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News ::
13 Sep 2003
Modified: 15 Sep 2003
As thousands of protesters rally and march in Cancun, Mexico to protest the 5th annual Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), local area activists participated in similar demonstrations of solidarity in Downtown Crossing, Boston. The “WTO: It’s No Walk on the Beach” Party kicked off at 2pm, in the crowded downtown pedestrian shopping district.
World Trade Organization: It’s No Walk on the Beach Protest
September 13, 2003, Downtown Crossing

As thousands of protesters rally and march in Cancun, Mexico to protest the 5th annual Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO), local area activists participated in similar demonstrations of solidarity in Downtown Crossing, Boston. The “WTO: It’s No Walk on the Beach” Party kicked off at 2pm, in the crowded downtown pedestrian shopping district.

The event was planned as a street theatre event that followed an informational Teach-In at the UNITE Building at 33 Harrison Ave. in Chinatown. The Teach-In ran from 9:30am-1:30pm and focused on the issues of Globalization, specifically the links between war, race, immigration and issues of local concern. There were workshops on topics such as “War & Globalization” and the “Free Trade Area of the Americas”. An informative video presentation included documentaries on Nicaragua and the International Monetary Fund/World Bank and the economic hardships caused by the WTO on U.S. workers in Silicon Valley. One organizer described the most important point made at the workshop as the connection between the WTO and racism. In his words, “All these systems are supported by and dependent on racism, both locally and globally. We can’t work for global justice without fighting racism at home.”

One attendee described the workshops, some of which were offered with bilingual translation in English, Spanish and Portuguese, as “a good beginning” for local activists who are networking within their own community and reaching out towards the growing global network of activists. Organizers and participants of the Teach-In estimated the enthusiastic participation to number at approximately 60 to 70 attendees.

The organizers planned the Beach Party that happened after the Teach-In as an entertaining and enlightening combination of fun and information. Protesters were encouraged to join the demonstration wearing beach clothes, with beach toys, to raise awareness of the action in Cancun. Banners and signs were present, with slogans like “Our World is not For Sale/Nuestro no se vende Mundo” and WTO/Wicked Tyrannical Oppressors” and “WTO/People over Profits”.

An interactive skit started the Party at 2:00pm with hip-hop artist Mama Rút rapping lyrics: “Our views offered up in rhymes/the news you won’t find in the Times… I’m a U.S. Citizen but can’t say I’m proud/til the blood that we sittin in gets us yellin loud!”. Mockeries of businessmen, in dress shirts and ties, wrestled the microphone away from Mama Rut and gave impromptu speeches about how Corporations run the world. After their greedy time in the spotlight, the Radical Cheerleaders of Worcester claimed the center of the gathering and started cheers of “Hey Girl, fuck shit up/Revolution and nothing but/We deserve what we need/Not table scraps from Corporate Greed!”

The Saturday afternoon shopping routine of hundreds of shoppers was playfully distracted by the antics of these global savvy protesters. The issues that their actions address include: the undemocratic nature of the World Trade Organization, the threat that the WTO poses globally to labor and human rights, environmental degradation of Free Trade policies, consolidation of the worlds wealth into a small number of powerful Corporate conglomerates, among others.

At 3:00pm, after chanting, rapping, dancing and drumming, most of the participants in the Beach Party, whose numbers fluctuated from as few as 60 to over 120 people through the hour long demonstration, left the site of the Party and began to move as a group towards Park Street. Leading the impromptu march was a large yellow banner that read: “The WTO Is No Day At the Beach”. The group marched from Downtown Crossing, down Tremont St, along Boylston, snaked through the Public Garden, Newbury Street to Clarendon and Copley. After briefly walking through Copley, they marched past the Public Library, and finally rallied near the Prudential Center, at the front of the Shaw’s Supermarket. While the protesters snaked across Copley Square, an eyewitness saw one of the Radical Cheerleaders arrested after she stepped in front of a police cruiser.

The snake march drummed their way along this route with scattered police accompaniment and many shocked looks by unsuspecting tourists and Bostonians. While there was a range of reactions to the group of marchers, when asked, many bystanders were familiar with the issues that their chants and signs addressed. One couple at Boston Common said that they thought the marchers were protesting the same thing as the protests earlier this week in Central America. Another couple near the Public Garden said that they were protesting the World Bank, like the protests in Seattle 3 years ago, but that they didn’t know why Boston activists were marching today. On Newbury Street, one posh pedestrian peered at banners and signs, squinting to read the words, then exclaiming: “Oh! The World Trade Organization!”

The World Trade Organization is the most powerful legislative and judicial body in the world. WTO actions and policies affect air quality, desertification, toxic waste handling, water quality and its privatization by corporations such as, forest health, and the well being of the earth. The WTO places the interests of corporate profit over the interests of local communities, working families, and the environment. The WTO systematically undermines democracy around the world. This all-powerful entity is underreported by mainstream media, and has only recently come into the spotlight after increased political protest in both the U.S. and elsewhere. Many Americans were introduced to the WTO, as well as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, after the political protests in Seattle 3 years ago. These same organizations continue to function today, little mentioned in mainstream media, but warily watched by both activists and other concerned citizens.

The local activists involved in today’s anti-WTO snake march eventually made their way to the front of the Shaw’s Market near the Prudential Center. As the drumming and chanting increased, a “Shaw’s: stop genetically engineered food.” banner was unfurled, and several actions on the part of both protesters and police occurred.

Several eyewitness accounts describe the actions that followed as quick and surprising. One activist, a member of the Radical Cheerleaders, was caught stepping off of the sidewalk by some of the dozen or so policemen that had followed the march and then converged on the Shaw’s rally site. When the first Cheerleader was taken into custody, another activist stepped after her and was also arrested. Several young men were also quickly handcuffed and taken away to waiting paddy wagons. One eyewitness says that an arrest was made when one male activist attempted to draw a picture on the sidewalk with chalk.

A total of 4 people were in custody before 4:00pm, and 2 more followed shortly thereafter. The remaining protesters seemed to briefly lose energy and momentum after the arrests, but they soon resumed their drumming and chanting and relocated to the corner of Huntington Ave. The police surrounded the group on foot, made repeat requests that the protesters remain on the sidewalks, and generally stood at attention while the activists began to slowly disperse.

This impromptu anti-WTO/anti-Genetic Engineering protest rally became a bizarre stand-off with police. Several police cruisers and paddy wagons blocked the side street near the Shaw’s and also blocked parts of Huntington Ave. The Radical Cheerleaders could be heard through the walls of their paddy wagon singing a chant to the tune of: “We all Live in a Yellow Submarine”. One activist was seen encouraging the occupants by drumming his fist against the side of a wagon to reassure the protesters inside.

At approximately 5:30pm, another activist working to bail the 6 arrested activists out of the District 4 Police Department reported that the police posted a bond of $40 for each activist. Funds have been raised for bail money and those arrested should be released on their own recognizance, or if any of the 6 arrested are minors, to their parents, as soon as they have been booked.

As this week’s protests in Cancun come to a close, Boston activists have demonstrated their solidarity with the global anti-WTO effort through attendance at these educational Teach-In workshops, their colorful and informative Beach Party demonstration, and their willingness to take to the streets to voice their dissent. The Teach-In focus, connecting Global issues with problems in Boston, including Affordable Housing, Immigrants Rights and Livable Wages, is demonstrative of a much needed direction in the anti-Globalization movement. As people’s awareness of economic injustice increases, so too does the need for networking and organization within the community, to connect people with the larger issues. Today’s events may well demonstrate an inclination in that direction.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To learn more about the World Trade Organization, visit the Global Exchange website at http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/wto/ To learn more about local anti-WTO actions, visit the BankBusters website at http://www.bankbusters.org/ Or visit the Boston Global Action Network online at: http://www.bostonglobalaction.net/ The Teach-In was co-sponsored by United for Justice with Peace, Bankbusters and the FTAA Coalition (BOFTA, Jobs with Justice, United for a Fair Economy, Union of Minority Neighborhoods, Brazilian Immigrant Center, Alliance for Democracy, Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, and more). The Beach Party was the brainchild of BAAM! (an activist group whose name is an acronym for the sound BAAM!) in collaboration with members of BankBusters. The snake march was a spontanious celebration of active dissent.
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A few notes (english)
13 Sep 2003
Just to offer a small clarification, UJP, Bankbusters, and the FTAA coalition had organized the teach-in and the street theater with Mama Rut and the corporations that interrupted her and proclaimed their power. At that point, folks spread out to talk with passers-by and get votes in the popular referendum on the FTAA. At that point, the beach party swung into effect, for which the credit has to go to BAAM.

Also, for those concerned, as of Saturday evening, those arrested have been bailed out and released. Don't have word on arraignment date or charges.
shaw's protest (english)
13 Sep 2003
Hi, i'm dan, the last kid to get arrested. i was wearing a blue shirt, and i ws trying to block the police vans when i got arrested. we were taken to the 4th precinct in the south end. i got bailed out and had to leave right away because my parents were very upset, so i unfortunately do not know what happened to the other 5 people. that's all for now. i'm not sure how much i should say about what happened in jail, but as far as i know, everyone is fine, at least physically. i will post later with court dates and times.


peace love solidarity, dan h.


p.s. if a girl named emily who was wearing tie reads this, do you have my camera? i sort of gave it to you in the spur of the moment, and its only partly mine, so i really need it back. it also has some really good pictures on it. my email is danwitz99 (at) aol.com. thank you very much. dan
WTO March (english)
14 Sep 2003
There was six of us arrested yesterday; 2 minors and 4 others. We are all o.k.; I have lots of bruises and cuts on my left arm but other than that we are all at home and ok.

The minors will be in court tomorrow (Monday) and the rest of us will in court on Tuesday (8:30am). It would be awesome if we could pack the courtroom with supporters on Tuesday. Our charges are "distrubing the peace" and "disorderly conduct". The courtroom address is as follows:

Boston Municipal Court
U.S. Post Office Courthouse
90 Devonshire Street
Boston

I don't think they will let us into the minor court but we could all converge outside to show support for them tomorrow. I do not know the address of the minor court so someone else will have to post that information.

Thanks for everyone's support...
Tomorrow's Arraignment (english)
14 Sep 2003
My arraignment and the arraignment of the other jevenile, max, are at the courthouse at 25 new charden st. in boston. i am not sure exactly how to get there, but i know that it's near haymarket and downtown crossing. my arraignment is at 9:00 Am, and i'm not sure when max's is. i assume that they just tell everyone to get there at nine and then make them wait. anyway, that's the information. maybe i'll see some of y'all tomorrow.

--dan

p.s. i got a hold of my camera, so there's no need to worry about that anymore. thanks, everyone.