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A daily report from the World Trade Organization summit, Seattle

by LBO editor Doug Henwood

Thursday, December 2

After a pretty rough night, things are quiet today. Black helicopters continue to circle the city. There are still cops & National Guard all over the place, five or 10 on every street corner downtown - though they're milling about and drinking coffee rather than looking like they're ready to attack. They've also regained their mellow demeanor, reminding pedestrians to wait for the Walk light (even at blockaded intersections) and terminating their answers to queries with a polite "Sir."

Yesterday, though, was another story. Cops and Guard, under pressure from the White House to clear the streets (even as Clinton was publicly embracing the protesters' message), went on a rampage of beating, gassing, and rubber-bulletting peaceful protesters. (The gassed reported that a nastier variety was being used as the day wore on.) Late last night, several hundred marchers thronged the yuppie neighborhood of Belltown, and then moved onto the more boho precincts of Capitol Hill, where they were gassed. Angry residents, many of them no ideological friends of the protesters, ran outside to denounce the cops for filling their homes with teargas and for harassing people who were simply trying to make a political point.

Meanwhile, back at the convention center, the official proceedings aren't proceeding very far. A draft text on liberalizing agricultural trade - an obession of the U.S. and the so-called Cairns Group of exporters - is circulating, but there are many points of disagreement. Today's business press is full of reports of a failing summit, and blows to U.S. prestige and to Clinton's "legacy." What wonderful developments! As the Wall Street Journal's Bob Davis said, instead of the millennial round of trade talks the administration so dearly wanted it got the Tear Gas round. That paper's editorial page, always good for a laugh, denounces the protesters as "shock troops [for] special interests trying to protect their own privileges at the expense of workers in the rest of the world." It's moving when capital's apologists speak on behalf of the world's poor.

Yesterday's Seattle Times had an article on the delegation of anarchists fr