Heather Day, Community Alliance for Global Justice: 206-724-2243 [email protected]
Kristen Beifus, UFCW 21: 206-992-7913 [email protected]
Battle in Seattle 20 Years Later: Activists Honor History and Today’s Movements
SEATTLE, WA November 29, 2019 – Twenty years ago, over 50,000 people took to the streets of Seattle on November 30th and shut down the opening ceremony of the World Trade Organization ministerial. The Battle in Seattle lasted a full week, including multiple marches, peaceful civil disobedience, and educational forums throughout the city to call attention to the WTO’s failed policies that impact the everyday lives of working people, pollute our environment and undermine farmers around the world. By the end of the week, the WTO talks collapsed when Global South delegates took heed of the ongoing street protests, and recognized that their interests were not being served by the WTO’s planned expansion, dealing a lasting blow to the institution and a victory for the protesters. Town Hall Seattle hosted organizers in 1999, and will again tomorrow, when leaders of today’s movements will join with veterans of the WTO protests to honor this history and trace the lineage to today’s struggles for justice. The event is free and co-organized by Community Alliance for Global Justice, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 21, and Town Hall Seattle.
Media is invited – for press access, interviews and exclusive coverage, call Media Contacts.
When: Saturday, November 30th, 2019, 9am-5pm
What: Another World is Possible! WTO+20 How a People’s Uprising Shut-Down the World Trade Organization in ‘99 & Why it Matters for Today’s Movements for Justice
Location: Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
Event details: cagj.org/wto20/cagj-nov-30/
The WTO+20 gathering centers the role of direct action in achieving social change. The day will begin at 9am with music played by Correo Aereo and street theater led by David Solnit, Direct Action Network organizer in ’99 and North American Arts Organizer with 350.org. A panel dialogue will kick off the program at 10am, featuring stories from 1999 and how current movements are utilizing direct action to achieve victories. In the afternoon, participants can attend an organizing training and movement-building workshops. The day will close out with music from Jim Page, calls to action, and reflection.
“In 1999 while the world was awaiting a new incoming century that would bring a hopeful vision for humanity, in Seattle the ruling elites of the WTO had their own plans. The WTO set out to rewrite the rules of the global economy and strengthen the authoritarian grip on our lives through anti-democratic corporate rule,” recalls Edgar Franks, farmworker organizer with Familias Unidas por la Justicia (FUJ), who was a student at the time. “The response of the people in the streets was that we practiced real democracy and demanded that we deserve a better world.” Franks will speak on the morning panel, along with Ramon Torres, President of FUJ.
“Twenty years after the Seattle protests, the impacts of the WTO has proved its critics right: trade has increased but wages and incomes are flat, inequality is surging, and developing countries – except those that have benefited from trading with China – have not been able to close the gap with rich countries. The real crisis is the millions of people suffering from harmful WTO policies on agriculture, medicines, the environment, and labor rights among others,” says Deborah James, coordinator of Our World Is Not for Sale Network, who continues to track the WTO. “Rather than tinkering at the edges of the dispute mechanism, or negotiating rules to give the future economy away to Big Tech for free, we need to address the fundamental problems with the failed rules of the WTO and implement a Global Green New Deal.” James is on the morning panel and leading a workshop.
“Recolonization today is taking place through corporate free trade agreements. That’s exactly what the WTO is,” says Dr. Vandana Shiva, Indian seed and food sovereignty activist. “A world governed by Monsanto and Bayer for seed; by Cargill for agriculture trade; by the ‘junk food giants’ Pepsi, Coke, Nestle, will destroy the last inch of land, the last drop of water, the last life form. It will destroy the right to food, that’s why a billion people are hungry, and it will destroy our indigenous food cultures to force junk food and now fake food on the world. They think they can create disposability of species and human beings. Extermination continues to be the project of colonization. We will not let other species go extinct, we will not let other human beings go extinct. That is our renewal 20 years later: it’s a fight against extinction, climate catastrophe, against privatization of water, of our commons, education, our health.” Dr. Shiva is joining the morning panel through a video message.
Paul Cheoketen Wagner of the Saanich Nation and founder of Protectors of the Salish Sea is joining the panel. He shares, “We are staring at the beginning of the end of a livable future for the creations of the Creator and for our children’s future. The time is now for our human family to rise up as one and defeat the destructive force that is pushing life to the brink of extinction: colonialism. The governance and educational systems of our indigenous First Peoples hold elder society wisdom and knowledge which is mandatory for creating a livable future. Traditional First Peoples carry the road map to paradise upon these sacred lands. Colonialism holds the road map to the end of life here.”
One hundred years ago, in 1919, over 65,000 workers from over 100 unions withheld their labor during the Seattle General Strike. Initially an employer attempted to divide skilled and unskilled shipyard workers, igniting the strike, which demonstrated the power of working people united for a common cause. “A hundred years later teachers, coal miners, auto, grocery, healthcare and many other workers still know that one of the most powerful ways we can advocate for change in the workplace that benefits our communities is by disrupting the status quo,” explained Faye Guenther, President of UFCW 21.
“When we look back at why we were protesting the WTO in 1999, we see that we were right to shut it down on November 30th: neoliberalism and unfettered capitalism continue to have devastating consequences for Mother Earth and her people around the world,” explains Heather Day, Director of Community Alliance for Global Justice, a grassroots food justice organization she co-founded with other organizers of the 1999 protests. “To repair the planet, it is more urgent than ever that we find inspiration in the victories of 1999: when people join together and take direct action, we are powerful,” says Day.
Full program schedule:
Media is encouraged to attend to hear directly from social movement activists.
Morning program 10AM-12PM:
- Lisa Fithian, author of Shut it Down: Stories from a Fierce, Loving Resistance
- Edgar Franks, farmworker organizer Familias Unidas por la Justicia
- Nancy Haque, Basic Rights Oregon
- Deborah James, coordinator of Our World Is Not for Sale Network
- Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya
- Ramon Torres, President of Familias Unidas por la Justicia
- Paul Cheoketen Wagner, Founder of Protectors of the Salish Sea
Afternoon Program 1- 4PM
- Training: Escalating Resistance and Mass Rebellion with Lisa Fithian
- Seattle’s Green New Deal with Matt Remle (Lakota), co-founder of Mazaska Talks, and Alec Connon, 350Seattle
- Campaign to permanently shut down the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, with Ashley Del Villar and Fletcher Christie, La Resistencia
- A new global economic constitution written by Amazon? What’s happening in the WTO and what we can do about it, with Deborah James.
Throughout the day: screen-printing with David Solnit, Arts Organizer with 350.org; memorabilia display; community tabling.
Immediately following the event, multiple artists will project images from the 1999 WTO protests onto the Convention Center at 705 Pike St. Images will include excerpts from the 400 hours of footage that independent videographers shared with the Independent Media Center, reporters’ photos, posters, and images of the arts from the shutdown. Musician Jim Page will lead a sing-along of his WTO song, Shut It Down Didn’t We.
On Saturday, December 7th, Washington Fair Trade Coalition will host a rally and march starting at 10am at Occidental Park, featuring street theater and music, followed by an afternoon of workshops at Town Hall with a keynote from Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz and Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch.
Another World is Possible! WTO+20 organized by Community Alliance for Global Justice, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 21, and Town Hall Seattle.
Sponsors: 350Seattle, Real Change News, SEIU 925, Sustainable Ballard, WA State Labor Council
Co-Sponsors: American Federation of Teachers, Clean Greens Farm & Market, Earth Care not Warfare, Economics for Everyone, Faith Action Network, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Greenpeace USA, Health Alliance International, LELO, Mazaska Talks, National Family Farm Coalition, Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace (OMJP), PSARA, Puget Sound Sage, Red May, Red Noses, Seattle Education Association, Sunrise Movement Seattle, Tools for Change, UAW 4121, US Women and Cuba Collaboration, WA Fair Trade Coalition
Community Partners: Backbone Campaign, Community to Community Development, EarthCorps, Edible Seattle, Evergreen Center for Community Based Learning and Action, Green Plate Special, JUUstice Washington, NAMA-Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, National Family Farm Coalition, Northwest Harvest, Seattle CISPES, Social Justice Fund, UW Anthropology, UW Geography, UW Nutritional Sciences Program, UW School of Social Work, Village Volunteers.