Showdown in Seattle: Five Days that Shook the WTO

“There is only one thing the ruling interests have ever wanted, and that is everything.”

Showdown in Seattle: Five Days That Shook the WTO  tracks various aspects of the protests against the World Trade Organisation that occurred in Seattle in 1999.

Many people were only vaguely aware of mass protests against the WTO taking place in Seattle in 1999. To a signficant portion of the population, The World Trade Organisation sounds like a fairly benign thing, and the phrase “Free Trade” invokes–if anything–some pleasant images. But as part of the film explains, the WTO is a legislative body that can overrule governments at the local, federal, and state level. In effect, the WTO acts as an “international veto over the U.S. Constitution.” The WTO’s rules are written by corporations, to benefit corporations. The WTO uses child labour–amongst other things–and its policy is the exploitation of humans for profit.

The film is divided into five sections for a total running time of 137 minutes:
1) Seattle Prelude (25 mins)
2) People Unite, Police Riot (28 mins)
3) Occupied Seattle (28 mins)
4) Unwilling Captives (28 mins)
5) What Democracy looks like (28 mins)

Clips include interviews with various protestors, volunteers from the National Lawyers’ Guild, and union representatives speaking to the large crowds of protestors. Those protesting represent a wide spectrum of society–but they are united in their disgust of the WTO. Michael Parenti (father of Christian Parenti) makes some excellent points during his interview.

The most shocking section of the film is the footage depicting police actions against the protestors when tear gas and rubber bullets are unleashed. Many bystanders express their dismay and disbelief at the results, and while the violence does not escalate to the level suffered by protesting Russian citizens recently, the film’s images do rather rock to the foundations the notions of free speech. And as one observer observes, the tear gas and rubber bullets are ‘overkill.’ Those who imagined they were engaging in some form of “civil disobedience” and “non-violent direct action” which they thought would result in “mass arrest” instead found themselves the target of “chemical warfare.” This historically significant film provides invaluable on-site footage that is quite remarkable when one considers the stressed conditions.

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Filed under Documentary, Political/social films

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