This is What Democracy Looks Like: A Viewers’ Guide

By Joseph Orosco (February 11, 2020)

The Anarres Project for Alternative Futures is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Battle for Seattle with a film series that looks to see how social movements in the past 40 years intersect and influence one another.  This is a brief viewer’s guide and background for the showing of “This is What Democracy Looks Like”–the grassroots created documentary that demonstrates the power of the global justice movement confronting the World Trade Organization.

This showing will take place at 6pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 318 Milam Hall on the Oregon State Campus.

Lots of different retrospective articles were published last November.  This one, by veteran activist John Tarelton tries to remember the action and examines how the Battle for Seattle still reverberates into today’s politics:

“So did the Battle of Seattle change the world? No one protest can do that. But by spotlighting a rigged political and economic system and demanding radical changes, we were the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, signaling the devastating consequences of unfettered global capitalism and the future movements that would someday rise to challenge it. And if Trump and the Republicans try to steal the election next year, the kind of edgy but disciplined mass civil disobedience we saw in Seattle may take on a new relevance as well.”

Lisa Fithian focuses her retrospective on the tactics used in the streets by the protestors that shut down the WTO:

“The anti-WTO protests spawned the growth of new organizations and collectives: the Continental Direct Action Network, the Independent Media Centers, and the Radical Cheerleaders, to name just a few. Efforts to build a larger, more cohesive movement became possible as the Teamsters and the Turtles, the AFL and the Anarchists found common ground. Models of intergroup cooperation developed. We were on the offensive, targeting the capitalists in the WTO, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank; at the summits of the G8, G20, and World Economic Forum; and in transnational trade deals like the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)”

Of course, no discussion of the Battle for Seattle can be complete without the widely read perspective of Chicana activist Elizabeth Betita Martinez, who noted the particular lack of people of color among the organizers:

“In the vast acreage of published analysis about the splendid victory over the World Trade Organization last November 29-December 3, it is almost impossible to find anyone wondering why the 40-50,000 demonstrators were overwhelmingly Anglo. How can that be, when the WTO‘s main victims around the world are people of color? Understanding the reasons for the low level of color, and what can be learned from it, is absolutely crucial if we are to make Seattle’s promise of a new, international movement against imperialist globalization come true.”

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