Seattle WTO Protests - 1999

By Havah Roussel & Hannah Kimball.


The WTO protests of 1999 was an escalatiing protest. WTO stands for World Trade Organization (WTO Seattle...). The WTO planned to hold a meeting on November, 30 1999, and protesters gathered to show their opinion against the WTO (WTO Seattle...). The protest started off as a peaceful demonstration against the WTO, police arrived, and things began to get out of hand (Guide...). Police began to pepper spray and tear gas the protesters; protesters began to destroy property of local stores where they were protesting (WTO Seattle...). This activity got out of hand very quickly, and the protest and events that followed caused it to draw attention to this particular protest.
Protesters were varied widely, but all gathered for the same reason (WTO Seattle...). The protesters ranged from organized labor organizations, enviromentalists, and pro-democratic groups (Guide...). The organized labor protesters objected to how WTO treated their workers, enviromentalists protested to the non-eco friendly habits of the WTO, and pro-democratic people argued that there way they ran their organization was undemocratic (Guide...). All of these protesters gathered together with their different views to draw the public's attention to the fashion in which the WTO was running their organization (Guide...). Their plan worked like a charm. Media was drawn to the violence of the protest, the WTO even cancelled its opening cerimonies to their meeting due to the dangerous protest that was occuring (Guide...). Protesters were being arrested and taken to King County Jail, this outraged many protesters and they protested their opposision to these arresting outside of the jail (Guide...). Protesters were ranged widely, but all came together to protest the WTO meeting just the same (WTO Seattle...).

On November 39, 1999, there was a World’s Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, Washington called the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999. They were negotiating about the launch of a new round of trade called “The Millennium Round.” This was planned to last 3 days. A week prior to the meeting, delegates admitted failure to agree on the agenda and disagreements with developing countries. Negotiations about a the launch of the new trade round were stopped by a disagreement and by violent street protests (Kindersley 846). Anti-globalization activists forced the Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 to end early with direct action tactics. They did this by putting themselves and other things between the WTO delegates and the building they were supposed the meet in. Several hundred activists went to block main intersections near the convention center. The city of Seattle was not ready for this mass number of anti-WTO organizations(Online NewsHour). There were students marching in from the north and a group of citizens marching in from the south. Not only could delegates not get from their hotels to the convention center, but police around the center were cut off from the rest of the city by the protesters. Eventually, police tried to break through the protesters. Police used pepper spray, tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets to throw at protesters and at several intersections to try and reopen the blocked streets for the WTO delegates(Guide to the WTO Seattle Collection). At one of the intersections, the crowd threw them back. People began smashing windows and vandalizing storefronts. Some people pushed dumpsters into the intersections and deflated police car tires. All sorts of property destruction took place in downtown Seattle. The WTO meeting was delayed and it took police most of the day to clear the tens of thousands of people who ended up showing up there. This protest took months of planning and was a very important part of the history of protests (WTO History Project). There were over 500 arrests and over $3 million dollars in property damage (Online NewsHour).
This protest drew a lot of attention to itself. The violence quickly escalated and there was emmense damage done to Seattle. The police were not prepared for this protest, but responded by arresting people. Then the protesters responded with increased violence and protests outside of the King County Jail. The World Trade Organization conference in 1999, located in Seattle was a huge disaster due to the levels of intense protesting that occured (WTO Seattle...).
• Protesters gather in Seattle to protest the loosening of market rules and the further globalization of economies.

Source Annotation

1) "WTO History Project." The WTO History Project. Web. March 10, 2011.

Summary: This source provides information about ways the organizations worked together to plan these protests, and what the big protest was in Seattle, and also how it impacted everything.

Assess: This is a fairly good source of information. It is made by people who have interviewed and researched the topic a lot.

Reflect: I may use this site for information about what happened.

2) "Seattle Aftermath." Online NewsHour. January 18, 2008. Web. May 10, 2011.

Summary: This website gives really good details about what kind of things protesters did. It's a conversation between important people who were talking about the protest. It's talking about damages done and what the city needs to do to heal from the protest.

Assess: This is reliable information because it has other links within it and it is a legitimate website. It's not a thing like this where anyone can go on and edit it.

Reflect: I can use this source to learn about how the citizens were effected and learn details about things the protesters did. This website gives me the opporutunity to read real people's opinions about how the incident made them feel.

3) "WTO Seattle Collection." University of Washington Libraries. Web.10 May. 2011.

Summary: This source gives the basic break-down of what happened. It says what the protesting scene looked like each day and what was being done to control it. It tells how the police reacted, the Mayor, and protesters reacted through the whole time of the protest

Assess: I believe the information is reliable because it gives links to other official links to visit, which are reliable.

Reflect: I can use this to learn the events and how they affected what happened next during the protests.

4) "Guide to the WTO Seattle Collection." University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, University Archives.Web. 11 May. 2011.

Summary: This information tell you what the goal is of this guide and some of the basics. The guide is a guide to source 3 and tells what it is. It simply lays out the basics
of the protests in a way that is more simple than the way source 3 lays it out. This information is not as detailed but does give you the basic understanding as to what actually happened.

Assess: I feel that this information is very valid. It tells that some of the facts that are said can not nessesairly be proven, which is a good sign that they are not just telling you something due to their personal opinion. It isn't biast to either side of this conflict and just states what happened in a manner that doesn't favor either of the opposing sides.

Reflect: I can use this source for two things. The first is to help me understand source 3 and use it to its highest potential. The second is to understand the basics better, due to the fact that it is written more simple in the guide compared to the actual text.

5) Millennium Year by Year. Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc. New York. 2000. Print.
Summary: This book just said how the World Trade Organizations talks collapsed. It explained that they were beset by disagreement and by violent street protests. It also told me the date of the event.

Assess: This information i believe is valid because it was basically an encyclopedia about what happened every year during the millennium.

Reflect: I can't use this book for a lot of information. It didn't go into detail about the event, it just stated a few important factors. But i can use it to know when and what happened, just not the details of what happened.

Reflections and Conclusions

I think that the WTO Seattle Protests in 1999 got a bit out of control. I think the fact that the people used violence to try and make their point was unnecessary. When African Americans got their individual freedoms, they were completely non-violent and it worked out very well. I believe that if they had planned out an approach of a non-violent protest, things would have worked out better. I believe that the large amount of people that were arrested deserved it because they committed vandalism in a big city. There was nothing wrong with blockading the streets in front of the building that all of the delegates were meeting in, but it should have stayed non-violent. I just still don't really get why the anti-globalization protesters thought that the best idea was to vandalize buildings and things along with blockading the streets. If it took months and months to plan out, i feel there could've been a much better thought out plan.
I beleive that the manner of the WTO Protests in 1999 was totally uncalled for. I understand that people felt that the WTO was not running things the way that they would like, and they had a right to protest as an American, but the violence was rediculous. First off, the police should have never harmed the protesters with their number of different ways; but maybe they would'nt have to if the protesters were more civilized. Also ruining local stores made themselves look bad, it showed that they were 't handeling their veiws in an inmature way. Another thing that gets me is that the local stores had nothing to do with the WTO conference. They ruined property that wasn't relevent to their protest. I know that the the protesters objective was to catch the publics attention, but I feel it just made themselves look like immature, irresponsible, and unorganized lunitics. I feel that their protesting ways were completely uncalled for and that the violence was unessesary.


For a slide show of pictures taken during the WTO Seattle Protest of 1999, click here: !!CLICK HERE!! (for pictures). Then click on 'Begin Tour'.
For a series of 3 movie clips on the prostesters point of view on the situation and action of the WTO you can watch here:

Works Cited

"Guide to the WTO Seattle Collection." University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, University Archives.Web. 11 May. 2011.

Millennium Year by Year. Dorling Kindersley Publishing Inc. New York. 2000. Print.

"Seattle Aftermath." Online NewsHour. January 18, 2008. Web. May 10, 2011.

"WTO History Project." The WTO History Project. Web. March 10, 2011.

"WTO Seattle Collection." University of Washington Libraries. Web.10 May. 2011.