N30

The 1999 Seattle WTO protests, sometimes referred to as N30, were a series of protests surrounding the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999, when members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) convened at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle on November 30, 1999. The Conference was to be the launch of a new millennial round of trade negotiations.

The negotiations were quickly overshadowed by massive street protests outside the hotels and the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. The large scale of the demonstrations, estimated at no fewer than 40,000 protesters, dwarfed any previous demonstration in the United States against a world meeting of any of the organizations generally associated with economic globalization (such as the WTO, the International Monetary Fund, or the World Bank).

On the morning of Tuesday, November 30, 1999, the Direct Action Network's plan was put into effect. Several hundred activists arrived in the deserted streets near the convention center and began to take control of key intersections. Over the next few hours, a number of marchers began to converge on the area from different directions. These included a student march from the north, a march of citizens of the developing world who marched in from the south and, beginning around 09:00, militant anarchists (in a formation known as a black bloc) marching down Pike Street from 6th Avenue, blockading the streets with newspaper boxes and smashing windows. Some demonstrators held rallies, others held teach-ins and at least one group staged an early-morning street party. Meanwhile, a number of protesters still controlled the intersections using lockdown formations.

The control of the intersections, plus the sheer numbers of protesters in the area, prevented delegates from getting from their hotels to the convention center. It also had the effect of cutting the police forces in two: the police who had formed a cordon around the convention center were cut off from the rest of the city. The police outside of the area eventually tried to break through the protesters' lines in the south.
Flag used by some protestors

That morning, the King County Sheriff's Office and Seattle Police Department fired pepper spray, tear gas canisters, and stun grenades at protesters at several intersections in an attempt to reopen the blocked streets and allow as many WTO delegates as possible through the blockade. At 6th Avenue and Union Street, the crowd threw objects back at the police.

By late morning, the black bloc had swelled to 200 people and smashed dozens of shops and police cars. This seems to have set off a chain reaction of sorts, with previously nonviolent protesters throwing bottles at police and joining in the vandalism shortly before noon. Some protesters tried to physically obstruct the activities of the black bloc; however, Seattle police (led by Chief Norm Stamper) did not react immediately. Protest organizers had convinced Seattle police during the protest-permit process that peaceful organizers would quell these kinds of activities.

The police were eventually overwhelmed by the mass of protesters downtown, including many who had chained themselves together and were blocking intersections. Meanwhile, the late-morning labor-organized rally and march drew tens of thousands; though the intended march route had them turning back before they reached the convention center, some ignored the marshals and joined what had become a chaotic scene downtown.

At noon, the opening ceremony at the convention center was officially canceled. It took police much of the afternoon and evening to clear the streets. Seattle mayor Paul Schell declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew, and a 50-block "no-protest zone."

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