Voices from the WTO

First-Hand Accounts

Voices from the WTO: An Anthology of Writings by the People Who Shut Down the World Trade Organization in Seattle 1999 was produced by a group of organizers in Olympia, Washington within a few months of the demonstrations.

Over 65 individual pieces are published and reflect first-hand narratives, poetry, and analysis from demonstrators, witnesses, and organizers. The project was fully funded by labor unions, community organizations, and individuals.

“It is necessary to document unrecorded history in our own words rather than have others do it for us. It is imperative to offer our history to the present and future generations of social justice workers in the form of first-hand stories and experiences. We do not all agree. We participated in different ways, and we valued different actions. The dissent and differences are sometimes glaring. The agreement between people comes in the form of repetition. Read these stories closely. Pay attention to the detail and memory. These words are not written lightly.”

from the Introduction by Stephanie Guilloud, editor of Voices from the WTO, produced in April 2000

Download Specific Essays

By Starhawk, feminist author from San Francisco

[T]he true story of how this action was organized provides a powerful model that activists can learn from. Seattle was only a beginning. . . We have many campaigns ahead of us, and we deserve to learn the true lessons of our successes.

By Mac Lojowsky, student at The Evergreen State College

Shouts began to ring that the police machines were about to use tear gas. After that, a deafening silence engulfed the air. “Put your heads down!” a woman screamed, “and don’t look up, no matter what!” Someone began beating a drum with a slow, deliberate beat. Another woman seated across from me told us “somewhere far below this asphalt and concrete is Mother Earth. Find her and root yourself.” An Asian man climbed atop a dumpster in front of the police machines and proceeded to play the tuba. No shit, he proceeded to play the tuba.

By Alex Diamond, an 8th grader at WinterHaven, a Portland, OR Middle School

When I first arrived in Seattle from Portland on the 29th of November with my godfather, I was thinking of the protests as a big adventure, not necessarily something to participate in but to observe. A day later, busing back to Portland, my outlook had changed completely. I was proud of my role in the non-violent direct action, and more importantly, what it accomplished. I was inspired and uplifted by the turn out and dedication of protesters. I was filled with hope for an even bigger movement to end capitalism.

By Ace Saturay, a member of Seattle’s Sentenaryo ng Bayan

Indeed, of all the activities planned around the WTO, the People’s Assembly, held at the Filipino Community Center, served as the sharpest counterpoint to the WTO, exposing it to be no less than an instrument of US imperialism.

By Bruce Triggs, Tacoma Catholic Worker

A guy came up to me and said, “Can I walk with you?” He found out I’d planned to be part of the actions and said, “I didn’t even know what it was. I never cared about anything in my whole life, except making money.”

By Nancy Haque, organizer from Portland

I just spent five days in the King County Jail, and I’ve never felt stronger.

By Wendy Ortiz, writer and activist living in Olympia

It wasn’t enough that they stalked us in the streets

they now occupy

my dreams.

By Jeff Crosby, President of the International Union of Electrical Workers, Local 201

A year’s worth of political discussion was compressed into 6 days: the role of different movements, the role of the folks from other countries, the question of violence and civil disobedience, etc. Anyone who missed Seattle missed a great chance to build up their core of leaders and activists in their union or other group. Trade unionists in the US don’t exist in a vacuum, and we see ourselves more clearly when we see ourselves in relationship to others.

By Stephen Pfaff, professor at University of Washington

Nothing did more to shake American confidence in the free trade agenda than the fact that a state of virtual martial law had to be declared in order to ensure that the ministerial conference could continue its meetings.