Protesters Pleased As Scare Closes WTO Meet
By Martin Wolk
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Protesters who vowed to shut down global trade talks got their wish on Monday as a security scare forced evacuation of the Seattle convention center where officials from 135 countries were scheduled to meet.
Armed police teams with bomb-sniffing dogs carried out a painstaking sweep of the cavernous facility that lasted 5-1/2 hours before it was reopened. Helicopters circled overhead, and at one point two fire trucks arrived with sirens blaring.
Illustrating how nervous authorities are about attacks on the WTO meeting, which starts officially on Tuesday, police said the shutdown was in reaction only to a ``potential security breach.''
``We had reason to believe someone may have entered the building,'' said Clem Benton, a Seattle police spokesman, giving no further details. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the scare, although protesters rejoiced at the disruption.
The convention center was evacuated shortly before 5 a.m. (1300 GMT) when a police officer spotted something suspicious. It was reopened at about 10:30 a.m. (1830 GMT).
``There was nothing found inside, persons or packages,'' Benton said. Delegates and journalists lined up for about 300 yards (meters) to get into the building once it was reopened.
The trade meetings, scheduled to end Dec. 3, are aimed at launching a new round of negotiations to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers in sectors ranging from agriculture and construction to entertainment, telecommunications and electronic commerce.
Opponents say freer trade benefits big business at the expense of workers, communities and the environment.
Hundreds of journalists, locked out of their media center and the meetings, milled about on sidewalks, providing a ready audience for protest groups that rushed to fill the news vacuum.
Police on foot and on horses faced off against dozens of protesters, some dressed as turtles -- representing a species the protesters say are endangered by expanding trade -- and others banging on drums and chanting.
The security concerns delayed a preliminary meeting at which world labor, environmental and citizen groups were to be given a chance to publicly air their grievances before WTO officials including Director-General Mike Moore.
Dozens of delegates who had planned side meetings in the convention center were left scrambling for alternative venues, and some held impromptu news conferences on the street or in a nearby hotel.
``It is an unfortunate start, but I think people who are here determined to make a success of this week,'' said David Byrne, European Union health commissioner.
Protesters, who were expected to mass in the streets by the thousands on Tuesday, the first day of official trade talks, said they were encouraged by the problems at the heavily guarded convention center.
``I'm feeling much more optimistic,'' said George Hylkema, who traveled from his home in Balboa, Calif., to protest the WTO, which many see as favoring the interests of business over environmental concerns and labor rights.
``There's a huge groundswell against the WTO,'' Hylkema said.
In the weeks before the meeting, diplomats warned that heated disputes between countries could scuttle the round before it even gets started. But organizers were confident that trade ministers would agree by Friday on an agenda launching the new trade round, however narrow it may be.
But reaching a consensus could prove a monumental task, as agriculture -- a highly protected sector that stirs passions around the world -- is a difficult issue.
The United States and major agricultural produce-exporting nations want the European Union to scrap their farm export subsidies, which account for 85 percent of the world total.
But the EU, backed by Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Norway, has refused to give ground, infuriating U.S. farm groups and their allies in the U.S. Congress.
Seattle Mayor Sets Curfew, Declares Civil Emergency
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER
.c The Associated Press
SEATTLE (Nov. 30) - Demonstrators forced cancellation of the opening ceremonies Tuesday of the largest trade event ever staged in the United States as violence prompted officials to impose a curfew and call upon unarmed National Guard troops.
Mayor Paul Schell declared a civil emergency and imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. PST to 7:30 a.m. PST, a period that will cover the scheduled arrival of President Clinton, who is flying here to address the World Trade Organization on Wednesday.
Washington Gov. Gary Locke said at nightfall Tuesday that he was calling up 200 unarmed National Guard personnel trained in crowd control for duty Wednesday morning.
The mayor's and governor's actions came as roving bands of protesters blocked major thoroughfares and continued random acts of violence, including breaking windows in downtown buildings.
Parts of this normally laid-back Pacific Northwest city took on the look of a battle zone as police confronted protesters who chained their bodies together so that officials' motorcades couldn't get through.
Clinton is scheduled to arrive in Seattle after midnight and will stay at a hotel in the curfew zone.
Schell told reporters at city hall, ''Do I wish things had turned out differently today? You bet, don't you?''
Locke, appearing with Schell at the news conference, said he had decided to call in 200 unarmed members of the National Guard as a precaution. He said he expected them for the most part to serve in a backup role.
''You may not even see them,'' the governor told reporters.
Clinton, who had hoped to use the meetings of the 135-nation World Trade Organization to showcase the benefits of free trade, told reporters in Washington before the violence erupted that he was ''very sympathetic'' with the concerns being expressed by labor unions and environmental groups.
''I think we should strengthen the role and the interest of labor and environment in our trade negotiations,'' said Clinton, who is scheduled to address the WTO ministers on Wednesday.
Clinton, however, spoke before the confrontations in the streets of Seattle. The White House gave no indication of any alternation in plans for Clinton to address the delegates.
However, disappointed WTO officials said that the Geneva-based trade organization had decided to scrap plans for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to address an opening session, which was to be held in the ornate Paramount Theater.
Instead, the WTO went straight into the first of a series of plenary sessions, where trade ministers from different countries are allowed to address the meetings.
A disappointed WTO Director General Mike Moore vowed that, despite the rocky start, the assembled nations would succeed in launching a new round of multinational trade negotiations to lower tariffs and other barriers on agriculture products, manufactured goods and service industries such as banking and insurance.
''This conference will be a success. The issues are far too important to be ignored,'' Moore said.
Police Chief Norm Stamper defended the way the Seattle force had handled the protests. He said the small number of people arrested showed ''remarkable restraint'' by the police.
By late Tuesday, police were confirming 22 arrests.
Moore said official delegations at two downtown hotels had been advised that the police ''were not able to guarantee a safe passage'' to the theater where the opening ceremonies were to be held and U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said in New York that Annan hadn't been able to get out of his hotel room to deliver his speech because of the protests.
After a three-hour delay in the morning opening, WTO officials finally gave up and said they would break for lunch. They reassembled in the more-secure but less ornate convention center for the afternoon talks.
Only a handful of the hundreds of official delegates had managed to get through the protesters and stinging gas clouds to the theater.
During the afternoon session, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky told the delegates, ''We regret any inconvenience that you may have experienced. ... It is unfortunate that some of the protesters did become unruly, but that does not reflect the views of the people of Seattle or the United States.''
But Pascal Lamy, the top trade negotiator for the European Union, said, ''The reason why a number of protesters are here is because they believe that trade liberalization is working against a number of value they care about.''
The Clinton administration had picked Washington state, home to exporting giants Boeing and Microsoft, to highlight the importance of trade for the U.S. economy. One of every three jobs here are tied to international trade, the most of any state.
But the Pacific Northwest also has strong ties to labor unions and environmental activists, and they showed up in large numbers to voice their grievances.
In the view of protesters, the World Trade Organization puts profits for multinational corporations over other concerns, forcing nations to engage in a ''race to the bottom'' to compete in the global economy with low wages and lax environmental standards.
''We're going to change WTO or we're going to get rid of WTO,'' Teamsters union president James Hoffa Jr. told a union crowd that swelled during their afternoon march to as many as 50,000 persons by some estimates.
That march, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, did not begin until after a morning of sporadic violence from protest groups who defied police orders to stay clear of the giant convention center and downtown theater where the WTO meetings were being held.
The union throngs stayed to their designated parade route and returned to the staging without incident.
During the morning demonstrations, protesters broke windows at several downtown businesses and vented their rage at unoccupied police patrol cars, spray painting them, kicking in doors and slashing their tires.
''We are winning, don't forget,'' someone sprayed on one downtown building.
Police said they fired tear gas and red pepper spray into groups of demonstrators who had chained themselves together and were lying in the streets in an attempt to prevent delegates from making it to the opening sessions.
Some officials from other countries expressed outrage that protesters had been allowed to delay the proceedings.
Mohammed Asfour, the Jordanian minister of industry and trade, said he had not been able to get to the convention center because the odor of gas used by the police was wafting over the official entrance designated for his use.
''People like us who came from thousands of miles and to find no organization - it's very sad,'' Asfour said.
Third World countries are strongly opposed to demands that the WTO take into account labor and environmental standards in its trade negotiations. They see this as a veiled effort at protectionism by rich nations seeking to take away the competitive advantages of lower wage scales and more lax environmental regulations.
Dockworkers up and down the West Coast shut down some cargo movement Tuesday in solidarity with the anti-WTO protest. About 9,600 workers of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union were expected to take part in the action at about three dozen West Coast ports, including the nation's largest, Long Beach and Los Angeles.
Police arrest 15 in London WTO protests
By Sara Marani
LONDON - Riot police broke up a violent protest on Tuesday by hundreds of anarchists who ignited a fire outside a major London train station in a demonstration against capitalism and a WTO summit in the United States.
In a two-hour rampage the anarchists overturned vehicles and disrupted London's evening rush hour commuter travel with their attack on the forecourt of Euston Station in the centre of the capital.
Kings Cross Station and several other stations in the area were also closed to ensure the violence did not spread to them.
A police spokesman said at least 15 people were arrested and about 10 bystanders were injured when the anarchists hurled bottles, iron bars, paving stones and other debris as police moved forward to push them back from the station entrance.
Reuters correspondents at the scene said up to 2,000 protesters took part at the height of the evening rush hour.
A fire started by the protesters on the forecourt sent flames leaping up to 50 feet (12 metres).
At least one car and a police van were overturned and set alight.
A similar protest on June 18 turned into London's most violent for a decade as protesters burned cars, smashed offices and battled with riot police.
Tuesday's protest was, until the Euston Station outbreak, more restrained at areas in London's City financial district and at the headquarters of Citibank in Lewisham, south London. But at about 7pm protesters brandishing placards saying "Kill Capitalism" and "WTO equals World Thieves Organisation" started ripping up paving stones and guard rails just outside the station on a small grass forecourt.
The protesters also voiced opposition to the privatisation of Britain's railway systems. "Privatisation Kills, Capitalism Kills", said another placard.
Several ambulances arrived at the scene and police in riot gear and carrying tear gas canisters closed ranks and advanced on the demonstrators.
Police herded thousands of commuters away from the glass-fronted station entrance into safety deeper inside the building.
Police sealed all entrances to the station, stranding thousands more commuters outside.
By about 9 p.m. there were only about 100 protesters left with none of them closer than 200 yards (metres) to Euston Station.
"This was purely yobbish behaviour. It was violence for the sake of it. Unnecessary and unprovoked." police spokeswoman Commander Judy Davison told reporters.
Earlier on Tuesday, Michael Less, a campaigner for the direct action group Reclaim the Streets (RTS) said: "After June 18, the newspapers said the enemies of capitalism would be back, and they are back."
In Seattle, the opening ceremony of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) summit was cancelled on Tuesday because protesters stopped delegations from attending the opening ceremony at a downtown theatre.
WTO ministers are deeply divided over the trade agenda for the new millennium and face protests from labour and environmental groups.
Activists have vowed to shut down the city of Seattle with up to 50,000 demonstrators on the scene to protest the effect free trade was having on jobs and the environment.
Wednesday December 1, 1999
Anarchists Riot All Over World
RIOT police clashed with protesters in Britain and America on a day of global protests against the World Trade Organisation. Rioters set fire to an overturned police van and hurled bottles, cans and sticks at officers in London last night.
And in the US city of Seattle - where the World Trade Organisation is holding its summit meeting - police fired stinging pepper spray at demonstrators.
Violence flared as several protest groups came together in a series of global demos.
Environmentalists and human rights groups hold the Geneva-based organisation responsible for the failings of global capitalism.
But in Glasgow, a protest at the Clydesdale Bank's HQ passed off peacefully.
At an early march in London yesterday, around 60 protesters walked to the gates of Downing Street.
They then made their way to the Houses of Parliament in a carnival atmosphere which later turned sour.
As the number of protesters swelled to 1000, rioting began near Euston Station.
There were no reports of arrests. One officer suffered a dislocated shoulder.
A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "Officers came under unprovoked attack from a violent group of 100 demonstrators.
"Only a minority were involved in violence. Nevertheless, we condemn the actions of the violent minority."
In Seattle, thousands of protesters sparked chaos in a bid to disrupt the summit.
Police used red pepperOther police used batons to shove demonstrators back - who retaliated by throwing pepper gas canisters back at officers.
Arrests were made, but police would not immediately say how many.
One officer said: "They're doing things ranging from assault on delegates to property damage - breaking gas on several hundred protesters who had chained themselves together and were lying in the streets in a bid to stop delegates from 135 countries from making it to the opening sessions.
Other police used batons to shove demonstrators back - who retaliated by throwing petter gas canisters back at officers.
Arrests were made, but police would not immediately say how many.
ONE OFFICERSAID : "They're doing things ranging from assault on delegattes to property damage - breaking windows, popping tyres and climbing on buses."
The opening ceremonies were delayed because UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was unable to get to the convention centre.
Police also swept the building for bombs.
Nothing was found, but WTO officials had to scramble to adjust schedules for the day's talks.
President Clinton was due to arrive for the talks this morning.
American officials last night said his visit would go ahead as planned.
He told reporters yesterday he was "very sympathetic" with issues raised by the demonstrators. His views were also echoed by America's Commerce Secretary William Daley. He said: "The comments being made are people's legitimate concerns."
In Glasgow yesterday, chanting activists invaded the Clydesdale Bank's head office in Buchanan Street.
Police were called after the 50-strong group refused to leave. They remained on stand-by during the 30-minute protest. There were no arrests.
A bank spokesman said: "There was a peaceful demonstration. The demonstrators left of their own accord."
Wednesday December 1
Police Van Burned As Demo Flares Into Violence
A police van has been burned and an officer injured as protesters brought mayhem to London for the second time in less than six months. Euston station was cleared as riot police clashed with masked demonstrators outside during an international day of action called to mark the opening session of the World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle.
The American city saw a series of violent outbursts, with police using red pepper spray as thousands of radicals from across the globe took to the streets in a bid to prevent WTO trade talks getting under way.
Campaigners who chained themselves together and lay in the roads were doused with the spray but succeeded in preventing officials reaching the conference centre and delaying the opening session.
Demonstrations against economic and environmental effects of the WTO and globalisation were also planned for major cities around the world.
In Britain, demonstrators from a loose coalition of groups who brought devastation to the City, London's financial heart, with their Carnival Against Capitalism, had remained peaceful throughout the day.
Police intelligence reports warned the rail network would be targeted but rightly suggested the event would not be on the same scale as the J18 - June 18 - protest that is estimated to have caused £1 million worth of damage.
Just a few dozen people were involved in protests at Trafalgar Square, Downing Street and Oxford Street and by early evening the only person arrested at Liverpool Street was a suspect from the summer riot.
But by around 5.30pm between 500 and 1,000 protesters converged on Euston, as instructed by fly posters that had appeared around the capital overnight. Trouble flared when small groups at the front of the crowd attempted to breach lines of police drawn up in front of the station and were followed by their fellow protesters.
Riot police moved in to push the mob back as bottles, cans and sticks were hurled at officers. A British Transport Police van was overturned by the crowd and set on fire, covering the scene with a thick blanket of choking black smoke as masked demonstrators fought baton-wielding police.
Kirby The Konspiracy Boy Says, "I NEED 2 KONFORM!!!"