Certainly, we've turned out more people to march around DC on a Saturday than took part in the Seattle action. But we've never shut the place down on a series of weekdays and prevented congressional, White House, and military staff from getting to work. And we've never tried to do so -- not with the sort of broad-coalition, grass-roots, strategic organization that led up to Seattle. Handfuls of dedicated activists, sometimes including some of the same people who organized Seattle, have made feeble attempts. Here's an effort that I coordinated, which failed: http://campdemocracy.org A couple of Iraq War Anniversaries ago, peace groups engaged in creative nonviolent action in DC, but with a different approach from Seattle, and with meager results. As side-shows to marches, or as independent actions, we've gotten arrested, including at the Capitol, but we haven't closed the place down.
Now there are plans for major protests in Copenhagen, but there are also plans to shut down DC in March: http://peaceoftheaction.org Unless this effort grows dramatically very soon, it too will not match what was done 10 years ago. It may be worth our while to look at the lessons in this new book by David Solnit, Rebecca Solnit, and other contributors. One obvious point is that the WTO was scheduled to meet briefly, and a limited protest could actually prevent that meeting. Even if we know that Congress is scheduled to vote on war funding, we could shut Congress down for a week and then watch it pass the war funding on the 8th day. But the WTO, too, could have delayed or moved its meeting. If we were to shut things down for a week and convey the popularity of our cause, we might shut the wars down for good. The popularity of our cause depends on good communications strategies and strict adherence to nonviolence, and therefore also good strategies for countering false charges of violence.
We have to invest months of hard work in planning and coalition building. Seattle was built at the grass roots for months through educational efforts and the facilitation of creative planning by diverse groups. A coalition was built that included communities directly impacted by the WTO's actions. And it was a diffuse, decentralized coalition of affinity groups and clusters using open democratic decision-making and collective leadership. People were trained, and trained well, in nonviolent resistance, including in the use of locks and other equipment for the creation of human barriers. The city was divided into pie slices with the WTO meeting place at the center, and different groups had the responsibility to shut down their slice of the pie.
We can easily create a powerful message for war opposition. Here's a rough draft of one:
Wars kill innocent people.
Wars kill soldiers and mercenaries.
Wars wound, injure, traumatize, and brutalize.
Wars take our resources away from food, housing, healthcare, jobs, education, clean energy.
Wars take our civil rights away in the false name of national security.
Wars make us less safe, enraging people against our country.
Wars poison our environment.
Wars encourage racism and bigotry at home and abroad.
If you think it's time we shut down the empire at the heart of the WTO with tactics so effectively used to weaken the WTO, pick up a copy of "The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle" and get in touch -- and get your organizations in touch -- with this group of dedicated citizens in order to coordinate your own independent efforts to close off a pie-slice of Capitol Hill: http://peaceoftheaction.org
David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book.