WTO anniversary celebrated in Seattle

SEATTLE – On Nov. 30, around 400 people gathered at Seattle Central Community College to mark the anniversary of the day when 70,000 activists shut down the WTO in 1999. Dubbed the “People’s Holiday,” organizers of the event were originally denied a permit to hold part of the rally in Westlake Park, which was the site of mass arrests of peaceful protesters on Dec. 1, 1999. The city’s official reason for the denial was the annual holiday carousel was set up in the park, and there just “isn’t room” for shoppers, carousel riders and demonstrators.

The denial was challenged in court, and demonstrators were given a permit to use the park less than 24 hours before the rally was to take place. However, the rally was to be restricted to no more than 250 participants.

The next obstacle event organizers faced was that police were not going to allow protesters to take the street for the march from the college to the park. Bob Barnes, the police liaison for the rally, was told that protesters were only allowed to march on the sidewalk.

When the rally participants were informed, a vote was taken to decide what to do. The overwhelming majority chose to take to the street. In all, 13 arrests were made that day.

Ironically, after the march left Westlake Park for its final destination – Town Hall for a vigil and indoor entertainment – the police only let the marchers use the street, barring them from the sidewalk.