the Run in 2001
From Prague to Buffalo, it=s promising to be a bad year
by Michael I. Niman
Buffalo Beat, March 1, 2001
April 22nd media attention will once again be focused on the Peace Bridge.
This time the story will have nothing to do with signature spans, twin
spans, tunnels, or a rusting old bridge. It
will have something to do, however, with the root cause of Buffalo=s
bridge debate: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or, more
specifically, the agreement now being hailed as Ason
the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).
Opponents see the FTAA, which could extend NAFTA trade benefits to sweatshop
havens such as Haiti and spur environmental degradation in environmentally
fragile nations such as Belize, as being a sort of ANAFTA
If you think NAFTA was rough
on the Buffalo economy, they argue, FTAA will be hell.
FTAA proponents, on the other hand, argue it will inject new life into a
moribund stock market.
Will Never Be The Same
any event, the FTAA argument, and the larger argument about an emerging
corporate dominated global economy will be coming to Front Park and to the
streets of Buffalo this Spring (read on for more details).
And it should be interesting. So
far the last year and a half has been a rocky road for proponents of the global
economy. Trouble first arrived on the national radar in November of
1999 in Seattle, as television viewers were jolted out of their stupor by scenes
reminiscent of the Chicago riots of 1968.
was to be Seattle=s
coming of age celebration C
a debutante gala for the rainy city, reborn on the cusp of the 21st
century. Seattle, home of Boeing
and Microsoft, saw itself at the heart of the global economy C
a sort of imperial Pacific Rim city where the old economy met the new.
A city large enough for the egos of Phil Knight and Bill Gates.
A post-modern success story populated by harried Starbucks guzzling
The event was the November 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting with
business and government leaders from around the globe coming to Seattle to slice
up the global economic pie. No
longer a rump mold-ridden town on the outskirts of Ecotopia C Seattle had come of age. Seattle
was a player. World take note.
The big boys were coming to Seattle.
Five months before the big event, ominous clouds started to form on the horizon.
European anti-globalization protesters converged on London, Europe=s
economic capital, and on the day that the G7 economic summit went down in
Cologne, Italy, demonstrators shut down London=s financial district. For
the normally placid British, televised scenes of tens of thousands of protestors
taking control of Central London and blocking streets as thousands of terrified
workers barricaded themselves into their offices, was a horror.
London demonstration, known as AJ18"
after its date, June 18th, was an immense success.
J18 put the previously little known shadow governments of the global
economy, organizations, agreements and partnerships such as the IMF, the World
Bank, G7, NAFTA and GATT, out front in public limelight.
Central London became a temporary autonomous zone with nude protesters
perching atop statues and building climbing revelers unfurling giant banners
denouncing corporate capitalism. Despite the magnitude of the event, however,
here was little property damage in London except for a smattering of graffiti
and the trashing of a Mercedes dealer and a McDonald=s.
J18, however, marked the beginning of 21st Century political
activism. Scotland Yard conducted
an in-depth investigation. Who was
responsible for organizing such a massive outbreak of uncivil behavior?
After three month of investigations, the horrifying truth came out.
No particular individual or group had organized J18. It formed organically on the Internet. J18 was not the product of an organization.
It was born from a movement.
Bill Gates and his cronies in Seattle took notice.
There was a storm on the horizon. An
organization can be subverted or subdued. From the International Workers of the World (IWW) to the
Black Panthers, 20th century American history is littered with such carcasses.
A movement, on the other hand, can=t
be stopped. It has to run its
course. And the anti-globalization
course was leading straight to Seattle.
leaders took the J18 warning seriously. Seattle
was not an old world behemoth like London.
Seattle was a post-modern jewel of the new world order, and it would not
to be shut down. To this end they
spent the months leading up to the November WTO meeting, militarizing their
police department. Despite the
threat of a police riot, 50,000 demonstrators converged on Seattle.
And contrary to media reports, they did not all come from Eugene, Oregon.
They came from around the world and they came from all walks of life.
Students, labor unions, trades workers, environmentalists, professionals
and anarchists all marched together as one unified movement.
The Seattle police responded with an obscene show of force.
University at Buffalo students peaceably protesting in Seattle were
pepper sprayed, gassed and shot with rubber bullets. Made for TV images of
rioting police outfitted in mutant ninja turtle-like suits made their way around
the world. Seattle had its debut C not
as imperial capitol of the new global economic order, but as the birthplace of
the new movement against corporate globalization.
Yes, it all began in London C
but London did not provide images of military style police rioting in the
streets. The movement that began in
London was solidified in Seattle. The
violent overreactions of the Seattle police all but guaranteed that images from
the November (N30) demonstrations would circle the globe.
Today this is what Seattle is known for C
horrible images of police violence. The
city was paralyzed for a week. Businesses
lost millions of dollars. The bill
for militarizing Seattle ran into tens of millions of dollars.
image is trashed. Depending on who
you are, you either now know it as that rainy gloomy city with an obscene
contempt for free speech, or as a flaky west coast town over-run by anarchists,
where police have to guard NikeTown. The
name Seattle is now used liberally, not to describe the city, but to refer to an
era. Nothing has been the same
Mai and Washington DC
Still smarting from Seattle, the would be masters of the global economy moved
their focus to Washington DC, where on April 16th, 2000, the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank held a joint meeting.
Again, they were besieged by some 30,000 protesters and 10,000 police
officers, the later of which closed off entire sections of downtown. As in
Seattle, civil rights took a beating as hundreds of would-be protesters were
arrested for building code violations a day before the protests as they labored
in a crowded warehouse making signs and puppets.
Again, the world was showered with images of cops, pepper spray and so
next stop was the city Chaing Mai in the northern highlands of Thailand, where
the Asian Development Bank (ADB) held its 33rd annual meeting on May
8th. Critics, who claim
the ADB funds projects such as massive dams that cause environmental devastation
while destroying poor communities, were not discouraged by the backwater
location of the ADB meeting. About
1,500 such protesters, mostly poor Thai farmers, converged on Chaing Mai,
demanding the ADB leave Thailand. They
were met by approximately 2,000 police in riot gear. Thailand, by hosting the ADB meeting, dreamed of being a
player in the global economy. In
the end, however, it was images of Thai political repression that the world saw.
- Melbourne - Prague
June 4th, Windsor, Ontario hosted a meeting of the Organization of
American States (OAS), whose representatives gathered to discuss the proposed
Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), a pact that would extend the NAFTA trade
agreement throughout the hemisphere. Three
thousand protesters, including American dissident Noam Chomsky, descended on
this sleepy Canadian city across the river from Detroit.
They were met by a phalanx of 2,200 police, many in riot gear, and a mélange
of cop toys such as armored personnel carriers, police boats and helicopters.
Hundreds of other protesters were turned back at the Canadian border.
Attention later shifted to Melbourne, Australia in early September, as the
Asia-Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum (DAVOS) attempted to meet.
For three days, some 5,000 protesters battled with police, many of whom
were mounted on horseback. The
combination of riot police wearing Darth Vader helmets, and Forum delegates
being evacuated from their meeting hall by helicopter after demonstrators
successfully blocked the exits, provided the world media with more nasty images
September turned into a busy month both for the globalists and their foes as
attention turned to Prague, where the IMF and World Bank held a joint meeting
later in the month. Many say Prague
looked more like Seattle than Seattle, as 10,000 plus demonstrators from across
Europe converged for three days of pitched street battles with Czech riot
police, much to poet President Vaclav Havel=s
embarrassment. And much like
coming of age party was also rained upon, with scenes more reminiscent of the
brutal 1968 Soviet occupation, than of the new crown jewel of Eastern European
- City of No Illusions
height of the Prague actions on September 26th, anti-globalization
protesters staged solidarity demonstrations in 75 cities around the world
including Toronto and Buffalo, where the Western New York Coalition for Economic
Justice organized a Acarnival@
of protest at Bidwell Parkway, featuring bands, speakers and food from Food Not
Bombs. The ever so funny local
pranksters, The Organization of Corporations Against Cooperation, warned
managers of local corporate outlets that Aanti-globalization@
protesters would be in town, prompting the panicked manager of the Buffalo State
College Barnes and Nobel branch to close for the afternoon.
Local businesses need to learn how not to panic, because a larger force of
anti-globalization protesters will be descending upon Buffalo on April 22nd
to have an American companion demonstration to coincide with the April 20-22nd
Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, where corporate and government leaders
hope to hammer out the details of a new Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Demonstrators have chosen Buffalo because of its location within a one
day drive of about 60% of the US population, the fact that its industrial
economy has been devastated by run-away industries leaving for low-wage
countries, and its status as a major crossing between the US and Canada.
event of the Buffalo actions, a legal rally followed by civil disobedience, will
occur on Earth Day, April 22nd, two days after Quebec’s larger
scale demonstration to Ashut
down the FTAA,” thus allowing battle-weary demonstrators time to travel from
Quebec City to Buffalo. Organizers of the Buffalo event, a coalition of
religious, labor and student activists, are planning three of demonstrations,
concerts and teach-ins commencing on the 20th.
worry. Buffalo is not Seattle. We
have MicroSofts or Boeings to defend here.
We are more a victim than a player in the new global economy.
invite the WTO or any other captains of the global economy to meet here.
have the money nor the desire to dress our cops as turtles or storm troopers.
Demonstrators from all over the Northeast will be coming here specifically to
avoid the police violence threatened for Quebec City. They’ll come, demonstrate, and enjoy Buffalo hospitality.
We can show the Seattles of the world what it means to be a class city.
to Build a Berlin Wall
look so promising, however, in Quebec City.
The Quebec provincial government has, for years, attempted to build an
image of a semi-sovereign Quebec, pursuing its
own foreign policy initiatives independent of Canada.
To this end, they saw the opportunity to host the Summit of the Americas
as a chance for Quebecois visibility as a global player.
And as often is the case in Quebec, they=re
also hell-bent on making fools of themselves C this time by promising to erect a 3.8 kilometer long fence or barrier
closing off the entire neighborhood surrounding the Summit=s
meeting hall. The government is
issuing identity cards to Quebec City residents misfortunate enough to live
within the closed in area. The
police, as the plan goes, will require that they show these passes at
checkpoints along the barrier line in order to enter their neighborhood.
Protesters will be barred from the area.
So much for Canada=s
Charter of Rights. Let=s
hear it for Quebec.
usually seems to be the order of the day when it comes to globalization
meetings. Organizations that
enjoyed obscurity for decades now cannot meet without inciting massive
demonstrations. The protests are
large, and coupled with a riotous police response, can cripple any city that
hosts an IMF or WTO meeting. Meetings,
that until recently were coveted by convention bureaus and chambers of commerce,
are now pariah events. Seattle
WTO, simply put, can no longer meet in any city in an industrialized democracy.
Municipal governments see an invitation to the WTO to be as foolish as
former Buffalo mayor Jimmy Griffin=s
invitation to Operation Rescue to come to Buffalo and blockade women=s
health clinics. He did it.
They came. It was a big
mess. We looked like idiots and it cost a lot of money we didn=t
have to spend.
Ships to Visit Doha
Desperate to find a place to meet, according to the Wall Street Journal,
and after being turned down by a long string of cities around the globe, the WTO
finally settled on Doha, the capital of the tiny semi-feudal fiefdom of Qatar,
for their 2001 meeting in November. Women,
incidentally, are not allowed to vote in Qatar, which is no great loss since
really amount to much anyway -- the country is a dictatorial monarchy.
political disenfranchisement of women and their disdain for democracy doesn=t seem
to present a problem for the WTO leadership.
They are more concerned with the fact that Doha doesn=t
have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the WTO delegates, much less, protesters
or the media. This won=t
be a problem, however, as protest is illegal and the media is tightly
controlled. In fact, The Qatar
government is only allowing 500 representative from non governmental
organization to enter the country during the meeting. The WTO is chartering cruise ships to provide quarters for
delegates during their sojourn in Doha.
Shunned by most every major world city, WTO delegates have been reduced to the
status of pirates, members of a rouge organization searching for obscure
backwaters to drop anchor and come ashore to divvy up their booty.
more information about the upcoming demonstrations in Buffalo and Quebec, see http://www.a22buffalo.org.
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