his movie captures the intensity of this historical event and delivers a message you don’t often hear in Hollywood! It’s a must see and see it soon! It may have a short run with its “power for the people” message and little corporate backing!
The actors are great– Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson and Andre 3000 and the others who I wasn’t familiar with.
At the time (1999), the New York Times declared the sea turtle protesters the “Symbol of Peaceful Protest” and we delivered a message that the WTO threatened our democracy when it ruled against the turtle-shrimp provsion of the Endangered Species Act declaring it a violation of so-called free trade.
Read what the a labor leader has to say at the AFL-CIO site
My STRP colleagues Peter Fugazzotto, Josh Knox, Teri Shore and I marched in turtle costumes, infiltrated inside the WTO with official delegate status, and protested in the streets. It was an intense and exciting few days, and I never imagined that nearly 10 years later it would be made into a Hollywood movie!
As many of you know, there were hundreds of activists dressed in turtle costumes. The mastermind of this guerilla theatre was my friend, the late Ben White, who organized scores of sewing bees in Seattle over many months to literally create a bus load of costumes. I salute you Ben White. Your spirit lives on.
So, what was the Battle of Seattle all about? From our perspective, the WTO is an organization made up of faceless, unelected trade bureaucrats, that meets in secret behind closed doors – and whose mantra of “free trade” is a threat to our democracy…
How is it a threat? Under WTO mind-speak, nations must “harmonize” laws to create so-called “free” trade -or another words lower the standards of protection to that of the worst polluters or human rights violators.
This means the WTO can over-rule our democratic process declaring our hard-fought environmental, labor, & public health laws a violation of free trade.
I ask YOU
·Do we have a right to keep products out of our marketplace that are made by child & slave labor?
· Do we have a right to keep shrimp caught in ways that unnecessarily drowns hundreds of thousands of endangered sea turtles in from being sold in the US?
Not according to the WTO!
Which is exactly how sea turtles and the WTO came into conflict. Under the Endangered Species Act, there is a provision called the turtle-shrimp law, which requires nations who wish to import their shrimp into the US to use a simple device to keep endangered sea turtles from drowning. It’s called a Turtle Excluder Device or TED.
The turtle-shrimp import law was not being enforced until we sued the US government. Once it was enforced, four Asian nations challenged the law at the WTO calling it a violation of free trade-and the WTO ruled in their favor.
This was the first case of the WTO attempting to overturn the environmental laws of a sovereign nation- It was the first concrete example of how trade laws were trumping common sense environmental protection. At first the Clinton administration was ready to weaken the Endangered Species Act to appease the WTO, but we organized opposition from virtually every major environmental organization, and the US government finally agreed to appeal.
The Battle of Seattle protests, compelled the WTO to back down and it overturned its earlier ruling.
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project was honored to play our role at the battle of Seattle. We hung a banner inside the WTO meetings; we marched in the streets and blocked entranceways, we organized scientist opposition, and we joined the labor march with the chant of “Turtles and Teamsters United.” We sent out scores of press releases, did hundreds of media interviews, and purchased full-page newspaper ads and billboards.
But the battle is not over. Globalization still threatens our oceans and their marine inhabitants. For example swordfish and tuna, caught in ways that kill sea turtles, dolphins and whales…, is today shipped overnight around the world… being taken from waters used by impoverished communities and shipped to the US and wealthynations to meet our luxury needs.
And thus we’re still fighting to protect our oceans and our laws.
So enjoy the movie, but join us in the struggle for democracy, healthy oceans and healthy communities– and never underestimate turtle power!
Viva La Tortuga!