World Trade Organization Protests in Seattle
In January 1999, the City of Seattle was selected to host the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference in November-December 1999. The WTO is a global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. In March, multi-agency planning began through the City of Seattle Public Safety Committee with goals of ensuring safety for participants and freedom of expression for protestors.
The conference began in November 1999 and inspired one of the largest political protests ever seen in Seattle. Protesters focused on issues including workers' rights, sustainable economies, and environmental and social issues. On the first morning of the conference, when downtown streets and intersections could not be cleared and after downtown businesses were vandalized, the Mayor of Seattle declared a civil emergency. The Governor declared a state of emergency on November 30. Publicized worldwide, the City was criticized for mishandling the protests and for being unprepared.
Months of analysis followed WTO, exploring issues surrounding the rights of free speech and assembly, abuse by law enforcement officers, and mistreatment of individuals taken into custody.