Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
23 - 29 December 1999
Issue No. 461
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

Front Page
Non-violent protest

Sir- Mohamed Sid-Ahmed's statement (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 December) that demonstrators "used street violence to disrupt the [WTO] conference" was less than accurate.

According to most of the people who were there, including my own nephew, the violence in Seattle was police violence. The media here, in fact, did its usual job of smothering the issues surrounding the WTO by blowing up the rare protest violence, a very few broken store fronts and a couple of burning dumpsters, into violent anarchy.

In fact, the demonstrators were using nonviolent tactics: traditional civil disobedience as taught by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. A more nonviolent means of protest, one guaranteed by the US Constitution, mind you, does not exist. There was no violence at all on the part of protesters, until, according to my nephew and thousands of others who were present, the police, without any warning to disperse, began tear-gassing demonstrators, clubbing them and shooting them with rubber bullets.

Many demonstrators were injured, and many were arrested without cause, held illegally and some were brutalised in jail. The police even invaded a nearby neighbourhood of residences and shops and beat, gassed and shot even the residents who were not involved in the demonstrations, and who were merely trying to get home, or were objecting to tear gas fumes in their homes.

The so-called violence on the part of demonstrators was committed by a very small minority of self-styled anarchists from Eugene, Oregon, and the demonstrators attempted to stop them, but even this "violence" occurred many hours after the police started gassing, beating and shooting.

It was not a riot of demonstrators, but a police riot. And, according to an article in the Seattle Times, it occurred because of direct pressure from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno. Further, there was hour-by-hour coverage of the event at several easily found websites set up by the organisers of the demonstrations and dissenting publications in the US such as Z Magazine providing eyewitness accounts that were contradicting corporate media distortions as they occurred.

Your publication, in my opinion, has not done enough to expose the threat to democracy posed by the WTO. Merely repeating the distortions of the US media about demonstrator violence is not good journalism in this day and age.

James A Cronin
Washington State, US

Beyond the nightmare

Sir- I very much enjoyed reading Ghadi Karmi's article, "Turning a nightmare into a dream" (Al-Ahram Weekly, 9-15 December), which expressed the feelings of millions of Arabs as regards the status quo of the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. I quite agree that the Palestinian Authority must take a stringent attitude towards Israel's intransigence.

Israel is still evading any peace agreement that grants Palestinians their full rights to autonomy and self-determination. The Palestinians have gone through enough suffering and agony. I believe that Palestinians have received nothing so far considering the long years of struggle. The question now is: how much land are Palestinians going to get in the end? It's really time the Palestinians did something about it.

Essam Hanna Wahba

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