A WTO Story

(c) Rabbi Margaret Holub
      December 5, 1999

Well I've roused and caffeinated myself after arriving home this morning at
4:30 AM from the wilds of Seattle -- I've been looking at my voluminous "e"
and have already seen many write ups of people's personal experiences.
Good, because there was so much happening at once that, even though we were
all in one city, we all had way different paths through the week.  So this
jotting is for my own pals, especially since I've got laryngitis and couldn'
t possibly put it into words for all of you. 

First jotting from the Green Tortoise lumbering up I-5 --two buses (one from
1954! ours only a slightly more recent vintage) full of mostly Mendocino
County folk in our own rolling parade northbound.  Total, amazing fun,
rolling against each other on the cushions, talking talking talking about
whether or not we want to get arrested, which events to tune into, our
various plans and of course politics, issues -- joyful and surreal on the
Tortoise, a bus traveling though time as well as space, all our pasts
catching  up with us -- Free Speech Movement, anti-Vietnam War, Diablo
Canyon, and then, for many a lacuna where my own adventures started, in the
80's on the streets of LA -- then we join again at Headwaters Forest,
Enchanted Meadow and the current Gap protests.  Interesting sussing out who
everybody is from the one or two sentences said in a go- round of
"nonviolence training" which never really goes any further. The two
dark-skinned folk on the bus team up for a few minutes to criticize the rest
of us for, mindlessly in their estimation, assuming that we won't be trying
to break police lines, which is provocative.  Singing.  Best songs by my
vote:  the fabulous Terri Compost teaches us:

Step by step the longest march can be won, can be won
Many stones to build an arch singly none, singly none
And by union what we will can be accomplished still
Drops of water turn a mill singly none, singly none --

And from the ever-wild Kay Rudin:

I've got a submachine gun in my violin case
And a  forty-five in my shoe
There's a bank of America on my block
I'll meet you there at two.

I'm mostly in the front of the bus with who will become my compadres for the
week: Moonlight (oops, I mean Tom), Devora, Maggie, Sue from Britain, Toni,
Jim and Judy Tarbell, Ellen and David Drell. Terri's in and out of our part
of the bus.  She's a dreadlocked white beauty, thirty-ish, one of the pepper
spray victims from Riggs' office, lives in Oakland, a Food Not Bombs
regular, dead on articulate, and a lovely singing voice to boot.  A total
inspiration of youth --first of many on this trip.  We bed down and I
actually sleep. 

Next morning we basically wake up in Seattle.  Suddenly the Tortoise is
grinding its gears and making sharp turns around the block in a little run
down neighborhood.  I see a row of gorgeous and decrepit old wooden houses
with signs indicating that they are being renovated by a church group for
affordable housing.  Grind grind and we're staggering out in front of the
New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.  It's 10AM Sunday morning.  Church
starts at 11.  First a little dilemma.  The church is hosting us and has
turned over to us a large, totally empty renovated house.  Large, but not
easily 80 people large.  Meanwhile Devora is planning to stay with friends
in a real house with a shower and everything and invites me along.  Which
will it be for me?  Signs about events are going up all over the church
house, sleeping bags are thrown everywhere.  Looks like fun.  But a shower
sounds even more fun, and it's just been one night on the Tortoise.  I'm off
to suburbia.

But first to church.  It's a brand-new brick building, which stands out in
the neighborhood of old wooden houses.  Turns out the church has been
torched twice, and this time they built out of masonry.  I run in (hiding my
empty Starbucks latte evidence as I go) and am happy to see three rows of
choir bleachers up front.  Great, dynamite, endless gospel music.  Almost
all black parishioners, big women, flowered dresses, major hats, clapping,
swaying.  The minister mentions, kind of by-the-by, their resolution to save
500 souls for Christ in the year 2000.  Real Baptist stuff.  But he says
some other things too that I like a lot.  After an announcement about the
upcoming Jubilee 2000 rally and march -- J 2000 being an interfaith
Christian movement to advocate for forgiving third world debt -- the
minister gives a little rap of his own.  "Being in debt is being controlled.
They burned us down so we would have to go into debt and they could control
us..."  Powerful.  Then a massive, hour-long sermon from a visiting Catholic
priest from India who is also an organizer of fisherpeople -- passionate
Theology of Liberation, totally rousing.  There's an altar call, and Lynda
McClure, the graceful organizer from the Mendocino Environmental Center who
pulled our whole trip together, goes up front to be prayed for.  All ten or
so of us from the Tortoise were in tears throughout the whole two-hour
service.  What was it?  The music?  The fusion of radicalism and faith?
Something for me about simply seeing an intact black community at prayer,
looking happy and healthy and proud despite being burned to the ground and
more.  Something too about spirit, something bigger than the WTO.

Off to the home of our hosts, Susan and Niels, to get set up.  In Susan's
car we head up Broadway only to be stopped by a barricade and, about a block
further, a big, festive demo.  We can't see the details, but there are
puppets and banners, and it all looks handmade, joyful and wild.  We hear
drums.  Later we hear that this march was fronted by celebrite Jose Bove, a
French cheesemaker who bulldozed a MacDonalds in France to protest
WTO-imposed cheese tariffs.  Apparently the marchers went to MacDonalds to
make their point (which involved breaking a small window) then on to
Starbucks to make some noise there.  Right on! 

That evening I take the city bus back in to town to hunt for an ecumenical
service I never find.  Oh well, I've already been to church. On the bus I
see a printed sign from the transit authority announcing in advance that
they anticipate delays and route changes during the WTO meetings.  Farout!
To the Alliance for Democracy headquarters, in the Musicians Union hall, for
what is supposedly a "wine and cheese reception" -- no cheese and little
wine, but lots of flyers and announcements and a chance to see my posse
again.  Big discussion about tear gas, how to wash it off, and pepper spray,
and an upset organizer reassuring us all adamantly that the police have
promised to cooperate with "our" march, which will be huge, orderly,
monitored and peaceful.  All this talk about teargas is just designed to
scare us off from marching.  "And if any of you decide to do other things,
well then you know what you're getting into."  "Ours" is the Tuesday labor
march and rally, or rally and march -- it's all a little unclear.  More
assurances that it will be peaceful.  Devora and I both worry on our way
home about whether we should wear our contact lenses on Tuesday, as we're
told they soak up the gas and spray and burn your retinas.  We both hate
ourselves in glasses.  But we're slightly hyped up by the idea of getting
gassed.  Discussion not concluded.

The highlight of the evening, from my warped perspective, is the poncho
story.  Turns out the Alliance folks had the idea to get rain ponchos made
that have the WTO SLASH logo on 'em.  They're all kosher union folks, of
course, and they find a jobber who promises all American-made, union label
kosher ponchos.  They order several thousand, and the organizer who is
telling the story puts $14,000 on her credit card for 'em.  Well, turns out,
of course, that the jobber is a shyster, the ponchos are made in China --
you can't even get poncho plastic made in the US.  The jobber offers to the
union organizer that he can sew union labels in them anyhow -- we'll never
know.  She is properly horrified, but the money is spent, the ponchos exist,
and so yes, the rumors are true, we are all wearing rainwear probably made
by slave labor.  But please buy them anyhow.  And it just goes to show...
what?  Something, I conclude, about how deeply complicit we all are, how
there is no way to extricate ourselves, good intentions notwithstanding,
from the clutches of globalization.  I buy a red one.

Monday at the crack of 8AM I meet Gabe Cohen (Mina's dad and my confederate)
in front of the Jewish Federation building.  It's barely light.  I'm
schleppping siddurim and my big salmon/magen david banner, which suddenly
seems pointlessly apolitical, and I'm embarrassed about it.  A few other
people wander up.  ____ from the local Renewal congregation and her partner
show up.  Right away she's criticizing any of us chickenshits who don't want
to get arrested, and I'm feeling a little defensive.  David Seidenberg, a
lovely young rabbi, shows up, and Daniel from Humboldt, a handsome, earnest
young Earth First!er on a bike who starts to fill us in on his affinity
group's plan to lock down.  I feel very maternal towards him and fearful of
what he will face in light of the gas/spray conversations.  I ask him if
there is any kind of material support I can provide the next day.  Be an
observer, he says, and they'd also appreciate any visual images of natural
things to inspire them.  I think of my fish and tree banners.  A few others
are there as well, eight maybe.  We decide to sing and walk towards the
barricades a  few blocks away.  At the edge of the Convention Center are a
zillion people, business-looking mostly, on their way to work, waiting for
buses, shopping, hard to tell exactly.  We set up our banner, which is just
a pretty picture of fish and Jewish stars to which we've affixed a little
WTO/red slash button, put on tallises and start to do our morning service in
good spirits.  It turns out that many of the throng are journalists waiting
for SOMETHING to happen.  We're the first thing, even though it's not quite
clear what thing we're doing.  I'd kind of envisioned something a little
contemplative, inner, preparatory, but it's a three ring circus of
microphones, curious bystanders who think nothing of asking me what we're
doing mid-song -- and what ARE we doing exactly?  Mary Rose K shows up in
her journalist mode and a bunch of others.  The best is a guy who comes up
loudly and says, "What are you guys doing? Demonstrating against the
Israelis signing a peace accord with the Palestinians?" (I'd of course heard
nothing about this -- did they sign something last night???)  Oh GOD no!
"Well you should be if you're not..."  Oy vey!

Okay, so it's not a clear political statement, and it's not exactly a prayer
service, though moments of the tefillah feel sublime and connected.  Gabe
has a big dayyenu he wants to sing with WTO words and a shofar, and he wants
to say kaddish for the WTO.  Not quite what I was expecting from him -- I'd
underestimated!  Now I wish we were doing an action and not "just" praying.
At the same time, I do feel steeled and connected by the prayer, and I'm
meeting some good folk as well.  The tininess of our little
not-quite-even-a-minyan makes me feel the tininess of the Jewish presence
all the way around.  In fact, can I rant for a second here?  The Jews were
totally feeble throughout the whole week. We were in every kind of church.
Ministers led marches. But where were the Jews?  Our little mini-minyanim
were the biggest thing that happened.  Afterwards I go off for coffee with
Rabbi David and S, a Buddhist Jew from Berkeley who was on our bus.  We end
up in an extremely fancy hotel dining room having scones and tea and talking
BuJu stuff.  S says the usual thing about how she's never found any
spiritual meaning in Judaism, is so grateful to Buddhism for providing a
path. She says her work in the world is to cultivate inner peace.  I say,
"Why does inner peace matter so much?  Aren't there more important things
than your own inner state?"   David is talking about some very far out
research he's doing into the idea of the divine image in non-human form --
mostly in kabbalah.  It's fun and feels slightly illicit, that old feeling
of timelessness versus the immanent struggle that I used to talk with
Michael Signer about all the time.  On our way to the fancy hotel we had
doubled back to check David's parking meter and saw that it was broken and
still showed he had two hours.  "A miracle!" he enthused.   At the hotel he
seen a little tiny glass of OJ on a table, then asked for one and gets a big
fat full glass, way more than twice the tiny one.  "The second miracle of
the day!"  This last paragraph doesn't matter to anyone but me, but I want
to remember it along with everything else.

What I didn't do by going out for coffee with David and S was to be a sea
turtle.  At noon is going to be a big environmentalists' march and someone
has made 250 sea turtle costumes.  This is to illustrate the plight of sea
turtles since the WTO has made it illegal to require shrimpers to use the
(apparently inexpensive and simple) technology it takes to avoid catching
turtles with your shrimp.

We separate and I have some time to burn before I'm due at the People for
Fair Trade office to sell ponchos.  So I decide to make a stop by the Direct
Action Network hang at Olive and Denny.  It's a good hike from downtown, and
I'm wandering in the rain, in my poncho, of course, when suddenly I come
upon the DAN.  It's in a club, I think, big and absolutely teeming.  I'll
try to describe the scene as best I can, but I doubt I can fully communicate
how amazingly energetic and wild and inspired this place is.  There seems to
be some kind of little food distribution scene going on out front, and a few
small circles of people sitting in doorways and planning intently.  Nearly
everyone is young and punked out  -- tattoos, every kind of piercing and
colored hair, grunge clothing, those special kinds of shoes.  Inside it
looks like Al's Bar in LA, and it is swarming.  There is some kind of crazy
reception procedure that I never do quite get and a bag check.  I drop off
my daypack and get a claim check that says "jelly" on it.  And then I'm  in.
It is roaring.  There is a kind of coffee bar going right in front, and a
huge wall with information on it about every possible thing -- announcements
for the legal team and medic training and the "spokescouncil," things that
look like meeting notes on butcher paper and big brainstorming sheets like
the ones we used to cook up in the Welfare Watchdog days and way way lots
more.  But the amazing thing is, it all works.  It is highly organized.  The
info you need is there, and you can find it. 

In several corners nonviolence trainings are going on.  I watch one for
awhile.  A circle of people are sitting on the ground, arms and maybe legs
too linked together.  Other people are standing above them hitting them in
the head with paper tubes simulating batons.  An instructor with a long pony
tail is instructing them in how to respond as they were being hit, how to
raise or lower the energy as needed, that kind of thing.  A woman who had
been doing the hitting is giving feedback on things the "demonstrators" had
done in the simulation which made her feel reactive and more likely to
strike.  There is an intensity to her feedback, deep from the heart of her
role as a cop.  It all strikes me as deeply wise.  These kids really know a
lot of stuff.  They've figured out all this stuff from tree sitting and
lockdowns and all this intense, technical civil disobedience that they do
these days, very different and more dangerous feeling than the old arranged
trespassing I'm used to.  Across from the nonviolence training is a big art
area and a bunch of amazing puppets stored and stacked.  In another spot is
a huge map of downtown Seattle all marked off with plans, lists of groups.
All this in a warehouse room.  Through the back into an alley are maybe
fifty or seventy more people kind of teeming around.  Soon there is going to
be some kind of meeting for people who want to participate in tomorrow's
action but don't yet have affinity groups.  People are mostly milling.  An
especially grungy looking guy hands me a small flyer -- he's an anarchist
advocating breaking windows, and this is his manifesto.  Other people are
yelling at him.  Or maybe they aren't yelling, but I can feel the condemnation.

The plan, as best I can discern, is that at tomorrow's action different
affinity groups will be blocking intersections leading to the Convention
Center, where the WTO delegates will be meeting.  Each affinity group will
be deciding how they want to do their own action, but all under a general
covenant of nonviolence.  These are the "spokes" in the wheel of streets
that radiate off from the Convention Center.  Affinity groups are little
groups of people who make their plans together and pledge to support each
other throughout.  So it's a mix of structure and decentralization.  Quite
brilliant.  Outside I had seen some kids wearing stenciled patches on the
backs of their jackets saying "Squash Liberation Front."  They are one of
the affinity groups.  I wonder what they are planning?

Back inside I hear a guy at the information desk shout into the crowd, "Can
anyone here relieve me for awhile?"  before I know it I'm raising my hand
saying "I can!"  I climb over the desk, get shown the box of t-shirt money
(they have fabulous t-shirts) and that's pretty much my whole orientation.
"Who's coming next?" I ask my trainer and he says, "When you're ready just
do what I did..."  Okay.  I don't have information, but I have enthusiasm,
and I spend a loud hour greeting people, pointing to the information wall,
saying, "I have no idea" a lot and selling a few t-shirts.  One little
vignette I decide I want to remember: in this whole teeming scene a woman
comes in looking very uptight and is yammering in my direction, "Where is
the housing notebook, you guys?  It's very important..."  She keeps saying
that, "It's very important, you know..."  Like any of us have any idea where
anything is, and she's berating us, and a guy at the welcome desk is kind of
looking around for the notebook, saying, "I know it's important, just a
sec..." And then he just stops, gives her a hug, and she dissolves.  Not
quite into tears, but the officiousness just drops.  "It's all important, I
know..." she says.

All this time I'm asking people who look like they're in the know if they
know where Miszka is, and none of them even  knows who she is, and I begin
to realize that this is all very big and decentralized, and there are a lot
of people involved, and there seems to be room for just about anybody to
climb on, and it's all full tilt and top decibel.  And yet it also seems
totally organized and together and miraculous.  Just as I'm handing on my
desk duty I hear an announcement that food is served, and there's no mass
stampede or anything but people begin to walk by with big plates of food.
How the fuck do these kids do it?

Which of course makes the Fair Trade office seem sleepy by comparison.  On
my way there I see the sea turtles.  It is the most beautiful parade.  These
costumes are unbelievable -- all made of cardboard, a shell intricately
painted and jointed, a carapace and a headpiece.  Truly a labor of great
love and inventiveness.  I hear later that each one took five hours to
construct.  There are lots of other people with the turtles, signs, drums,
the works.  Very cool. In fact, we'll be seeing the turtles all week,
everyplace.  They're a great addition to the whole stir.  Around the corner
from the turtles comes the Mumia march.  Not quite as gorgeous as the sea
turtles, or as huge, but stately and impressive and lots of people as well.
There are cops all over the place, but they're not doing anything.  In fact
they seem to be pretty friendly if you make eye contact.  The whole thing
seems suddenly like Mardi Gras, the parades, the costumes, the city streets
full and buzzing.

That afternoon is the Jubilee 2000 service and "procession."  Somehow I
score, with Devora, a seat inside the Methodist church for the service.  The
Methodist church, right downtown, is the headquarters for all kinds of adult
resistance activities -- there are constant forums there, marches meet there
to put on turtle costumes etc.  And the Jubilee 2000 extravaganza is there
as well.  The church is a big, beautiful moorish building full of Christmas
decorations, poinsettias etc., obviously the Seattle cathedral of the
Methodists, and they've generously turned over the whole rich scene to the
anti-WTO contingent.  This is supposed to be, and is, an interfaith service.
Throughout the service I keep imagining the planning meetings that must have
gone into it, the efforts to cover all bases, include everyone, offend no
one.   There is a Jew (who was great, actually), a Native American, a
Christian,a Moslem, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Bahai, a Unitarian.  Maybe some
others as well.  So of course there is a bit of unintentional dada, which I
enjoy.  The Native American is not the Chief listed in the program but
obviously some young replacement who knows nothing about global debt and
goes on a long, sweet rave about honoring the Ancestors or something.  Best
in the Parade of Diversity aspect is The Buddhist, a  preternaturally skinny
guy in bright blue who actually does come up to the microphone and say, "I
want you to close your eyes and notice any physical discomfort you may be
feeling..."  Devora, next to me, is sitting on a ledge between two benches,
one cheek on each, and has been writhing through the whole service.  So of
course we lose it entirely about there. 

But the payoff, after two hours of this, is a few minutes of Maxine Waters,
truly a goddess, the real thing.  So beautiful, glamorous and powerful,
funny, wry, so habituated to speaking truth to power that here, among
friends and fans, she is completely at ease and shining.  She's the one who
is introducing the bill in Congress to forgive the debt -- the one person in
the room who can actually do something concrete.  She's quite funny and
descriptive about the usual nature of congressional deal making.  But, she
says, there is something about this issue, the timing, the religious twist,
whatever, that makes there actually be a glimmer of possibility of the pols
rising above their pork barrels and signing on.  "Thank you, Jubilee 2000,
for making us better people than we really are!" she proclaims.  We're on
our feet!

Following this is supposed to be a procession, "not a march," to hold hands
around the Convention Center, and we process outside, where we meet a throng
of others who have been standing out in the rain to join us, all whipped up.
We're cheering, having fun, getting wet.  We start processing in a huge mob,
just walking and chatting.  We're not singing because the ubiquitous
Teamster music truck, a rolling anti-WTO  billboard with loud, scratchy
techno music and unintelligible lyrics, is nearby.  All good fun.
Eventually we're split into two streams of walkers, ours pointed neatly to
the left.  We walk on, up some stairs, along an elevated sidewalk.  We're
looking at the Kingdome.  There are so many of us that we double up on the
sidewalk.  Someone says, why don't we hold hands now.  So we do, and then we
go home.  I have no idea whether the hands around was ever accomplished or
not.  So I've made my contribution to forgiving third world debt, I guess.
If you want my feedback, this demo suffered from premature withdrawal --
lots of foreplay, and then the big moment never exactly happened.  Off to
another big dinner and bed.  Big day ahead.

The big day:  I'm up and 4:15AM in the deep dark, schlepping prayer books for
Minyan II.  We leafleted the Jubilee service, so who knows? Maybe there
will be twenty or thirty folks?  There are six, almost all different people
than that day before, and jeez is it early.  Again we process to the
barricades, but today there's no one there.  It's pouring.  We davven.  No
mics, no interviews.  So we actually pray a bit, and it's sweet (though a
few hours more sleep would have been sweet too.)  And then I'm off towards
Steinbrueck park, where the DAN/ Ruckus Society/180 Movement folks are
starting their march.  Nothing could have quite prepared me for how totally
beautiful this march was going to be.  This is where my fish and trees
banners would have flown among every other kind of beautiful effigy if I'd
gotten it together to bring them.  There are giant skeletons on stilts, a
huge flying cow piloted like a Chinese dragon by about six people underneath
(with NO BGH IN ME! painted on its side) and, my favorite, a couple of big
cloth birds with cheesecloth wings, flapping magically over our heads.  And
every kind of funny and wild sign and costume, bare breasted Lesbian
Avengers, groups with green paint in their hair, drums everywhere.  It's

I scan the sides of the parade, looking for someone I know, recognize a
little cluster from our bus and fall in with them.  It's Suzanne, BJ, Helen,
Jim and Larry.  Each of them is a story in itself.  They invite me to join
them, which is a little more involved than just marching together.  We call
ourselves an affinity group.  There's a lot to just keeping together,
because there are many thousands in this march, and sometimes the Cow comes
walking through, or BJ stops to take a picture and she's disappeared.  We
work out some coyote calls to find each other, and we manage to stick
together as we pour through the streets of downtown.

At some point a march monitor with a bullhorn announces that arrestables
should move ahead and the rest stay to the back of the parade.  I'm 100%
clear that I don't want to get arrested today, and the rest of my group says
the same, so we hang back and watch the whole amazing mob roll on ahead of
us.  Then we're moving again.   I'm a little geographically challenged, and
so I'm confused to suddenly come upon one of the "spokes" in an intersection
ahead.  There is a complicated rig, looks a little like a catamaran with
steel girders where the keels would be, and maybe ten or twelve young
resisters crouched in small clusters around and underneath it.  I don't see
any chains or locks, but the group nearest me has arms and legs intertwined.
This close group is all young women, looking like a cluster of Joan of
Arc's, chanting about the Spirit being unbroken.  Suddenly the spirit of fun
deepens, and this becomes profound, powerful, frightening.  I join their
chant, staring at them, in awe of their posture of resistance.  We hang
there for awhile. and the huge march is spreading out along a block.  Things
are happening, and quickly, though it takes me awhile to get my bearings.
We're in front of the Convention Center.  Many of the marchers are moving
ahead, to a driveway that leads right in to the entryway.  They're blocking
it.  People are singing, dancing, drumming furiously.  Ahead I can see
others blocking another entrance at the next intersection.  Right in the
middle of everything a guy who looks like a Vietnam vet is sitting on a
newspaper machine lighting a joint.  Suzanne rushes over to him and yells at
him that, "This is not the time for smoking dope!  You'll just make everyone
here look bad!  You'll pull attention away from the real issues!"  The
stoner is undeterred.  "You're just responding to a taboo," he says.  "It is
the time..."  He has a point.  But the point?  We move onward.

At the driveway, where about a hundred resisters are locking arms and
dancing, someone starts turning over some newspaper machines in the
driveway, making a flimsy little barricade.  This flips Helen out, and she
starts to tip one back upright.  This occasions some of our special coyote
calls, and my little affinity group is caucusing on the driveway.  Helen
feels adamant that it is not right to destroy property.  Suzanne feels
equally adamant that if people risking an encounter with police feel that
they need a barricade to protect them, we should not interfere.  The guys
are quiet.  BJ is off dancing somewhere.  I can see both sides, though I'm
inclined Suzannes's direction, not wanting to resist our own resisters if
possible.  Helen is incensed and flounces away before consensus is reached,
and our little affinity group begins to de-affinitize.  At the same time it
is all getting a little more scary.  Both intersections are now totally
blocked with chanting protesters, as is the driveway where we stand.  Now
we're up at the corner, where a huge human chain is forming.  There is a
huge inflated blue rubber whale (which I think traveled up on our bus,
actually) between the lockdown and the human chain, and people are rocking
the whale.  People in the chain are yelling. "Help us!"  And BJ and Suzanne
rush away to join in.  Jim is long gone, and I'm standing in the street
holding Larry's hand, not sure quite what to do next.  Things have escalated
beyond my own feeling of control, and yet there is absolutely no violence.
Protesters are chanting, "Nonviolence!  Nonviolence!"  and "Peace!  peace"
at every escalation, reminding both the police and ourselves.

Meanwhile the WTO delegates are totally blocked from entering the Convention
Center, and they are simply wandering in the street among the protesters.
It's quite surreal, especially as a few of the delegates are wearing
clothing from their native African or Arab or Asian states and look rather
wondrous themselves.  Many of them are smiling ruefully, others being
engaged by the protesters and talking.  As I'm watching all this I realize
that in almost every other country in the world this kind of protest, or
much, much more intense, is all in a day's work.  Some of the protesters
approach the delegates aggressively, yelling "shame shame!" and such.
Others try to talk in a more engaging way.  I can see a few extended
conversations going on between delegates and protesters, which seems like a
miracle of concentration, among other things, in his wild scene.  One
delegate, though, a large black man in a trench coat, is furious at the
blockade and tries to smash his way through.  He is not successful, but he
is not hit or attacked either.  I begin to realize that this protest is, at
this moment, more successful than anyone dared predict.  We've achieved an
actual, not a symbolic, closure.  The delegates are locked out.

But at the same time I'm locked in.  Both ends of the street are blocked by
human chains circling around locked down affinity groups, and I'm in the
middle, clutching Larry's hand.  Larry is a bit of a stoner himself, and I
don't have a confident feeling about his judgment, exactly.  I'm in charge
here, I can see.  "Do you want to get arrested?"  I ask him.  He's smiling
and shaking his head.  "Oh no..."  I keep clutching him and pulling him back
to me as he surges towards the action.  In one of the nonviolence trainings
that I'd seen a bit of, they'd talked about the power of keeping open space
in front of you, and I seized on that bit of wisdom here, pulling Larry back
from the fray over and over.  "Let's just keep some space in front of us,
okay?"  I'm pleading, and we're standing in the middle of the street with
all this wildness swirling around us.

I feel guilty not to be joining the chain, but totally unprepared, too, to
risk arrest or teargas or pepper spray.  I realize that I know nothing about
pepper spray or teargas.  How long do they last?  Do they make you go blind?
Make your hair fall out?  I have no idea.  As to arrest, I realize the great
wisdom of the affinity group system.  It would have been totally different
if I were with four or five friends that I totally trusted and we had made a
plan, with someone to stay outside and offer jail support, notify people
etc.  To just get swept up with a sea of strangers fills me with dread, but
the gas is scarier still.

And a second later I hear a yell from a guy on a bicycle racing up to our
end of the street.  "They're using gas at the other corner!"  I look down
the block, and I see what looks like smoke rising from the street, wafting
over everyone.  "Don't run!"  people are yelling, along with nonviolence
nonviolence.  I don't run, but I take Larry firmly by the hand and walk away
from the gas, towards the human chain.  I see two journalists ahead of me
saying, "You want to get out of here?"  and I follow them.  The chain lets
us through, and suddenly we're on the other side.  Larry looks a little
rueful, but I'm relieved.  "You want to stay?" I ask him, and he nods yes.
Well tell the others that I've left, okay?  And I'm off on my own down the
street away from trouble. 

I stop in a market to get a bite to eat, end up sitting with a guy from
Portland, a big Green party muckymuck, and we walk together towards the
Seattle Center, where labor is having their big rally at the Key Stadium.
It's a huge stadium, and the sun has come out meanwhile, so people are
milling.  The place looks half full, the astroturfed playfield fuller.  Here
there are signs galore, all printed by the unions.  On one side of the
bleachers are masses of folks in same-colored ponchos - - yellow for
electrical workers, purple for SEIU, blue for longshore workers (who have
walked out today all along the west coast!  Yes!) and such.  On the ground
up front are a few noble looking UFW workers in red ponchos holding flags.
On the dais are speakers saying inspiring things, except I can't concentrate
at all after the ruckus of the morning (and I'm still carrying thirty pounds
of prayer books --grrrr) so I just wander around bored, meet up with the
Mendo Alliance for Democracy people.  They seem pumped, especially by the
union presence.  Carl Pope from the Sierra Club, speaks -- or so I hear from
Sue later, who is ecstatic about it -- and the union folk cheer.  Who can
imagine such a thing?

After awhile we're being herded into the Big March, the one that is supposed
to be 50,000 people and probably is.  I'm handed a printed sign that says,
"If it doesn't work for working families it doesn't work."  We are smashed
together and don't move for easily a half hour.  Then we meander down the
street.  The Teamster billboard trucks are again blaring.  But after the
morning it just feels limp to me.  After awhile I decide to leave, and I
weave my way out of the mass of marchers.  It is indeed an unbelievably
huge number of human beings, and it's fun to see the union workers' faces
and bodies, so different from the tattooed and pierced crowd of the morning.
Lots of gray hair, kids and grandkids, good wholesome spirit.  But they
don't need me, and I desperately need a break.  So I'm gone.

I wander down the hill to a restaurant, feeling slightly guilty (this seems
to be a trope for me) to be spending money in a business on a day when
Seattle is supposed to be shut down.  But there is no official strike or
anything, and so in I go.  I'm decked out well, in my red No WTO poncho and
a hat with a no WTO button as well, so people can tell what side I'm on.
The waitress is cheery and approving and wants one of those buttons.  I take
the one off my hat, and we're laughing and commiserating, and then she says,
"I just feel bad that they're breaking all those windows downtown."  "What!
One tiny window in MacDonalds yesterday?"  I'm up in her face.  "No, we've
been listening to the radio in back all afternoon, and bands of people are
breaking all the windows in Nordstroms and Niketown and Starbucks..."  Wow.  Um.

After eating my huge lunch I walk towards a bus stop, wondering if I'll ever
be able to get a bus home.  I wait about 45 minutes, watching the hugely
organized Falun Gang organizers, who have been petitioning all over the
city, mass in the park behind the bus stop.  Waiting with me are some of the
resisters from the morning, looking tired and dazed.  Yes, they got
tear gassed.  And pepper sprayed.  There hadn't been any arrests.  I'm amazed
to see that they aren't blind.  Their hair hasn't fallen out.  They're not
purple with bruises.  They are tired and peaceful looking, and I am full of
admiration.  I want to give them money, buy them lunch, do something to say
"thank you for being so brave."  But there's nothing like that to do, and
we're all too tired to think.  So I just gaze at them and catch a bus north
without incident.

I had seen Susan, my host, at the stadium, and she was heading straight home
after the march.  So I was surprised to arrive and find the house dark, no
key, as promised, under the orchid on the deck.  More surprised three hours
later, as it got dark and cold and still no one was home.  Finally about
7:00 PM Susan, Niels and Devora drive up.  Turns out they were heading out
just a few minutes after I did, by which time the police had closed off
downtown (and instituted a 7 PM curfew) and were bombing the streets
indiscriminately with teargas.  Susan and Devora just walked and walked for
miles away from the melee until they found a bar and a phone, called Niels
at work, who in turn had to wade by car through a nightmare of traffic to
pick them up.  Susan and Niels were hot to show off some of their
trademarked dulcimer swing tunes, a surreal end to a surreal day.  But I was
blacking out from sleepiness and didn't last until even 9 PM.

Wednesday, last day in Seattle.  We laze around the house before our planned
brunch at the Space Needle with the Mendo crowd.  Susan and Devora are both
outraged at the morning's headlines, focusing, of course, entirely on the
window breakers.  I'm secretly a little excited about it, even as I tsk tsk
along with them.  They're indignant that there is no photo of the union
march, just a little write-up on the bottom of page 14.  The coverage looks
pretty good to me, since it fills both Seattle papers front to back.  I'm
less picky.   We're also listening to the radio, to the mayor of Seattle,
Paul Schell -- a good guy, Susan tells us -- saying ruefully that he had
marched in the sixties and never imagined he'd be the one to be calling in
the National Guard to protect a city from marchers.  I finally succeed in
reaching Miszka by pager, and she sounds beyond exhausted, a shadow of her
bold self.  She can't concentrate enough to figure out a way for us to meet,
but she's planning to join in the Steelworkers' march.  She tells me that
downtown remains closed, that there is a "no protest zone" throughout.
Schell on the radio had said that they promised entirely different policing
tactics for day two than they had used on day one.  When I tell her
sheepishly that we plan to brunch at the Space Needle, she says disgustedly,
"Well, at least drop a banner while you're there!"

The Space Needle is, predictably, disgustingly business-y and touristy and
fabulously expensive ($16 for a hamburger, no fries) -- and while in there I
get a hit of my own disgustingly indulgent consumer habits, how my own love
of luxury feeds the same machine we're allegedly trying to dismantle.  After
the Needle I head towards town, not sure just what is closed off.  It is
eerie out there -- throngs of police and soldiers on every corner, streets
blocked by police cruisers turned sideways, lights spinning.  I start
heading down towards the place where I think the Steelworkers are massing,
outside the barricades, hoping to find Miszka, not sure what else to do.  I
am pleased to see a bunch of young Direct Action folks heading down there
too.  There's another march, more chanting (boy I hate to chant) a nice mix
of union folk and the kids.  We end up in a park for another interminable
rally.  I can't find Miszka, so I decide to head onwards, maybe hit one of
those forums that have been running every day, maybe go learn something.  So
I'm heading towards the Lutheran Church on Stewart Street when I come across
the first police blockade.  "Can I go down Stewart Street?"  "Nope.  You
can't."  The cop is smiling pleasantly.  "Well, how do I get to the Lutheran
Church, then?"  I'm wearing all my WTO-wear, and I'm not carrying an easter
basket or anything, so I'm aware that I sound disingenuous.  We're both kind
of laughing.  "Well, geez, can I jaywalk since the street's blocked off
anyhow?"  "Sure.  Just don't get hit," he says.  "Don't get a ticket,"
another chimes in.  I have to walk all over the city practically to get to
the church, where I catch just the very end of a presentation.  A stately
man from Kenya is talking.  "Don't forget that Africa's first contact with
globalization came 500 years ago," he said in a thick accent.  "They gave us
beads and guns.  And they took human beings.  And it really hasn't changed
since then."

Later I'm back at the Methodist Church for another panel, this on on GATS,
the General Agreement on Trade and Services, up for discussion at the
present Ministerial.  GATS aims to privatize the service sector -- schools,
healthcare and the like. There is also, for some reason, some discussion of
water, also up for privatization under GATS, I guess, and about the "right
of establishment," a general principle of free trade which says that any
business can set up shop in any country, and governments can't restrict them
or give preference to their own workers or systems of service delivery.  I
must be into the kids or something, because the speaker who rivets me most
is Erin-Claire Quinn, from the "180 Movement," another name for the great
kids' brigade -- a student movement.  She starts out her talk by saying that
she "stinks of tear gas and vinegar" and goes on to talk about how
universities in this country train people to be corporate cogs rather than
participants in a democracy.  She mentions that students all over the world
are rising up -- high school students are walking out, there's been a six
month strike at the Autonomous University of Mexico over tuition fees --
instituted by the IMF.  Erin Claire has two points: advocate against GATS
getting into education AND, while we're at it, democratize schools and
universities themselves.  Yes!

So just as this forum is ending the moderator comes up and announces that
downtown has been closed down, even though it's well before curfew time, and
at the church we're within the dragnet.  There's supposed to be a
Steelworkers' party in the evening, and they have gotten special permission
to hold the event, provided we all stay and leave at the same time.
Otherwise they're dropping gas all over the downtown area, no one is safe.
In fact it sounds like the city has gone crazy and just indiscriminately
bombed the whole of downtown with teargas, pepper spray, concussion bombs.
We hear that people going to work have been sprayed, that they are arresting
masses of people who aren't even demonstrating, much less doing anything
destructive.  The downstairs of the church is right now full of people who
have been gassed and sprayed with pepper spray.  This is getting pretty
wild.  Devora and I decide to try to get out of downtown right now, rather
than miss the departure of our Tortoise at 10 PM.  As we do so, we are
joined by a young woman named Sara, who wants to walk east with us and try
to catch a bus.  The church is packed and buzzing, and outside is a war zone
of police lights and other stuff I can't remember anymore.  Inside the
church we see Maggie and Moonlight, who report that they were sprayed this
afternoon just walking down the street.  Many others say the same.  I'm less
afraid now of the gas than I was yesterday, but I wouldn't at all mind
avoiding it.  So we set off.

Sara is another of these wise young folk, an environmental studies student
at Oberlin who has traveled the world learning about things I never knew
existed when I was a student -- sustainable communities, indigenous
solutions to poverty...  She came to Seattle on her own, not with a group --
just knew it was important and came on out.  She's cheerleader pretty rather
than pierced and tattooed, which makes me think that the youth network is
even wider than it had looked before.  and she's just so smart and
confident.  On the way she's interviewing Devora, who owns Mendocino Mustard
Company, about how she's been affected by NAFTA.  Takes Devora a moment to
think, but then she's fomenting about no longer being able to buy the good,
American- made jars that she used to, how they're now made in Mexico and one
in twelve is unusable.  My racism radar comes up a hair at what she might be
about to say, and then Sara says, "It's crazy to expect people in Mexico to
do that kind of precision work when there are other things that they do so
much better than we can.  There are so many other things that Mexicans
should be doing besides manufacturing."  I don't ask what. But it's an
interesting approach, thinking about what a culture is good at and
maximizing that on the world market.  Anyhow, we make it home to the New
Hope Missionary Baptist Church, where our compadres are sprawled all over
our luggage watching TV coverage and waiting for the Tortoise to fire up.
We have a little closing circle, and people say sweet and enthusiastic
things.  Bruce Hering reminds us that our focus should be on the WTO, not on
the police, that however heinously they have handled things, they are a
symptom, not a root cause.  I like this perspective, because secretly in my
heart of hearts I know that our activists wanted and needed the police, that
the whole drama would be incomplete without them, that their very wild
warlikeness underlined better than anything else ever could how totally
POWERFUL we were.  And I hadn't yet heard of any injuries from the policing
beyond bruises from the pellet guns, and it still seems true today that no
one died.

Now we're on the road home, after watching our friends on the "bad bus"
push-start it over and over for nearly two hours before it grinds into
motion.  I sleep in a luggage rack.  Morning brings us to the Green Tortoise
farm somewhere in Oregon, where we make blueberry pancakes in another bus
fitted out like a kitchen and eat them in a geodesic dome framed in metal
and covered with clear plastic.  Then into a heavenly hippie sauna and a
plunge into the icy cold Umpqua River, which leave me as ecstatic and raving
as I've ever been on any drug (and sick ever since...)  Lots of efforts at
serious conversation as we lumber homeward, much led by Ellen Drell, of the
"what should we do next?" variety.  I'm dozing in and out of all of it.  I
roll over to Moonlight with one thought, philosophical rather than
practical.  What was it, I keep asking myself, which made the kids' scene so
amazing, as compared to the union march, the Jubilee 2000 service and such?
It was the humor, the daring, the art, the wildness -- something from deep
in the id, in the yetzer ha-ra, the wild spirit -- as contrasted to the
dutiful sign making and massing of the adults.  Some of that is being a kid
instead of an adult, but not all of it.  Think of Judi Bari.  What's the
juice within ourselves that makes us organize and resist?  Where does it
come from?  And how can we tap into the wild, animal energy -- not violent
but alive and daring and fearless -- which stole the show and levitated the
WTO in Seattle?

I don't actually know where it will all go from here, but it started out
just like I hoped -- a huge, wild, variegated NO! articulated in a thousand
different ways and still going on even now that we're home.
Counterfriction!  The news is still full of the Seattle uprising, and so is
my head, of course.  I'm looking at everything I use and want and do through
the eyes of globalization.  A phrase comes to my mind here -- don't I have a
right, doesn't everybody, to a vibrant economic life?  Not to wealth, but to
choices, so that if I want coffee I don't have to buy Starbucks, if I need
shoes I can get something made by a craftsperson who cares, so I can eat
organic and buy local and not have genetically engineered food?  Even in
Seattle last week I was aware that my choices were actually so much more
limited than they are at home, or in a mercado in Mexico, as Sara described,
because of globalization.  Everything was a chain, everything manufactured
abroad in poor countries, even political ponchos.  Globalization doesn't
bring choice any more than it brings democracy -- it concentrates vision,
ideas, designs, as well as it concentrates wealth, in the hands and brains
of the few.  SUCK!  So everything we do to diversify the options, to enhance
local participation in the economy, is an act of resistance.  Obviously
there are millions of more serious issues at hand as well -- slave and child
labor, all the environmental destructions...  But I started to feel in a new
way how this stuff hits me too, even if I'm not a slave in Burma.  Okay, I'm
tired and sick and ready to wind this screed up.  I'm so happy I went to
Seattle!  And I wonder what will bubble up next?
Box 261 Mendocino, CA 95460

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