Another chapter in the saga of the WTO

For Bainbridge activist/authors Linda Wolf and Neva Welton, writing “Global Uprising: Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century” has served personal ends, and larger ones.

For Bainbridge activist/authors Linda Wolf and Neva Welton, writing “Global Uprising: Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century” has served personal ends, and larger ones.

Welton and Wolf, who say they helped plan the World Trade Organization protests of 1999, began recording activists’ words to bring the event in focus for themselves – and to honor the young activists who peopled Seattle streets during that tumultuous week.

The newly published book also offers a wealth of fascinating personal testimony that may appeal to a general readership and serve as a guidebook and map to the broad – and potentially bewildering – spectrum of contemporary activism.

“We wanted to know more about the people behind the blockades, lock-downs and banner-hangs,” Welton and Wolf wrote. “As social activists, we wanted to document and publish accounts of this powerful time of uprising – accounts we know would not be reported on the evening news.”

The more than 700 groups assembled outside the World Trade Organization summit meeting in 1999 had agendas that addressed a wide array of issues related to global capitalism.

Among them: economic inequities; racism and women’s rights; police brutality; media control; sweatshop labor and fair trade; the prison industrial complex and the criminalization of youth; and old-growth forest destruction and bio-technology.

Welton and Wolf organized their book under such headings as “Context,” “Tactics,” “Mentor” and “Witness” with tabs at the margins to help the readers sort out the players.

Many of the pieces have associated websites indicated by a “links” icon, and brief asides.

Text is interspersed with Wolf’s striking photographs.

The organic, fluid structure of the work, the authors say, reflects the essence of global activism.

While vandalism and violence marred the protests, Wolf and Welton maintain that most of the event was peaceful. The majority of the 60 personal stories that comprise the book support that view.

Readers meet young activists like Shannon Service, who used her rock-climbing skills to drape a freeway wall with a protest banner, and Chris Dixon, whose activism includes an incisive dissection of media coverage of the WTO.

But Welton and Wolf also present, without judgement, two stories from activists who thoughtfully question peaceful direct action.

Not all the WTO activists cited in “Global Uprising” are young people.

Seventy-year-old J.L. Chestnut, the first black person to open a law office in Selma, Ala., is a living link to the civil rights movement he helped initiate.

Says Chestnut:

“When I talk to young people about the high standard of living we enjoy in this country, I tell them, ‘I’m not sure it’s a bargain when you really consider the price, which includes 350 years of slavery and another 100 years of near-slavery.’ It includes a foreign policy that has reduced Central and South America to some sort of serfdom for this country.”

The book has already been endorsed by various academics and activists, including author Howard Zinn.

The author of “A People’s History of the United States,” Zinn praised “Global Uprising” for giving voice to young activists.

Both Wolf and Welton say there is a distinction between the social activism of antiglobalization and the terrorism of 9-11.

“The terrorists that we’re calling terrorists today are inflicting acts of violence aginst civilian people,” Wolf said. “But activists today are standing up in non-violent civil disobediance to beg for and demand justice and reason for the everyday folk like those who died in the World Trade (Center).”

Welton notes that while she and some other anti-globalization activists may agree with aspects of the criticism of United States foreign and economic policices, the vast majority of activists do not condone the tactics.

The two hope that, the book is not dismissed in the wake of Sept. 11 because some WTO activists tangled with Seattle police.

“We take a tremendous risk by standing up with all these people and presenting their point of view,” Wolf said, “but fear running people doesn’t help us change.

Bainbridge Police Detective Scott Anderson, with whom the authors consulted while writing the book, agrees.

“In retrospect it appears that some of the protesters – and some of the police – were out of line,” Anderson said. “But my take on the WTO overall is that one of the great foundations of America is our right to express our beliefs and opinions.

“Our system of government requires that anyone who disagrees with how our government is doing business step up and be heard.”