UA students protest WTO
Protesters from the Sonoran Justice Alliance - including 24 UA, Tucson and Mexican activist organizations - temporarily blocked traffic downtown yesterday, instigating honking horns, shouts of support and anger from passersby as they demonstrated against the World Trade Organization.
While about 50,000 activists chanted and rioted at the Seattle WTO meeting yesterday, 100 protesters gathered in front of the Bank One building in downtown Tucson, many holding signs accusing the WTO of environmental and human rights violations.
"The WTO has got to go! The WTO has got to go!" chanted alliance members as they waved signs and taunted pedestrians and nearby drivers outside the Bank One building at East Congress Street and North Stone Avenue.
The WTO, a global organization composed of 135 nations, promotes and regulates international trade. The demonstration targeted its ability to overrule national trade and environmental laws.
"WTO = Profits Over People," stated one sign, while a string of others combined to read, "WTO + Globalization = Famine."
The protest began at 4:30 p.m. and began to break up shortly after the scheduled ending time of 6 p.m.
As the protest continued into the evening, demonstrators began to move into the crosswalks during red lights, waving signs and continuing their chants.
Slow to move out of the intersection, the demonstrators caused traffic congestion, resulting in the arrival of the Tucson Police Department.
Once TPD officers arrived at about 5:30 p.m., they began directing traffic in order to relieve the congestion.
With the police presence, demonstrators left the crosswalks more rapidly when the stoplights turned green. No conflicts arose between demonstrators and police.
University of Arizona Students Against Sweatshops members and students from the Department of Women's Studies made up the majority of the 20 students at the protest.
The students blew bubbles and chanted along with the rest of the demonstrators.
"The WTO has got to go! Hey hey, ho ho!"
Women's studies students said they attended the demonstration to voice their disapproval with the WTO's ability to overlook human rights violations.
"The WTO violates the environmental and labor policies that affect women and everything," said Erika Giesen, UA women's studies graduate student.
SAS member Rachel Wilson raised other student concerns.
"The U.S. bought oil from Venezuela, but it was decided that the oil wasn't clean enough to be used here," she said. "Venezuela petitioned to the WTO and the U.S. environmental laws were considered trade barriers and now that oil is being burned in our cars."
Labor unions were also represented at the demonstration with the inclusion of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 104.
"We're not against profit but as things are, they are totally unjust," said teamster George Oliver. "There needs to be an even playing field."
At the beginning of the demonstration, Sonoran Justice Alliance representative Daniel Patterson was speaking via cell phone from Seattle to Tucson protesters.
"There are enough protesters so that now we are controlling the streets," Patterson said. "We've been having a great effect."
As the Tucson protest came to a close, demonstrators called out to passing drivers.
"Park your cars, stop your engines and come party with us," they shouted.