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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 01:07 GMT 02:07 UK
The spirit of Seattle

From Melbourne to Quebec City, almost every major monetary conference is now countered by the actions of impassioned demonstrators.

The scenes of violent protest that exploded on the streets of Seattle in November 1999 are often cited as the start of the anti-globalisation cause.

In fact, less spectacular displays of unruly dissent by anti-capitalists had come before, including May Day in the City of London that same year.

Yet the so-called Battle of Seattle is viewed by many as a watershed for the anti-capitalist movement, and the spark for several fractious demonstrations that followed.


Trouble erupted after 100,000 demonstrators marched, mostly in carnival mood, on the opening ceremony of the World Trade Organisation's third ministerial meeting.

Seattle protesters
Seattle is seen as the genesis of the anti-globalisation cause
An eclectic array of protesters, including environmentalists, trade unionists and students had managed to block off the conference hall and delegates' main hotel, sparking a police crackdown.

While the vast majority of protesters were peaceful, gangs of masked protesters went on the rampage, overturning newspaper stands and smashing shop windows.

Officers dressed in riot gear, some on horseback and in armoured cars, attempted to disperse the crowds. Police, who were later accused of heavy-handed tactics, fired pepper gas, tear gas and plastic bullets and arrested 500 people, including some innocent workers, shoppers and residents.

A state of civil emergency was declared. Damage to buildings and business losses were valued at 12.5m.


Two months after Seattle, anti-globalisation protesters descended on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) annual meeting in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.

A group of 500 protesters, disguised as skiers and some masked, defied a ban on demonstrations to vent their anger. Some carried banners with the slogans "Fight the WEF" and "WEF - meeting the murderers".

Police in the town, which is an old hand at hosting global monetary meetings, fired tear gas as some activists smashed car windows and shop fronts.


The spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which fell on consecutive days, drew some 10,000 protesters to the American capital.

Washington protest
In Washington, the protests were mostly good humoured
Most were intent on causing disruption rather than destruction, and on that front, at least, they were successful. Although activists failed to shut down the two meetings, they caused great inconvenience and generated much publicity.

Placards abounded, with statements like "Imperial Monetary Fiend" and "IMF/World Bank: start shakin'; today's pig is tomorrow's bacon".

Police arrested 1,300, but most of the protesting was well mannered and good humoured. There was little violence and some pepper spray was used by police.


The annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF drew several thousand protesters and sparked two days of violence in the historic central European capital.

Police helicopters and balaclava-clad marksmen were drafted in on day one to bolster security but failed to prevent a series of clashes. Molotov cocktails were hurled at police and a group of demonstrators came close to storming a hotel where many delegates were staying.

The violence continued into a second day and both institutions agreed to end their conferences a day early because of the trouble. Earlier in the month, violence had marred a WEF meeting in Melbourne.


Violence spilled onto the streets of the Canadian city as it hosted the Summit of Americas. Police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets in an effort to quell protests against the spread of free trade.

More than 400 people were arrested as some demonstrators started fires, broke shop windows and threw petrol bombs.

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