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Once again, the people are being duped


Why in Seattle? -- AN OPINION

By BOB HEGAMIN    April 8, 2000

In late November 1999, the World Trade Organization (WTO) convened a conference in Seattle. It also generated a riot for which the Seattle City Council is presently conducting an investigation. What is not clear is whether the members of the City Council will -- in good conscience and with integrity -- also investigate themselves and Mayor Paul Schell for their part in the tragedy.

Seattle had been obsessed with adding to the prestige that hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) had bestowed on it in 1993. The WTO meeting would provide that opportunity. Ironically, it did not because of what WTO stood for. Instead, Seattle found itself hosting a non-violent civil protest over WTO, followed by destruction of downtown property, and finally a free-for-all fight between law enforcement officers and protesters on Seattle's streets.

The riot aside for the moment, it must be remembered that Seattle's elected officials had wanted to host the conference. In order to guarantee success, they utilized a two-pronged attack.

The first included the Mayor and City Council, who had considered the WTO conference a source of additional revenue and notoriety for the City. However, it was Patricia Davis, President of the Washington Council on International Trade, who spearheaded the effort in bringing WTO to Seattle. But, Ms. Davis is also a member of the Port of Seattle Commission, an agency on which Mayor Schell sat as a member prior to his being elected mayor of Seattle in 1997. Both Mayor Schell and Ms. Davis have had the same personal agenda for the port-city, that is, to glorify Seattle "on their watch". The two made a potent lobbying team in attracting WTO to Seattle.

The second prong consisted of invitations sent to Cuban President Fidel Castro by U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D Seattle), five Seattle City Council members, and five King County Council members. (Seattle Times Castro in Seattle? Everyone plans on it November 23, 1999). Their personal agenda made it an imperative for WTO to hold its conference in Seattle, a venue that would have legitimized those invitations to President Castro. It would have been a political coup for those elected officials had the President accepted.

On the other hand, many unions and organizations did not want WTO in Seattle -- or anywhere else, for that matter. From their perspective, WTO is the embodiment of everything that is "evil" in the way American and international corporations do business. Although many of the "protesters" had endorsed Seattle's elected officials in their campaigns for elective office, they tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Mayor and City Council to join them in their reproach of the WTO. Lack of that moral support, however, did not deter them from their planned street protest.

Now, back to the riot. With permits in hand, unions and diverse organizations played by basic rules and conducted an orderly protest. Could the Mayor and City Council have anticipated the violence that followed? "Yes", if they had accepted information readily available to all readers of an article written six months earlier. It was a report on "anarchists" who had organized a conference at the University of Oregon. They had gathered it said, "…to talk about ways to tear down conventional society. … At least one panel discussion during the conference will show video footage of underground terrorists reading statements justifying the use of violent property damage. …" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Organized anarchists convene in Eugene June 17, 1999)

Investigations that extract the truth from, provide accountability for, and determine culpability of elected officials contribute to good government. How will investigation of this "riot" stack up???