Report From the Front
What's weird is how quickly the massive police presence gets absorbed. Most people have begun ignoring them and are going to work or shopping as normal. And the police today have been basically friendly. Amazing how quickly the flip can be made from normal personal interaction to insane war zone.
No one is talking about what the delegates are doing, but people really are talking about WTO issues. Lots about how Clinton is full of it, trying to seem like he's working for incorporating these issues of labor rights and environmental rights.
And all week some fantastic seminars and teach-ins have been playing to full audiences, even though tens of thousands of people have been in the streets. Very fancy people are talking. Academics and movement builders and all kinds. There was a day for labor, for environment, for gender, for food and agriculture, for indigenous peoples, for forestry. The divisive issues have not really been focused on. Everyone is too pissed off about the WTO and police. There were a few dips into USA-ism from some of the steelworkers at the rally, but everyone else has been pretty nuanced.
A lot of speeches are translated. A big favorite is José Bové, the French farmer that trashed a MacDonald's with tomatoes and expensive cheese and spent a few days in jail for it. He's great. Very funny guy. Gave the Nation people some free illegally imported Roquefort cheese that they gave to me. A lot of speakers are talking about how thrilled they are to see so many people passionate about issues they've been studying for years in isolation. Everyone says this feels like the beginning of something exciting--a very inter-issue, inter-national movement for economic change. Different ways of making trade policy. I really can't believe it myself--how many people care so much about trade issues which I usually think bore everyone silly. And kids! And very old people! People keep saying how it's good to have this chance to come together and discuss and celebrate and fight. Nice of the WTO to meet every two years and provide a focused enemy for everyone... So many people willing to demonstrate day after day. So many people getting up early to go to meetings about seed saving or something like that. Amazing. Altogether the last four days have restored my faith in the powers of good and evil and democratic organizing.
Ok, democratic fervor has made some people a little dumb, it's true. Standoffs with police tonight happened because kids were sitting in intersections to protest the violence of last night. No teargas today, but a feeling of protesting for protesting sake, without organization. We'll see. Most of the demonstrations have been tight. Major political organizing efforts seem to be coming together.
I could go on and on. I have pictures. I have details on the talks and debates. I have information on how to get videos of the week and copies of literature from various groups and contact stuff for future events. Check out the Independent Media Center for more info.
I'm sad to have to leave tomorrow when the activity is still going on. The trade ministers will meet through Saturday to make up for some lost time. Hopefully there will be more communication between some of the discontents among them and the protesters soon. And ongoing communication among everyone who showed up here...