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New Hollywood Film Dramatizes Battle to Save Sea Turtles at the World Trade Organization in Seattle

STRP’s Todd Steiner Joined Protests and Today Carries on the Fight

A special screening and reception of the new Hollywood film Battle in Seattle will be held on Friday, September 19, at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, CA at 7 pm to benefit Sea Turtle Restoration Project. The film brings to the big screen for the first time the historic protests when over a hundred thousand protesters shut down the 1999 World Trade Organization conference in Seattle, WA.

Todd Steiner, director of the international nonprofit Sea Turtle Restoration Project, will present the film and describe how this small environmental group from West Marin took on the World Trade Organization (WTO), and won in its fight to protect sea turtles worldwide through a critical U.S. law. View backgrounder.

Steiner’s organization won the legal battles to stop the slaughter of sea turtles in shrimp nets that resulted in the WTO’s challenge to the US Endangered Species Act. This challenge also mobilized the grassroots outpouring that led to hundreds of peaceful activists dressed as sea turtles protesting on the streets of Seattle during the WTO meeting in 1999.

To purchase tickets, call the Sea Turtle Restoration Project at 415-663-8590 ext. 0.

This powerful dramatization by filmmaker Stuart Townsend features Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin, Ray Liotta and other talented cast members.

For Steiner, the meeting was a culmination of decades of environmental and social justice activism that allowed him to pull out all the techniques at his disposal to call attention to, and stop, the WTO’s undemocratic actions.

As an official delegate at the Seattle WTO meeting, he spoke eloquently in meetings and forums about the legal fight to save sea turtles that was under threat.

As an environmental activist with 20 years experience in civil disobedience, he saw the need to take the next step, and organized a banner drop in the main meeting hall that read
Free Trade = Dead Sea Turtles: Clinton Say No to the WTO, and worked with community organizers who brought together groups as disparate as sea turtle biologists and Teamsters to demand recognition and representation in the World Trade Organization.

The organization’s fight against the WTO began after a closed-door ruling by the WTO that a United States environmental law that protects sea turtles around the world from drowning in shrimp nets was a “barrier to free trade” and must be struck down.

With this negative ruling in place at the WTO Court, the US government agreed to come into compliance with WTO rules, and the US State Department began to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act, the U.S.’s and possibly the world’s most important law to protect the environment and endangered wildlife.

This issue provided a concrete example of the threat of the WTO to U.S. sovereign environmental laws. Thousands of protesters and activists highlighted the peaceful symbol of the sea turtle as they took to the Seattle streets to nonviolently oppose the 1999 WTO conference dressed in sea turtle costumes and carrying sea turtle signs. In the film, Andre Benjamin (a.k.a. hip hop artist Andre 3000) plays a peaceful sea turtle activist working to bring the issue to the fore.

Battle in Seattle will play at the Smith Rafael Film Center for a limited run, from September 19 through October 1. The film is also playing in San Francisco and select cities nationwide.

Original WTO Battle of Seattle sea turtle costumes and other WTO memorabilia will be on display.

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Resources

• Interviews with Todd Steiner available.

• Variety Magazine’s review of the film is available at: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117934682.html?categoryid=2850&cs=1

• Film Journal International’s review of the film is available at: http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/reviews/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003845905