Real Battle in Seattle

Well over 40,000 activists (40,000 is the lowest estimate) from movements across the world converged in Seattle nearly ten years ago to fight the World Trade Organisation. Now a battle is ensuing over how to represent –and mediatize– this moment in history. The realbattleinseattle.org website is contesting the major film “Battle in Seattle” that will be distributed across the US this autumn. It is calling for social movements to reclaim their histories, stories and futures.

[“Battle in Seattle”] is a docu-drama—a fictional story based on real events—that features extensive archival footage. It may shape what most people in the US and around the world think happened for decades to come—unless we speak up. We call for social movements to take action: to reclaim our history, our stories, and our future.

The story of popular resistance to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999 is a story of how people power can change the world. It is a dangerous example for the global elite, and a powerful one for movements.

For eight years, the US corporate media, global elites, and their police have been twisting and marginalizing the truth, in order to invent their own story of Seattle 1999 and the stories of social movements’ resistance and victories. These lies and revisions of history have been used in an attempt to criminalize and repress our protests, movements, and mobilizations.

The movie will be released on the eighth anniversary of the 1999 Seattle anti-WTO uprising and shutdown. It was written by a well-meaning actor-director, but is unlikely to reflect the motives, experience, or thinking of the movements behind the shutdown of the WTO. The potential is high and the possibilities are infinite to interrupt this narrative and claim the history that we helped create.

It’s time that we in the social movements tell our own stories, reclaim our own histories, and publicly fight damaging myths of our movements past and present. We must intervene in the public understanding of what happened, what is happening, and what it all means. Stories are how we understand the world and thus shape the future—they are part of our fight against corporate power, empire, war, and social and environmental injustice and for the alternatives that will make a better world.

The real story of Seattle 1999 is of tens of thousands of people rising up, taking direct action, and changing history; standing up to corporations and governments and winning; joining with movements around the world in our common struggle against the WTO.

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