An article from Do or Die Issue 9. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 129-133.
For months before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were due to meet in Seattle, people began to prepare for one of the largest and best co-ordinated efforts to resist capital's expansion for decades. What follows is a brief and incomplete chronology of events leading up to N30.
February 1999, Bay Area, California, USA
San Francisco Art and Revolution produce and distribute a letter to groups and individuals across North America inviting them to help co-ordinate mass direct action against the World Trade Organisation meeting later that year.
June 18th, financial centres across the Globe
A call for a global day of action put out by several UK-based direct action groups leads to the simultaneous occupation and transformation of financial and banking districts across the globe. Whilst the G8 meet in Cologne, Germany, actions erupt in over 100 cities in more than 40 countries and on every continent on the planet. Networking before and after the event, combined with the exchange of information and inspiration provided by reports of actions which took place on J18 itself, creates massive excitement and lays some of the groundwork which leads to N30 being such a success.
Early Summer 1999, somewhere near Seattle, Washington, USA
A collective inspired by the day of action on J18 and the trend towards a 'globalisation of resistance' puts out a call for a global anti-capitalist day of action on Tuesday, November 30th 1999, to coincide with the first day of the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organisation to be held in Seattle, Washington, USA.
23rd-27th August, Bangalore, India
The second conference of the PGA (Peoples' Global Action against 'Free' Trade and the WTO) is hosted by the Karnataka State Farmers' Association (KRRS). Several hundred meet to discuss ideas, philosophy, tactics and a strategy for building a global anti-capitalist network. The PGA echo the call for November 30th to be billed as a global day of action. A PGA Cross-Continental Caravan is also planned to cross the USA during the build up to N30.
Spring/Summer 1999, Northern California, USA
The Direct Action Network (DAN) is founded and a plan is established to host a 10 day Direct Action Convergence in Seattle from 19-29th November to be followed by 4 days of action to shut down the WTO.
28th September-18th October, West Coast of North America
Art and Revolution take part in a Resist the WTO Roadshow, visiting a number of unions, church groups, direct action collectives, community groups, schools and universities. The group hold discussions and workshops on the WTO, street theatre and non-violent direct action. Propaganda is distributed and people are encouraged to come to the Direct Action Convergence in Seattle from 20th November and to help shut down the WTO.
September-October, Eugene, Oregon, USA
The Mabon 1999 Issue of the Earth First! Journal is published and distributed across the globe. The four page centre pull-out is entitled 'Shut Down the World Trade Organisation' encouraging people to come to Seattle. The pull-out also contains information on the WTO, global resistance to globalisation, a history of Peoples' Global Action (PGA), the 1919 Seattle General Strike, web resources, ideas for organising against the WTO, a listing of upcoming events and information about the DAN sponsored 'mass non-violent direct action' planned for November 30th. Further copies of the pull-out were produced and distributed around North America in their thousands.
October 16th-23rd, Washington, USA
'Globalize This!' Ruckus action camp takes place. Several hundred people from across North America are offered direct action training whilst numerous workshops and discussions take place. A person involved in London Reclaim the Streets holds a workshop on the mobilisation for June 18th in the UK with the hope of inspiring success in Seattle.
October 29th - November 27th, across the USA
The Peoples' Global Action (PGA) Cross Continental Caravan, including delegates from the Indian National Alliance of Peoples' Movements (NAPM), Israel's Green Action and a number of Israeli ecological education and animal rights groups, Bolivian environmentalists, London Reclaim the Streets, the German autonomist movement, Panama's Women's Network, industrial and agricultural workers and the Karnataka State Farmers' Association (KRRS) visit cities from New York to San Diego to Seattle.
November 4th - November 27th, across Canada
Students, unionists and environmentalists spread information about the anti-WTO mobilisation through a Cross-Canada Caravan passing through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, before arriving in Seattle.
November 15th, Amsterdam, Netherlands
A small group occupy a museum ship - one of the earliest symbols of Holland's colonial past - in the harbour of Amsterdam in a symbolic protest against the WTO.
November 16th, Geneva, Switzerland
Around thirty people occupy the headquarters of the World Trade Organisation for several hours. The staircase leading to the offices of Michael Moore, Director-General of the WTO are blockaded and enormous banners reading 'No Commerce, No Organisation: Self-Management!' and 'WTO Kills People - Kill the WTO!' are hung from the roof. Occupiers beam live images from the action out into cyberspace from a portable computer.
November 19th, Athens, Greece
Shortly before Clinton flies to riot stricken Seattle, he visits Athens where he is greeted by tens of thousands of people protesting about US trade policy and its activity in the Balkans. As stand-offs with the police continue, hundreds retreat to build barricades, smash windows, firebomb dozens of banks and cut a swathe of destruction through a fashionable shopping district.
November 20th, Seattle, Washington, USA
The DAN sponsored Direct Action Convergence begins. Thousands from across North America and many from Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australasia begin to arrive in Seattle. They are offered accommodation in a number of warehouses, squats and private homes, free food from Food not Bombs three times a day, legal briefings, first aid workshops, non-violence training, the opportunity to form or join affinity groups, video screenings and talks, workshops and discussions on everything from the practical to the philosophical.
November 22-29, throughout Turkey
Peasants, environmentalists, trade unionists and others take part in a nine-day march across Corlu (North West Turkey). They walk over 2,000 miles to the country's capital, Ankara, arriving on November 30th. On their way, they visit 18 different towns and villages to hold discussions about the attack upon humanity by globalised capital.
November 24th, Manila, Philippines
Anti-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) demonstrators hold a rally against trade and investment liberalisation and are attacked by police using batons and water cannon.
New Delhi, India
300 indigenous people from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh occupy the World Bank, scaling the fence, blockading the entrance to the building and covering it with posters, graffiti and cow shit!
November 25th, Paris, France
As part of a demonstration against trade liberalisation, 5,000 farmers with goats, ducks and sheep feast on regional products under the Eiffel Tower.
November 26th, New York, USA
Several hundred people erect a two-storey tripod and hold a massive party to reclaim Times Square on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Seattle, Washington, USA
Whilst hundreds take to the streets for a carnivalesque celebration of Buy Nothing/Steal Something day a banner is hung over Interstate Highway 5 in protest against the WTO. The banner hangers are arrested.
November 27th, Washington DC, USA
A group of activists, claiming that the TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement advocated by the WTO would make it impossible for poor nations to afford essential medicines, occupy the offices of US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky demanding 'essential medications for all nations'.
Workers and squatters unite against the WTO on a grassroots trade union demo whilst others lock-on to a McDonalds store hanging banners and distributing leaflets denouncing 'neoliberalism'.
Prague, Czech Republic
Several actions are held at local supermarkets, including the distribution of free food by Food not Bombs, whilst propaganda about globalisation and the WTO is distributed. Similar activities take place in other Czech cities.
Seoul, South Korea
Three thousand workers, students and activists rally against the WTO.
Two thousand farmers and three thousand city dwellers march against the WTO.
November 27th-28th, across France
75,000 people in 80 different cities in France take to the streets to resist the WTO and 'the dictatorship of the markets'. Meanwhile members of the French Peasants Federation protest with hundreds of others outside McDonalds in Seattle.
November 28th, Seattle, Washington, USA
The final preparations for the day of action on November 30th are put into place. Tension begins to rise. The headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencier reads, "Whose idea was this anyway?"
November 29th, Milan, Italy
Students at La Bicocca University occupy the faculty of Biological Sciences to protest against the World Trade Organisation and the imposition of biotechnology.
Seattle, Washington, USA
A symposium designed for trade ministers and WTO officials to listen to (i.e. co-opt and neutralise) the views of labour, human rights and environmental groups has to be rescheduled after a 'security breach' forces the police to close down and search the conference centre for five and a half hours.
November 29th-December 3rd, New Delhi, India
Five hundred women and men from the Maheshwar area of the Narmada Valley participate in a three day Dharna (sit-in) at Raj Ghat to protest against the WTO and the construction of the Narmada Dam.
November 30th, Santos, Brazil
Under the banner of 'Brazil, 500 years of Indian, Black and Popular Resistance!' the Green Alternative Collective and the Libertarian Network of Brixada Sanista perform street theatre whilst clowns distribute leaflets denouncing poverty and capital.
Information is distributed about the WTO, the construction of the Narmada and Itoiz dams and local immigration detention centres. In the evening a public debate is held at the enormous squatted social centre 'Leoncavallo'.
The Headquarters of the National Committee for Bio-safety is occupied and banners are dropped in opposition to the WTO and biotechnology.
Anti-WTO demonstrators take to the streets of Cardiff and Bangor.
An anti-WTO coalition tour the city visiting several banks, the Ministry of Industry and parliament performing street theatre and holding a dance 'for people before profit'.
Prague, Czech Republic
Food Not Bombs distribute free food to the Czech people whilst numerous supermarkets are leafleted.
50 people distribute leaflets outside corporate offices whilst being surrounded by around 300 police.
A Nestle factory is occupied by a number of groups connected to the Earth First! network. Several of the occupiers are arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit criminal damage, an offence with a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment. The charges are later dropped.
Buildings soon to be converted into luxury flats are squatted and opened as a café and information centre to distribute anti-WTO propaganda.
Students picket the Lewisham branch of City Bank in protest against the privatisation and under-funding of education. The Construction Safety Campaign hold a demonstration outside the Canadian Embassy in response to Canada's attempt to encourage the WTO to make some European countries lift their ban on the use of asbestos. Throughout the day information on links between the privatisation of public transport and the WTO is distributed outside of Euston train station. As night falls, several thousand gather for a rally. Violence erupts between police and demonstrators and a British Transport Police van is overturned and set alight.
50 people occupy a branch of Lloyds bank and then blockade the road outside.
12 banks, including the Banque Centrale de France, are painted red during the night.
The entrance to the Dijon Chamber of Commerce is blockaded by a chain of 30 people.
An anti-capitalist Father Christmas distributes rotten capitalist fruits to passers-by whilst huge anti-WTO information boards are erected in the city centre.
As slides project the slogan 'Jam the WTO' onto the walls of buildings, a mock-demonstration takes place through the town with spoof banners praising neoliberalism and calling for 'More Order, More Security and More Police!'
Siemens, a German firm notorious for its use of Jewish slaves in World War II, is targeted by 150 demonstrators for its role in the construction of the Maheshwar dam in the Narmada Valley, India.
Seoul, South Korea
Three films on the IMF, the WTO and the impact of the neoliberal economy on the people of the world are shown at the Seoul Human Rights Film Festival.
New Delhi, India
11,000 protest postcards from the people of the Maheshwar area are delivered to the German Embassy by representatives of the NBA (Save Narmada Movement) calling for a halt to the construction of the Maheshwar dam. 100 NBA activists hold a rally outside the embassy. 500 more NBA activists, a women's movement from the slums of Delhi, a radical student organisation, representatives of the National Alliance of Peoples' Movements (NAPM) and people from several other local organisations hold a rally against the WTO near Raj Ghat, where Mahatma Gandhi's ashes are buried.
Narmada Valley, India
Over 1000 attend a demonstration against the WTO called by Youths for Narmada.
A demonstration against the WTO is held by the Karnataka State Farmers' Association (KRRS) and is attended by thousands of farmers from across the state.
The reception of Al Gore's Presidential Campaign offices is occupied by anti-WTO protesters carrying a 13 ft. Ronald McDonald puppet.
An anarchist black bloc and Critical Mass cycle ride bring anti-WTO chaos to the streets of Baltimore.
Protests target a US military base and embassy demanding their withdrawal from Iceland.
The government department responsible for taking part in the WTO negotiations is occupied by a group calling themselves 'The Central Council for Dispersed Anti-WTO Opponents.'
The writings on the wall. Seattle, N30.
100 people arrive at Schiphol Airport and demand free flights to Seattle from the three airlines sponsoring the Ministerial.
8,000 unionists hold a rally against the WTO outside the US Embassy and Presidential Palace.
A protest against the Mining Act of 1995, which allows 100% foreign equity in local projects, is held.
A rally is held against President Joseph Estrada's plans to amend the constitution to allow for greater foreign investment.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
A coalition of activist groups occupy the road outside of the Stock Exchange declaring it a 'Beyond the Market' zone.
More than 8,000 march under the banner 'Shut down the WTO!'
300 leftists, environmentalists and anarchists daub the city's Christmas tree and a McDonalds store with graffiti, blockade the streets and burn an effigy of the WTO in a city square.
People wearing T-shirts with the slogans 'The World is Not Merchandise' and 'Against Capital: Global Resistance!' distribute leaflets in the town centre and distribute fake money.
Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Anarchists distribute anti-WTO propaganda and free food whilst showing a film and slideshow about the impact of sanctions on the people of Iraq.
Chaos erupts on the city's streets as tens of thousands blockade the Washington Trade and Convention Centre. Meanwhile, a 150 strong black bloc smash the windows of the WTO's corporate sponsors and daubs the city in anti-WTO and anti-capitalist graffiti..