The WTO Protests’ 21th Anniversary: What Democracy Looked Like

Photo: Steve Kaiser. CC-BY-SA.

My song “Ballad of N30 (Battle In Seattle)” documents an historic moment in the history of the world. Two decades ago mass protests were staged in Seattle Nov. 30th through December against the World Trade Organization and against their crass neoliberal corporate globalization schemes which included efforts to privatize public services and weaken environmental and labor laws.

“Conservatives” and “liberals” claimed the trade agreements violated our national sovereignty by forcing the USA to follow trade rules which were developed by an undemocratic process backed by huge corporations and international bankers.

Steelworkers and Teamsters marched with environmental activists and religious groups for the first time. All were determined to prevail against these powerful international forces.

Police used tear gas, batons and concussion grenades on people practicing non-violent civl disobedience inspired by the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Henry David Thoreau.

In the end, over 600 people were arrested but the WTO Ministerial Conference was disrupted and ended in failure. The people had spoken.

Later that year I infiltrated a $150 a plate dinner conference which included Port Commissioner Pat Davis and representatives of the WTO who told lies about the protesters, scapegoating them all as “violent anarchists.” When I spoke up to refute those claims I was ejected from the meeting. It was one of the proudest days of my young life as a journalist.

I recommend watching the documentary of these events produced by a group of media activists including our friend Jill Freidberg called This Is What Democracy Looks Like.

There is also a Hollywood style version of the events starring Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron, Andre 3000 from Outkast, Michelle Rodriguez and Ray Liotta. I got to meet the cast and party with them at the premier in Seattle during the Seattle Independent Film Festival. I was also an extra in the film.

Someday I will tell the crazy story about what happened during that night but for now let’s just say that things got a little out of control in a good way…

Until then, please enjoy my song documenting the protests which changed history and inspired all of us to stand up for democracy and challenge the status quo whenever the powers that be overstep their authority and abuse the rights of the people.

After all, that is what democracy looks like!

Ballad of N30
By Mark Taylor-Canfield

Jenny had a beautiful face
But she felt out of place
So she went downtown
Because she heard the sounds

Parades and banners everywhere
And someone put a flower in her hair
So she marched along
Singing protest songs

Danny was a bright young boy
He was his mother’s pride and joy
They said he was an anarchist
But he was just a kid I guess

But he felt something totally new
So he walked off the job and joined the sea turtle crew
And in an hour or two
He burned his Nike shoes

When the police tried to take his sign
He made a choice to hold the line
And when the tear gas started to flow
He felt the power of the people grow!

That’s when they said,
“You can use your gas and your pepper spray
But nobody here is gonna go away
You can call this a ‘no protest zone’
But these are our streets and this is our home
And if you are the WTO then get out of the way”

Old Mrs. Harrington said
As she watched on the TV while the protesters bled,
“I think I’ve had enough
It’s gettin’ a little bit rough”

So she bought a gas mask
It was a serious task
They were illegal now
But she had made a vow

They called them the Raging Grannies that day
In the pouring rain they knew they had to stay
And when the rubber bullets flew
Well, they knew what they had to do

And that’s when they said,
“You can use your gas and your pepper spray
But nobody here is gonna go away
And if you are the WTO
Then by now you ought to know
Get out of the way!”

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