The Battle For Seattle

On November 30, 1999, the World Trade Organization began its annual Ministerial Conference in Seattle, Washington. The subsequent anti-WTO protests and police riot in Seattle made headlines around the world. The implications seemed epochal. There was a feeling in New York, where I was living at the time, that a new progressive and post-cold war politics was in development. There was a great deal of community organizing. Some of this contributed to the excitement in Nader’s 2000 Green campaign. If Clinton was pro-free trade, then screw the Democrats. Then Nader did just little too well, but not well enough, and the independent political development got squashed.

It has to be said that protests for the next few years were very well attended, until the really massive protests in the runup to the Iraq War were totally ignored. So now, to me, Seattle seems like history we are living with, rather than a current event.

This year, first time writer/director/producer Stuart Townsend made Seattle into a movie.

Outlaw Vern aka “Vern” is a movie reviewer and frequent contributor to nutjob fanboy sites like He’s just written a book on Steven Segal and is usually reviewing stoopid DTV opuses, but he’s a good writer in the Hunter S. Thompson vein. He’s on the Left, more or less. Not an activist.

He also lives in Seattle, witnessed part of the protests and now he’s reviewed the film. I haven’t seen it yet, so I’ll reserve judgement, but I usually trust Mr. Vern’s aesthetic assessments.

And his assement here is that the limited budget fails to suggest the true scope of the events, that the stilted dialogue undermines the politics and that the filmakers resort to awkward movie moments when the real thing would have done, but you still get the feeling that something important happened. Oddly, that is something like what filtered through the media at the time. The events in Seattle were simply too unexpected to be brushed aside.

The movie won’t help us recover exactly what it was, but its a part of moving on. Between Seattle in 1999 and the February 15, 2003 anti-war rallies in New York and around the country the government learned to control the protest more effectively (starting wars in March for one thing) and the media learned to compartmentalize protest activity with things like petition gathering.

If nothing else, the presence of this movie shows that Seattle is still with us. Corporate globalization hasn’t stopped. The biggest independent political campaign of this year is a pro-business Libertarian ticket. We are in this for the long haul.

Vern’s long review of “Battle in Seattle”:


Scenes from documentary “Showdown In Seattle” produced by Deep Dish TV:


Posted on May 27, 2008, in history, News, Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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