45 Arrested in a Protest Against Capitalism
By KATHERINE E. FINKELSTEIN
Published: November 27, 1999
Four days before the World Trade Organization is to convene in Seattle to lay the groundwork for a global round of trade negotiations, about 400 young anti-capitalists held a roving protest in Manhattan yesterday afternoon that blocked traffic and resulted in 45 arrests.
The event, called ”Buy Nothing Day,” was staged by members of an international group, Reclaim the Streets, to oppose the traditional consumer frenzy on the day after Thanksgiving.
Wearing ties with images of dollar bills, pink feather boas and face paint, the protesters denounced corporate globalization, environmental destruction and consumerism, and passed out Chinese cookies with messages like ”Globalize Liberation, Not Corporate Power.”
The protesters, who did not have a permit, moved continually to avoid the police. They started in Union Square at 14th Street, moved to Times Square and continued to Bryant Park at 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas, as organizers moved them along with an air horn.
The demonstration stopped traffic at Broadway and 44th Street for about 40 minutes, group leaders estimated.
The group opposes the World Trade Organization’s summit meeting, demonstrators said, because the W.T.O.’s leaders are not democratically elected, yet make economic decisions that affect health, safety and the environment.
One protester, Tim Santamour of Brooklyn, said, ”In a week, the World Trade Organization will decide some huge economic issues without asking us — just corporations and C.E.O.’s.”
At Bryant Park, Ross Bingham, 36, a caterer and social worker, said of multinational corporations: ”You can’t control them. They’re above the law of the country and they do what they please.”
Another protester, who gave his name as Pogo and wore a red clown nose with orange wig, said that he was demonstrating against ”the loss of individual and community power to corporations.”
Standing in Times Square, where most of the 45 arrests on disorderly conduct charges were made, he added that the area had come to symbolize the takeover of neighborhoods by corporations.
Reclaim the Streets was formed in London in 1991 to protest the creation of new highways. Since then, the group has branched out and, according to a leaflet, has attracted ”ecologists, anti-road activists, squatters, artists” and even ”fire breathers.”
Protesters yelled, ”Unnecessary force, unnecessary force,” as police officers carried them away from Times Square with their hands bound behind their backs with plastic handcuffs.
One protester clambered to the top of a 25-foot-high tripod as the crowd cheered. Police officers pulled him down and arrested him.