The Whole World Was Watching

by John de Graaf

Premieres Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8 pm on KCTS Television, Channel 9.

A dramatic and highly-visual retrospective ten years after the World Trade Organization protests shook Seattle. Former Mayor Paul Schell, Police Chief Norm Stamper, WTO supporters, protesters and reporters who covered the events look back on those tumultuous days and the lessons Seattle and world learned from them.

November 30, 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the first tumultuous day in 1999, when thousands of protesters disrupted and finally shut down the international meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. City officials had hoped to win prestige for Seattle as host of so important a conference. But instead, the entire world watched a power struggle between protesters and police.

Led by unions, environmentalists and social justice organizations, some 30,000 people gathered in Memorial Stadium and marched downtown, while several thousand Direct Action Network protesters blocked the doors to the WTO meeting and barred entrance to its delegates. A handful of “anarchists” got violent, breaking store windows throughout downtown. Tear gas flew, garbage cans burned, nightsticks opened wounds and as night fell, the pitched battle moved on to Capitol Hill. Hundreds were arrested.

The demonstrations were not spontaneous, but the result of weeks of training, workshops and a barrage of anti-WTO publicity, warning that global free trade would result in a race to the bottom economically and environmentally. The event changed the WTO in some ways, emboldening Third World delegates to demand a greater say in creating the rules of world trade. It cost key Seattle players like Mayor Paul Schell and Police Chief Norm Stamper their jobs and cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damages and from anti-police lawsuits.

More than Microsoft or Boeing or Starbucks, the “Battle of Seattle” put the city of Seattle on the world map, for better or worse, even becoming the subject of a Hollywood film starring Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson. Perhaps only the Pacific Exposition of 1909, the General Strike of 1919 and the World’s Fair of 1962 brought as much attention to our city.

Produced by John de Graaf, THE WHOLE WORLD WAS WATCHING is a reflective look back at the events of 1999 and their aftermath by some of the key players in these dramatic events. Interviewees include Port Commissioner Patricia Davis, who first invited the WTO to Seattle, Mayor Schell, Police Chief Stamper, City Councilmember Richard McIver, scholar David Korten, labor leader Verlene Jones, economist Dave Batker who was inside the WTO meeting, Direct Action Network protestor Erika Kay, KOMO-TV news reporter Sabrina Register and Seattle Times reporters Michelle Matassa-Flores and David Postman, who covered the events extensively.

Period footage includes protesters training for the events, a look inside the WTO meetings, the Memorial Stadium rally and march, and the dramatic battles downtown.
The film presents a balanced look back at a moment that changed history.

Special thanks to Rustin Thompson, Mark Dworkin, KOMO-TV and KING-TV for their generosity in providing archival footage for this production.

To learn more about the program and watch a 5-minute preview, go here.

Were you there? What do you remember?

***Full disclosure: Worldchanging Editor Sarah Kuck assisted with this project

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