Monday, November 30, 2009

From the archives, the chaos of the WTO

Hard to believe that my wife and I were in the middle of all this, ten years ago. It was glorious.

Rainforest Action Network climbers hang from a construction crane near Interstate 5 to protest what they called WTO's anti-democratic policies. Five activists climbed the crane No. 29, 1999, to unfurl their protest banner. (Photo by Jeff Larsen)

Ten years ago this week, Seattle was thrust into the international spotlight in a way that most people did not anticipate. Tens of thousands of protesters descended on our normally quiet corner of the United States. They brought with them their grievances and frustrations with the way our world was headed in 1999. …

From the archives, the chaos of the WTO

Before the 1999 WTO conference begins, Seattle police Lt. Daniel Whelan exchanges words with a protester in front of the Washington State Convention Center. It was a precursor of things to come: Tumultuous confrontations, with thousands of protesters, tear gas filling the air and mass arrests, toppled the booming city from a high point of civic confidence it hasn't felt since.

By Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle was the hot ticket, the cool place — everybody wanted to come here. Even the WTO.

Snagging the convention of the World Trade Organization, with more than 5,000 trade delegates from 134 countries, and some 3,000 journalists, capped a long run of successes in the late 1990s for a city that seemingly could do no wrong.

"We had it all," said Pat Davis, the Seattle Port commissioner who helped invite the WTO here. "We were in the middle of boom times; everyone said, 'Sure, why not, Seattle is a Pacific Northwest gateway. We will put Seattle on the map.'

"And we did." …

Five days that jolted Seattle

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