Massive rioting took place in Seattle on November 30 and violence
broke out between demonstrators and the riot police through the
day, and well into the night, despite the city's seven o'clock
The mayor declared a civil state of emergency, as store windows
were smashed, a Starbucks cafe was ransacked, vehicles were destroyed,
and stores were looted through the clouds of tear gas and pepper
spray, and showers of plastic bullets.
For more information about the protests,
check out the Global Exchange web
site at www.globalexchange.org/
and visit the Global Economy section.
What is the cause of such disorder and chaos? Well, the protest
started out with the intent of stopping the members of the World
Trade Organization from meeting, but soon escalated into unnecessary
rioting. It is unfortunate that the outcome was such a negative
one, because the support and image of the protestors has been
tarnished. The media is focussing now on their unruly behaviour,
instead of their purpose, and their protest is being looked down
upon. Some say that the protest was the only way to stop the
meeting, as it was definitely attention-grabbing, but most members
of WTO see it as a disgraceful reflection of their opposition,
and a waste of a day.
Over 50,000 people, many of them British Columbians, blocked
the streets of down town Seattle, and groups all over the world
gathered in their home towns to hold their own local protests.
The passionate crowd started out peaceful, while they protested
everything from healthcare, and foresting, to free trade, turtles,
and water exporting. Surely such massive numbers of strongly
opinionated people cannot be ignored by the delegates, and hopefully
they took into consideration what is being said, and what the
concerns of their challengers are.
If you are wondering why so many people are against WTO, wonder
no longer. In fact, this group of mainly university students
have good reason to go to such extremes to halt these international
meetings. Decisions made by the WTO could lead to the end of
our health care system, and allow US firms to set up private
hospitals in Canadian cities. They will also have an impact on
Canadian university and college education, culture, local jobs,
lumber, and labour standards around the world. They will also
be discussing Canada's water exports, and the dangerous possibility
of allowing other WTO member countries take water out of our
country with little regard to our environment, or our own domestic
Now, you are probably wondering what the powerful WTO is. The
WTO is an international agency which was established in January
1995 to continue the work started by the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The WTO includes 135 countries, including
Canada, who take part in negotiations of trade, and keep track
of almost all of the products produced by its member countries.
The WTO is currently trying to abolish world wide barriers
between countries, and enforcing free trade among everyone. Most
of their actions are clearly controversial, and many of their
decisions may take years to make. These recent talks were intended
to lay ground work for another round of agreeable trade negotiations.
This article originally appeared
in The Attempt, the school newspaper at Hope Secondary
Secondary School in Hope, British Columbia. Check out the online
version of The