, monitoring national trade policies, providing technical assistance and training for developing countries, and cooperation with other international organizations.

On November 30, 1999, the World Trade Organization was going to hold a meeting in Seattle, Washington, for what was to be the launch of a new round of trade negotiations. The negotiations, which were very unsuccessful, were overshadowed by massive and controversial street protests outside the hotels and convention center. They were protesting the convening of the WTO because they believe the WTO puts profits above human rights and environmental concerns, and that its policies reflect the commercial interests of multinational companies. This is the cause of the WTO riots.

Planning for the demonstrations began months in advance and included local, national, and international organizations. Among the most notable participants were national and international non governmental organizations (especially those concerned with labor issues, the environment, and consumer protection), labor unions, student groups, religiously-based groups, and anarchists. The motivations and intent of many of these groups in the WTO demonstrations differed significantly. Many non governmental organizations came with intentions to participate in the official meetings, while also planning educational and press events. The labor unions organized a large permitted rally and marched from Seattle Center to downtown.

Other organizations were more interested in taking direct action, especially civil disobedience to disrupt the meeting. These groups organized together as the Direct Action Network, with a plan to disrupt the meetings by blocking streets and intersections downtown to prevent representatives from reaching the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, where the meeting was going to be held. Though the group was a diverse one, it did settle on a basic motto of nonviolence, including: "We will not destroy property." However, certain activists, most notably a group of mostly-young anarchists, use a more confrontational strategy, and apparently planned deliberate vandalism of properties in downtown Seattle owned by multinational corporations, such as Nike, Starbucks, and various banks.

Damage costs for Seattle were very large. Ranging from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of millions. Seattle has just recently settled a lawsuit with protesters for $250,000, over the WTO police riots. U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman said the police lacked probable cause to arrest the protesters outside a "no protest zone." Pechman said the police had done an "atrocious" job at record keeping, as well as citing the use of improper warrant and arrest procedures to round up protesters. The total cost to Seattle and surrounding suburbs was about $13 million, not including several pending lawsuits against the city for police brutality. The federal government reimbursed Seattle about $5 million.

Various painful weapons were used on the protesters during the demonstrations of the Seattle WTO riots. The police attacked thousands of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators and bystanders with pepper spray, tear gas, jack boots, truncheons, "flash-bang" grenades, wooden pellets, marbles and hard plastic bullets. Police violently attacked protesters with no provocation whatsoever. That was the case when they were beaten and sprayed, that was the case when downtown was flooded with gas, with helicopters flying overhead shining spotlights down into the crowd. Thousands of police forced protesters out of the downtown area firing canister after canister of tear gas into the crowd.

There were many cases of police brutality and injustices

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