Twenty-two years ago today, anarchists and other protesters successfully blockaded and shut down the summit of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. This was the dramatic debut of what journalists dubbed the “anti-globalization movement”—in fact, a global movement against neoliberal capitalism. Over the past few years, we have observed the twenty-year anniversaries of several of the high points of this movement. Today, we reflect on its origins and what it can teach contemporary movements.
In the appendix, “Countdown to the Battle of Seattle—An Incomplete Chronology,” we explore the global reach of the movement that led up to the victory in Seattle.
When we think of the so-called anti-globalization movement, we think of massive summit protests. In addition to the historic mobilization against the WTO in Seattle, we recall the black bloc marching against the Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial in Quebec City in April 2001, or the riots at the G8 summit in Genoa the following July.
An iconic photograph of the protests against the summit of the World Trade Organization in Seattle, 1999.
But these summits were just plumes of smoke rising from a fire. To use a more precise metaphor, they were mushrooms emerging from a mycelial network. The network itself was comprised of a variety of participatory anti-colonial and countercultural spaces and movements spread all around the world: Indigenous revolts like the EZLN in Mexico, occupation movements like the Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil and the network of squatted social centers around Europe, movements of agricultural workers from the Indian subcontinent to South Korea, ecological movements like Earth First!, grassroots unions like the Industrial Workers of the World, do-it-yourself underground music milieus like the rave and punk scenes.
All of these were settings in which people could develop a shared discourse about their own lives and aspirations and problems—and, more importantly, in which they could experiment with ways to employ their agency collectively outside the imperatives of capitalism and state politics. (By contrast, today’s internet-based radical networks often provide a virtual space for discourse without offering a shared physical or temporal space for collective experimentation that breaks with the logic of the institutions that remain dominant in this society.) In the aforementioned settings, individuals were able to develop their ideas and establish long-lasting relationships before coming into outright confrontation with the assembled forces of state repression.
The root system of long-running social and cultural spaces was essential to the success of these mobilizations, creating opportunities for people to go through a shared political evolution, build ties, and innovate new tactics and discourses. Punks who had played in bands together intuitively understood how to form affinity groups; environmental activists who had coordinated campaigns in the woods knew how to facilitate meetings involving people from multiple continents.
All this took place years before the massive summit protests that drew the attention of photojournalists. To continue employing the mycelial metaphor, the first step was for individual spores to find fertile soil in which to germinate. Decentralization preceded convergence. The next step was for individual scenes and movements to make contact, the same way that mushroom spores, when they germinate, send out fungal threads looking to connect with each other.
Long before we converged at summit protests, people spanning these different contexts brought them into contact with each other, demonstrating the virtues of what the Zapatistas called “A world in which many worlds fit.” Old anarchists who had survived the mid-20th century downturns and dictatorships made contact with punks; punks traveled to Chiapas and met Indigenous organizers; Indigenous organizers called for Global Days of Action; and the rest is history.
Building on the approach that had given them life in the first place, some of the first public expressions of what grew to become the movement against capitalist globalization were successful because they didn’t just oppose state and corporate policy—they also contested space, and therefore day-to-day social relations. For example, the anti-roads movement in the UK created long-term occupations, temporary autonomous zones in which people could build new relationships and a shared sense of purpose. (The closest thing to these in the past decade is probably the movement around the ZAD in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.1) The anti-roads movement helped give rise to Reclaim the Streets (RTS), which sought to create shorter-lived autonomous zones in urban environments, immediately obstructing and interrupting the way of life that depended on car culture. Reclaim the Streets, in turn, was a major player in organizing the “Carnival against Capitalism” in London on June 18, 1999—the first really successful Global Day of Action, which paved the way for the mobilization against the WTO in Seattle.
In the United States, we could chart a similar trajectory, starting with the forest occupations and the Minnehaha Free State.
It’s important to emphasize that practically all of these experiments were fundamentally joyous, affirmative, and creative. Reclaim the Streets organized street parties—yes, they tore up the streets with jackhammers, but the police couldn’t see or hear them doing so because the jackhammers were concealed beneath the skirts of stilt-walkers and drowned out by techno music. Every demonstration featured giant puppets and ended with a punk concert or a rave party. Performance art actions proliferated, along with pranks like those organized by the Yes Men, who would set up fake websites for global trade organizations and then send out spokespersons impersonating their representatives, inflicting farcical burlesques on whoever mistook the false websites for the official pages of those institutions.
This joyous, creative approach to resistance is something we’ve lost, even as confrontations have escalated around the world over the past 20 years. A playful, inventive atmosphere flourished naturally in a movement that had grown out of countercultural spaces. Revisit with us this account from one high point of Reclaim the Streets, the occupation of the M41 motorway on July 13, 1996:
July that year saw RTS mount what was probably their most ambitious and gloriously subversive action—squatting a stretch of motorway. The short M41 link in Shepherds Bush—the shortest motorway in England—was turned into a party zone for an afternoon and evening. The sight of thousands of people running onto an empty motorway shut off by large tripods is an image that stays with you… Thirty foot “pantomime dames” glided through the party throwing confetti. Food stalls gave away free stew and sandwiches; graffiti artists added color to the tarmac; poets ranted from the railings; acoustic bands played and strolling players performed. Some 7000 turned up… At the height of the festivities, beneath the tall panto dame figures dressed in huge farthingale Marie Antoinette skirts, people were at work with jackhammers, hacking in time to the techno, to mask the sound from the officers standing inches away, digging up the surface of the road until large craters littered the fast lane… to plant seedlings from the gardens smashed by the bulldozers at Claremont Road.
Reclaim the Streets takes the M41 motorway with stilt-walkers and jackhammers on July 13, 1996.
In the United States, at least, one of the other things that made it possible for protesters to shut down the World Trade Organization summit was the fact that nothing like that had happened in a generation. The authorities were taken by surprise, and they made sure that it never happened again. In Seattle, on November 30, 1999, demonstrators faced something like 400 police officers; by 2017, demonstrators were facing off with over 28,000 security personnel at Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, DC, or 31,000 at the G20 protests in Hamburg. Over the past two decades, the state has poured a tremendous amount of resources into repressing domestic protests.
Two can play at the strategy of convergence, it turns out. The lesson here is that we need to continuously move the battle lines and open up new fronts, not get bogged down trying to repeat ourselves in situations where the authorities can isolate us and concentrate all their forces against us. This is not an argument against continuing to employ the same tactics so much as an argument in favor of always looking for new spaces to deploy them.
The police were extremely outnumbered at the WTO protests in Seattle. Otherwise, the passive tactics that the predominantly “non-violent” protesters employed would not have sufficed to overwhelm them. As policing rapidly intensified and became more militarized over the following years, activists had to employ more confrontational tactics, along with increasing spontaneity and decentralization, in order to outmaneuver the police.
The other thing that made the movement against capitalist globalization so powerful at its high point was that, in addition to being heterogeneous, it was fundamentally decentralized. There were plenty of hierarchically organized groups participating—unions, political parties, activist organizations with entrenched leadership—but there were no mechanisms by which they could gain central control, so none of them was ever in a position to dictate what happened on the streets. The tremendous potential of the “movement of movements” emerged organically through the free interplay of agendas and tactics. It was a chaos more powerful than any order.
If this movement was so powerful, then what happened to it? It wasn’t only defeated by escalated policing.
In an article we commissioned for Rolling Thunder, our Journal of Dangerous Living, David Graeber argued that the movement against capitalist globalization plateaued because we achieved our intermediate goals of discrediting international financial institutions like the World Trade Organization more quickly than we anticipated. Arguably, this happened especially rapidly because—as we were coming out of a period during which the tide of political struggle had receded considerably since the 1960s—the goals of many of the participants were not particularly radical in the first place.
A decade and a half later, in the United States, we saw Donald Trump appropriate slogans like “Fair Trade, not Free Trade” directly from the liberal wing of the counter-globalization movement. These slogans were able to serve him because they didn’t reject capitalism itself—they left open the possibility that “better” political leadership could make it work properly. The timid souls who argued that radical rhetoric and aspirations would alienate potential supporters and undercut the movement paved the way for our legacy to be coopted by our enemies on the far right.
Indeed, the movement itself would have simply been called the anti-capitalist movement if not for the reformists and journalists who deliberately suppressed that language. It took until the Occupy movement of 2011 for anarchists to succeed in forcing newscasters and liberals to say the word “capitalism” aloud without smirking, compelling them to acknowledge the systemic causes of market-induced suffering.
Much of the iconography of the movement that shut down the World Trade Organization framed global trade institutions as anti-democratic, enabling reformists—and later, nationalist reactionaries—to propose solutions that did not cut to the root of the problem.
For those of us who never believed that capitalism could be reformed—who approached the global trade summits as opportunities to demonstrate the kind of tactics and values we hoped might spread to angry and desperate people everywhere—one of the limits we reached was that after a certain point, the confrontations escalated faster than we could draw more people into the fight. As the clashes became more intense, it was hard to resist focusing all of our attention on the adversaries immediately in front of us—or, still worse, focusing inward, on other participants in the movement—rather than continuing to direct our attention outwards towards those who were not involved yet but who might have joined us, turning the tables, had we done more to connect with them. One of the chief functions of the police is to draw us into private grudge matches with the authorities, locking us into the kind of narrow battle they can win, in order to distract us from the rest of the social terrain, including all those who could still join us but remain on the fence for now.
We should always aspire to address ourselves to the concerns of everyone who is subject to the same general forces that we are in society—not simply to an existing political milieu or movement. Rather than escalating our tactics on our own, imagining that we can win these battles by ourselves, we should aim to assist others in addressing their needs outside and against the logic of the state and capitalism, setting out to demonstrate tactics and strategies by which they might do so. When we succeed at this, social struggles will escalate by themselves. It had been our successes doing this in the first place that created the soil from which the movement against capitalist globalization initially grew.
When you’re looking to win a battle, it helps to pan back from the battlefield as far as you can before you start to lay your strategy. The game of go is much more instructive than the game of chess.
In the end, it was neither the escalation of policing nor our reduction of that sounded the death knell of the movement. Rather, the counter-globalization movement hit its impasse following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when the governments we opposed were able to substitute a narrative about terrorism, war, and ethnic violence for our proposals about social change. This change in narrative was fatal not only because it distracted or intimidated those who might otherwise have joined the movement, but also because it enabled authoritarian groups that had been sidelined by the movement to regain the initiative and take up the space of protest.
The anti-war movement, which followed immediately on the heels of the so-called anti-globalization movement the same way that reaction follows revolution, provides a useful counterpoint regarding its strengths. From the outset of the organizing, traditional Marxist party organizers made sure they held the reins—and the fog of “anti-war” discourse proved to be more conducive to their ambitions than even the most muddled opposition to global financial institutions. Immediately after the attacks of September 11, the members of the Workers World Party organized the ANSWER coalition as a front group for their ambitions; six months later, in March 2002, members of the Revolutionary Communist Party established the Not in Our Name coalition. These two dinosaurs dominated protest organizing for years thereafter.
As a consequence, much larger numbers of people flocked to the streets—famously, February 15, 2003, saw one of the largest protest turnouts of all time—without any of the impact of the forceful mobilizations that had taken place against capitalist globalization.
Taken together, the demonstrations that took place worldwide on February 15, 2003 comprised the most widely attended protest in human history—and yet they did absolutely nothing to hinder the Bush administration. One might say it was a triumph of co-optation that so much outrage and motivation was diverted into ineffectual rituals, so soon after anticapitalists had demonstrated the power of direct action.
Nonetheless, to this day, icons from the 1960s continue to lecture young people on the importance of centralized leadership. We heard this criticism throughout the Occupy movement, then during the uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore, then during the resistance to Trump, and finally during the uprising of 2020. In fact, decentralization and autonomously organized direct action have been essential to every powerful movement of our time, while centralized leadership has been fatal to every struggle that falls under its sway. For proof, we need only compare the movement for “climate justice,” which has stymied since the influx of corporate non-profit funding and liberal strategists following Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, with the movement against police and white supremacy.
Compare the People’s Climate March of 2014, which united 400,000 people behind a simple message while doing so little to protest that it was unnecessary for the authorities to make even a single arrest, with the Baltimore uprising of April 2015. Many praised the Climate March while deriding the rioting in Baltimore as irrational, unconscionable, and ineffective; yet the Climate March had little concrete impact, while the Baltimore riots compelled the chief prosecutor to bring almost unprecedented charges against police officers. You can bet if 400,000 people responded to climate change the way a couple thousand responded to the murder of Freddie Gray, the politicians would change their priorities.
The black bloc in Seattle at the 1999 WTO protests. This tactic, among the most controversial of its time—not least because the participants explicitly eschewed making demands—has spread among contemporary movements from Hong Kong to Chile and was essential during the 2020 uprising in the United States.
What might we learn, looking back at the movement against capitalist globalization, then?
First, let’s understand the movement in its proper historical context. At the time, the old 20th-century labor movements had been outflanked by the post-Fordist reorganization of the production process, which turned the entire world into a factory comprised of instantly replaceable parts. In response, while labor organizers fruitlessly attempted to hold the receding ground of their previous victories, the counter-globalization movement organized internationally on the basis of how capitalism impacts all of us, rather than simply seeking to defend the positions of particular laborers within the economy. This approach foreshadowed the success of the Occupy movement, which also began by addressing capitalism as a shared condition, rather than as an attempt to negotiate the terms for students, workers, or other specific demographics.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the do-it-yourself spaces that helped give rise to the counter-globalization movement were seductive because they were participatory in a time when both corporate media and politics in general were top-down and unidirectional. The social media everyone uses today is a co-optation of the participatory models exemplified by the Indymedia network that emerged during the organizing in Seattle in 1999. Today, it is essential to the stability of the prevailing order that the attitudes and allegiances that perpetuate it appear to emerge from the voluntary expression of ordinary citizens, not from party leaders or corporate media, both of which are largely discredited.
But what needs does a world of ostensibly “participatory” social media leave unfulfilled? The need for real presence and connection, for shared lived experience. We saw this during the Occupy movement, and again more recently during the uprising of 2020: in an age of digital connectivity and physical isolation, people urgently desire to share space and time with each other, to share experiences that cannot be reduced to pixels.
The capitalist triumphalism of 1990s is now a thing of the past. The capitalism of the 21st century no longer makes any pretense that everyone will benefit from the economy and the state. It begins from the premise that people will be excluded and dehumanized by the million. Politicians like Donald Trump have succeeded not by promising people a better standard of living, but by promising their constituencies that the violence inherent in capitalist society will chiefly be directed at others.
In response, we could pan back from the immediate confrontations—which are sure to persist and escalate whether we like it or not—to ask what people desperately need today and reflect on how we might organize on a grassroots basis to provide these things as a point of departure for struggles that can ultimately replace state power with a new basis for our relations. This is not just a question of food and shelter—which mutual aid groups have admirably mobilized to provide and defend during the pandemic—nor of securing our survival in the face of increasingly widespread ecological disasters. It is also a matter of creating meaningful connections between people, channeling creativity away from virtual spaces where it serves corporate platforms, inventing new forms of joy and conviviality. These should be our points of departure as we approach the next phase of our struggle against capitalism and the industrial destruction of the biosphere.
Some source material on the movements of yesteryear: the issue of the zine Complete Control describing the WTO protests, the logistics zine circulated ahead of the WTO protests, a collection of SchNews independent media reports, seminal eco-resistance journal Do or Die, Reflections on June 18, and more.
Further Reading: 22 Years of Counter-Summit Mobilizations
- Flashback to June 18, 1999: The Carnival against Capital
- The Power is Running: Shutting Down the WTO Summit in Seattle, 1999
- The Québec City FTAA Summit, April 2001: The Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Offensive
- Genoa 2001: Memories from the Front Lines—Taking on the G8 at the Climax of a Movement
- Let Me Light My Cigarette on Your Burning Blockade: An Eyewitness Account of the 2003 Anti-G8 Demonstrations in Évian, France
- Bringing the Heat in Miami: An Analysis of Direct Action at the November 2003 FTAA Ministerial
- Taking on the G8 in Scotland, July 2005: A Retrospective
- Can’t Stop the Chaos: Autonomous Resistance to the 2007 G8 in Germany
- The Pittsburgh G20 Mobilization, 2009—see also this account
- The Toronto G20, 2010: Eyewitness Report
- DON’T TRY TO BREAK US–WE’LL EXPLODE: The 2017 G20 and the Battle of Hamburg
The following timeline originally appeared in issue 9 of the journal Do or Die: Voices from the Ecological Resistance. It is an important reference, showing the global reach of the movement against capitalist globalization.
Countdown to the Battle of Seattle—An Incomplete Chronology
February 1999, Bay Area, California, USA
A group called San Francisco Art and Revolution produce and distribute a letter to groups and individuals across North America inviting them to help coordinate mass direct action against the World Trade Organization meeting later that year.
June 18, financial centers 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. While 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 that took place on J18 itself, creates massive excitement and lays some of the groundwork that 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 “globalization of resistance” puts out a call for a global anti-capitalist day of action on Tuesday, November 30, 1999 to coincide with the first day of the Third Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization to be held in Seattle, Washington.
Spring/Summer 1999, Northern California, USA
The Direct Action Network (DAN) is founded and a plan is established to host a ten-day Direct Action Convergence in Seattle from November 19-29 to be followed by four days of action to shut down the WTO.
August 23-27, 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 30 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.
September 28 to October 18, 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 holds discussions and workshops on the WTO, street theater, and non-violent direct action. Propaganda is distributed and people are encouraged to come to the Direct Action Convergence in Seattle from November 20 on 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 center pull-out is entitled “Shut Down the World Trade Organization,” encouraging people to come to Seattle. The pull-out also contains information about the WTO, global resistance to globalization, a history of Peoples’ Global Action (PGA), the 1919 Seattle General Strike, web resources, ideas for organizing against the WTO, a listing of upcoming events, and information about the DAN-sponsored “mass non-violent direct action” planned for November 30. Further copies of the pull-out were produced and distributed around North America in the thousands.
October 16-23, Washington, USA
“Globalize This!” Ruckus action camp takes place. Several hundred people from across North America are offered direct action training while numerous workshops and discussions take place. A person involved in London Reclaim the Streets holds a workshop on the mobilization for June 18 in the UK with the hope of inspiring success in Seattle.
October 29 to November 27, 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 4-27, across Canada
Students, unionists, and environmentalists spread information about the anti-WTO mobilization through a Cross-Canada Caravan passing through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia before arriving in Seattle.
November 15, Amsterdam, Netherlands
A small group occupy a museum ship—one of the earliest symbols of Holland’s colonial past—in the harbor of Amsterdam in a symbolic protest against the WTO.
November 16, Geneva, Switzerland
About thirty people occupy the headquarters of the World Trade Organization 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 Organization: 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 [sic].
November 19, Athens, Greece
Shortly before Clinton flies to riot-stricken Seattle, he visits Athens, where he is greeted by tens of thousands of people protesting US trade policy and its activity in the Balkans. As standoffs with the police continue, hundreds build barricades, smash windows, firebomb dozens of banks, and cut a swathe of destruction through a fashionable shopping district.
November 20, 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 [sic], the opportunity to form or join affinity groups, video screenings and talks, and workshops and discussions on everything from the practical to the philosophical.
November 22-29, throughout Turkey
Farmers, environmentalists, trade unionists, and others take part in a nine-day march across Corlu (Northwest Turkey). They walk over 2000 miles to the country’s capital, Ankara, arriving on November 30. On their way, they visit 18 different towns and villages to hold discussions.
November 24, Manila, Philippines
Anti-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) demonstrators hold a rally against trade and investment liberalization; police attack them using batons and water cannons.
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 25, Paris, France
As part of a demonstration against trade liberalization, 5000 farmers with goats, ducks, and sheep feast on regional products under the Eiffel Tower.
November 26, New York, USA
Several hundred people erect a two-story tripod and hold a massive party to reclaim Times Square on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Seattle, Washington, USA
While 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 27, 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 in a grassroots trade union demo while others lock down 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, while propaganda about globalization 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 27-28, 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 28, Seattle, Washington, USA
The final preparations for the day of action on November 30 are put into place. Tension begins to rise. The headline of the Seattle Post-Intelligencier reads, “Whose idea was this anyway?”
November 29, Milan, Italy
Students at La Bicocca University occupy the faculty of Biological Sciences to protest against the World Trade Organization 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 neutralize) the views of labor, human rights, and environmental groups has to be rescheduled after a “security breach” forces the police to close down and search the conference center for five and a half hours.
November 29 to December 3, 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 the WTO and the construction of the Narmada Dam.
November 30, 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 theater while 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 centers. In the evening, a public discussion takes place at the enormous squatted social center “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 tours the city visiting several banks, the Ministry of Industry, and parliament performing street theater and holding a dance for “people before profit.”
Prague, Czech Republic
Food Not Bombs distributes free food while numerous supermarkets are leafleted.
50 people distribute leaflets outside corporate offices, surrounded by some 300 police.
A Nestlé factory is occupied by a number of groups connected to the Earth First! network. Several of the occupiers are arrested on suspicion of alleged 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 center to distribute anti-WTO propaganda.
Students picket the Lewisham branch of City Bank in protest against the privatization of education. The Construction Safety Campaign holds a demonstration outside the Canadian Embassy in response to Canada’s attempt to encourage the WTO to make some European countries lift their bans on the use of asbestos. Throughout the day, information on links between the privatization of public transport and the WTO is distributed outside of the 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, then blockade the road outside.
Twelve 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 while huge anti-WTO information boards are erected in the city centre.
As projectors shine the slogan “Jam the WTO” across 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 using Jewish slave labor 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. A hundred NBA activists hold a rally outside the embassy. Meanwhile, 500 more NBA activists, a women’s movement from the slums of Delhi, a radical student organization, representatives of the National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM), and people from several other local organizations 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); thousands of farmers attend from across the state.
Anti-WTO protesters carrying a 13-foot Ronald McDonald puppet occupy the reception area of Al Gore’s Presidential Campaign offices.
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 that they be withdrawn 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.”
One hundred people arrive at Schiphol Airport and demand free flights to Seattle from the three airlines sponsoring the Ministerial.
8000 unionists hold a rally against the WTO outside the US Embassy and Presidential Palace.
A protest takes place against the Mining Act of 1995, which allows 100% foreign equity in local projects.
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 occupies the road outside of the Stock Exchange declaring it a “Beyond the Market” zone.
More than 8000 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 center and distribute fake money.
Wellington, Aotearoa (New Zealand)
Anarchists distribute anti-WTO propaganda and free food while 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 Center. Meanwhile, a 150-strong black bloc smashes the windows of the WTO’s corporate sponsors and paints the city in anti-WTO and anti-capitalist graffiti.
Reclaim the Streets in the 1990s: Let’s not forget the power of joy, affirmation, creativity, and experimentation in our movements.
In fact, one of the major figures involved in Reclaim the Streets ended up living at the ZAD in France, two decades later. ↩