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WTO Shutdown: This Is What Democracy Looked Like

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/11/30/wto-shutdown-what-democracy-looked

Seattle will always have a warm place in my heart thanks to the best week of my life, spent there twenty years ago.


Our most recent experience of a shut-down like that was back when Occupy was squashed – out here Oakland’s liberal mayor Jean Quan huddled with goons nationwide to squash 'em all right quick, coordinated-like, ain’t that nice?

I’m sure many of us remember some exhilaration from innate hippie yearnings, or something, back in the day when public political gatherings didn’t feel like megachurch services. I do like the smell of anarchism in the morning!

Meanwhile, today in Spain, symmetrical patterns emerge: liberal parties deployed to make sure nobody troubles the waters. (Vincente Navarro explains pretty well: What is Happening in Spain?) Makes me wonder: Who the hell are these goddam liberals, anyhow? What lousy apologies do they offer?

Navarro mentions an intriguing organization called Liberal International which, since it apparently enjoys USA sponsorship, just has to be a crock, I should think. So I looked them up, seeking some imperialist motivational pep-talk, and found this (from the Andorra Liberal Manifesto, 2017):

Liberals recognise that human rights are individual, not collective. Given the natural diversity of human aspirations, characters and talents, as well as religious beliefs and convictions, the pursuit of happiness is and remains a fundamentally individual concern. It is about the freedom you can use to live a life you value, without limiting the freedom of others. That is not to say that Liberalism is mere individualism. Community is also important. Liberalism is about liberty – the freedom of the individual – but it is also about liberality – generosity of spirit to ‘the Other’, not just our close friends and family, but to the whole family of humankind. We Liberals embrace institutions and policies that open the maximum opportunity for all people in the present and in the future. We must overcome rigid social divides in our societies. Governments all over the world can and must create institutions and pursue policies that are more inclusive and strive to empower their citizens in freedom.

I’m deeply touched by the part about generosity (of spirit, at least) towards “the Other” (NOT!!!)

My partner and I were there, with our then 14-year-old daughter. Very early in the morning we joined arms with a group blockading the Sheraton, where many of the delegates were staying. We sang, we danced, anything to keep warm – but we didn’t unlock arms, because someone was always trying to break the line. Which they never did, because we were very loudly clear that, even though we were totally non-violent, they would never cross our line. Guys in suits thought a running start would work. It didn’t. We stayed for 6 or 8 hours. Through 2 waves of tear gas. When they came with the pepper spray, pulling off masks and shooting it directly into people’s eyes, we fled and joined a sit-down group in the nearby intersection, blocking the cops from controlling it and running everyone off.

Exhaustion set in after 10-12 hours – and fear of what the cops would try in the dark – and we finally left, stopping on the way so my partner (a nurse) could treat a young man who had been shot in the temple with a rubber bullet.

An amazing, once-in-a-lifetime day. Ruckus, RAN, Greenpeace (those turtle costumes!), Direct Action – all of them were so great. So organized, so committed, so brave. Still wish to this day we could have been there for the next phase. But we will never forget – especially our daughter (now a housing/education activist), for whom it was truly a formative experience. Let’s do it again!!

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The main thing I remember about what was called by the Seattle media: “THE BATTLE IN SEATTLE” was what a travesty, that the WTO was shut down!