WTO movie a chance to revisit, rewrite history
For many former WTO protesters, the best part about playing extras in a movie about the 1999 Seattle riots was dealing with the cops. "My favorite part of...
Seattle Times staff reporter
For many former WTO protesters, the best part about playing extras in a movie about the 1999 Seattle riots was dealing with the cops.
"My favorite part of today is that the cops were paid to protect us," Cydney Gillis of Seattle said Sunday, referring to the confrontations and riots over a gathering of the World Trade Organization that had Seattle police using tear gas and rubber bullets to control the streets.
For others, it was another chance to participate in an event they said changed their lives.
"It was a mountaintop experience for a lot of us, and this was a re-enactment of that," said Randy Rowland, who met several times with the film's director as a member of Pepper Spray Productions, which documents confrontations between protesters and police.
The movie, which is being filmed in Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle, is about the five days of protests that greeted the WTO's first ministerial meeting in the United States, when anti-globalization protests erupted into full-scale, tear-gas-choked riots.
"Battle in Seattle" will star Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron and was written and is being directed by her boyfriend, Irish actor Stuart Townsend.
According to the Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com), other stars include actors Susan Sarandon, Ray Liotta, Woody Harrelson, Michelle Rodriguez and Andre Benjamin, aka Andre 3000 from the hip-hop group Outkast.
The movie depicts the chaos that ensued after more than 50,000 protesters — some representing labor interests, others protesting "corporate greed," some dressed as endangered animals — jammed into downtown Seattle seven years ago.
On the second day of demonstrations, police responded to the dense crowds and to incidents of violence with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and concussion grenades. WTO delegates and ministers were trapped inside hotels as black-clad anarchists smashed store windows.
The National Guard was called in to patrol parts of Seattle as video footage of garbage bins on fire and overturned police cars was played on the national news.
Bob Barnes, a social activist with Jobs for Justice who was active in the events of the real WTO demonstrations, was an extra during weekend filming. He described as surreal the re-enactment of a moment during the demonstration when police and city authorities tried to separate a group of labor marchers from other protesters.
"It was painful because we were filming a scene that was a low point, when the groups were divided. It was personally painful for me because I played one of the marchers who walks by and does not join the protesters. I felt like I was abandoning my comrades."
For Gillis, who watched most of the 1999 demonstrations and riots from her Capitol Hill apartment, being able to fully participate was a joy.
"I rewrote my own history today by being able to participate in the march," she said. "It felt good."
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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