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The BBC's Tony Smith
"The scale of the demonstration has come as a shock to many here"
 real 28k

The BBC's Janet Williams reports from the scene
"Loud bangs echoed down the street and clouds of white gas billowed upwards"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"There was always one more line of protestors to face"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 02:57 GMT
Seattle declares civil emergency
window Protesters kick in a window during the clashes

The mayor of Seattle has declared a civil emergency following violent clashes between police and thousands of anti-trade demonstrators ahead of the World Trade Organisation meeting.

The battle for free trade
Police in riot gear fired tear gas and red pepper spray at protesters who blocked streets and forced the cancellation of the opening ceremony of the four-day meeting.

Violence continued after nightfall, prompting Mayor Paul Schell to declare an overnight curfew for the downtown area.

The curfew period - 1900 local time (0300 GMT Wednesday) to 0730 - will cover the scheduled arrival of US President Clinton, who is set to address the WTO meeting on Wednesday.

Washington state Governor Gary Locke authorised the National Guard to be sent in to remove protesters if necessary.

As a result of the clashes, which prevented speakers reaching the meeting, WTO officials called off the opening ceremony and said they would move straight to a ministerial meeting.

We should open the process up to all those people who are there demonstrating
Bill Clinton
Similar clashes broke out in the UK capital, London, on Tuesday after demonstrations held to coincide with the opening of the WTO summit.

The protesters in Seattle, representing various interest groups, say the free trade ideals espoused by the WTO benefit big business at the cost of workers, the environment and communities.

The meeting of world trade ministers will focus on reducing international trade barriers.

President Clinton said earlier that he sympathised with some of the protesters' demands and said trade agreements should take into consideration labour and environmental concerns.

"I also strongly, strongly believe that we should open the process up to all those people who are there demonstrating on the outside. They ought to be a part of it," the president said.

protester Protesters called on police to stop firing tear gas
Some 90 minutes after the ministerial meeting in Seattle had been due to begin, only one key speaker, World Trade Organisation Director General Mike Moore, had managed to reach the venue.

Demonstrators had surrounded both the Paramount Theatre, where the opening ceremonies were to have taken place, and a nearby convention centre.

Police say they fired chemical sprays into groups of demonstrators who had chained themselves together and were lying in the streets in an attempt to prevent delegates from reaching the venues.

Earlier, the confrontation between demonstrators and police seemed to pass peacefully. Protesters chanted, sang and danced outside the theatre.

Trade talk targets
Expand tariff cuts to agriculture and services
Set agenda for other areas of trade liberalisation
Discuss labour rights
Set standards for 'fair' trading
"Whose world? Our world. Whose streets? Our streets," they chanted.

But police moved in after a couple of hours. They put on their gas masks, shouted a warning and fired both CS spray and pepper gas from hand-held canisters at close range.

Our correspondent in Seattle, Paul Reynolds, says small groups of demonstrators broke away, blocking key downtown streets. Others smashed shop windows.

Armoured cars and mounted police deployed in the area around the convention centre, but only a few violent incidents were reported.

US labour unions, which organised separated rallies, pledged their protests would be peaceful.

'Human rights'

"We are basically putting a human face on the WTO," Teamsters union president James Hoffa, said.

sit-down demo Protesters represent various interest groups
"It has to consider human rights and worker rights along with trade."

Mr Hoffa said he believed pressure from labour unions had succeeded in getting labour rights added to the WTO meeting's agenda.

"We understand they have changed the agenda and that workers' rights will be on the agenda," he said.

Trade ministers from 135 WTO member countries are attending the four-day meeting which aims to set the scope and timetable of a new round of negotiations to reduce trade barriers worldwide.

Officials attacked

But some officials said they were outraged that the more radical protesters had been allowed to delay the proceedings.

Police were forced to stop delegates from reaching the area Police were forced to stop delegates from reaching the area
Mohammed Asfour, the Jordanian minister of industry and trade, complained that he had been unable to get to the convention centre because the odour of gas used by police was wafting over the entrance.

"People like us who came from thousands of miles and find no organisation - it's very sad," Mr Asfour said.

A Colombian delegate was attacked by demonstrators who banged on the roof of his car.

Others, who did managed to reach the theatre, left in frustration at the delay.

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See also:
30 Nov 99 |  UK
Riot police clash with demonstrators
30 Nov 99 |  Business
Trade talks backlash warning
30 Nov 99 |  Americas
In pictures: The WTO protests
30 Nov 99 |  Business
Technocrats versus Turtles
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Free trade flashpoints
28 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Global hopes, global fears
24 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Trade blocs and bullies
23 Nov 99 |  Battle for Free Trade
Free trade benefits all
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