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.

Documents

  • Memo from Clifford Traisman, Office of Intergovernmental Relations (February 10, 1999)
  • Flyer, "The World Trade Organization's Threat to the Environment"
  • Broadcast email to city employees from Mayor Schell (October 14, 1999)
  • Situation report from State Emergency Operations Center (December 1, 1999)
  • Situation report from Seattle Emergency Operations Center (December 3, 1999)
  • City of Seattle Resolution 30099 (December 6, 1999)
  • Letter from Darlene Cox to Norm Stamper, Chief of Police (December 7, 1999)
  • Letter from Abigail Ormsby to Seattle City Council (December 7, 1999)
  • Letter from citizen to Mayor and City Council (December 9, 1999)
  • Letter from Jeanette Merki to Seattle City Council and Mayor Schell (December 15, 1999)
  • WTO Accountability Review Committee website (includes timeline)

Photographs

 Citation: WTO Protestors marching, November 29, 1999.  Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #29. Seattle Municipal Archives.  Citation: WTO protestors with banner, November 29, 1999.  Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #11. Seattle Municipal Archives.  Citation: Mounted police with WTO protestors, November 29, 1999.  Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 991206.02 #21. Seattle Municipal Archives.
Protestors marching, November 29, 1999
Citation: WTO Protestors marching, November 29, 1999.

Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #29. Seattle Municipal Archives.


WTO protestors with banner, November 29, 1999
Citation: WTO protestors with banner, November 29, 1999.

Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #11. Seattle Municipal Archives.


Mounted police with protestors, November 29, 1999
Citation: Mounted police with WTO protestors, November 29, 1999.

Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 991206.02 #21. Seattle Municipal Archives.


 Citation: Protest march on Pine Street, November 29, 1999.  Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #36. Seattle Municipal Archives.  Citation: Police in riot gear, November 29, 1999.  Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 1999. 991206.02 #15. Seattle Municipal Archives.  Citation: Labor protestors with banner, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates.
Protest march on Pine Street, November 29, 1999
Citation: Protest march on Pine Street, November 29, 1999.

Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 19991129.01 #36. Seattle Municipal Archives.


Police in riot gear, November 29, 1999
Citation: Police in riot gear, November 29, 1999.

Unprocessed Image Bank Negatives, Binder 990909-20000330, Sheet 1999. 991206.02 #15. Seattle Municipal Archives.


Labor protestors with banner, November 30, 1999

Citation:
Labor protestors with banner, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates.
 Citation: Dog at WTO rally, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates  Citation: Protestors in turtle costumes, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates.  
Dog at WTO rally, November 30, 1999

Citation: Dog at WTO rally, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates
Protestors in turtle costumes, November 30, 1999

Citation: Protestors in turtle costumes, November 30, 1999. Copyright Peter Yates.
 

Bibliography

American Civil Liberties Union of Washington. "Out of Control: Seattle's Flawed Response to Protests Against the World Trade Organization - A Special Report." Seattle, July 2000. Locations: Seattle Municipal Archives Document 4918. Seattle Public Library 364.14309 AM3532 2000.

R.M. McCarthy & Associates. "An independent review of the 1999 World Trade Organization Conference disruptions in Seattle, Washington : a preliminary report for the City of Seattle focusing on planning and preparation. Seattle, April 2000. Locations: Seattle Municipal Archives Document 4916. Seattle Public Library SEADOC M4.9.

Paul Richmond. "Bringing in an Undemocratic Institution brings an Undemocratic Response." Seattle, July 2000. Locations: Seattle Municipal Archives 4917. Seattle Public Library 364.14309 R415B.

Seattle Times and Seattle Post Intelligencer newspaper articles.

Additional photographs, documents, and interviews can be found on the University of Washington Special Collections, Digital Collections, WTO Seattle page.