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By Rowan C. Millar

WTO Protest Has Links With The Past..........


Recent events in Seattle have led some to look back to times gone by for answers. Answers are hard to find in this situation, a situation where hundreds of peaceful protesters with support from the president were treated horrifically by the Seattle Police and the other battalions that were brought in. As police used more and more brute force in Seattle, protesters began chanting "The whole world is watching!" in reference to the numerous television and video cameras about. Nary a soul out there knew the roots of their chant.

The first time that chant was used was in downtown Chicago in 1968. The situation was much the same. There was a large organized event, in this case the Democratic National Convention, and a larger underground event was created around it in the city streets by the radical left, mostly youth, from all across America. Radicals such as David Dillinger and Tom Hayden were in attendance, as well as Allen Ginsbergh and the Zippies and whatnot. In both cases the protester's demands were varied but almost all protest was peaceful, and in both cases the police brutalized them. "The whole world is watching!" was a spontaneous chant that got going at one of the peaks of violence in Chicago, where huge Chicago Police were grabbing anybody they could and beating them senseless. I've seen a bit of the footage of it that the whole world was watching and I can tell you, it looked like a war with only one side fighting.

Who started the parallel chant in Washington, I don't know, but it certainly was a poignant statement, and one that deserves looking into. How are we different from how we were then, as a country? I think some people believed that the press coverage of the 1968 convention would put an end to such abuses of power. It may have had some effect to that end, but obviously incompletely. My sister was in Seattle protesting, and I would've been too, if I hadn't gotten a false snowstorm report a few days prior. There are questions I have about the morality of protesting in the street and holding up traffic and such, but beyond any of that, how can these cops get away with beating up America's children? I pray that this time around, with times changed and the Baby Boomers in more positions of power, there will be even more public outrage and productive thought.

In the case of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, I think it's fairly well agreed upon that much of the violence had roots in class struggle. The cops, for the most part, were young men without much economic prospect in life, without much exposure to the intellectual and political worlds. The protesters were generally middle class to upper middle class youths, who were generally in college or had graduated from college or had dropped out of college. These were people who had the bourgeois world at their fingertips, but chose to look beyond it. These cops had little trouble developing a terrible hatred of the protesters, hippy types that they were. What created that predisposition to hatred is not entirely clear, but it seems to fit in with the atrocities in Seattle. Until we solve problems like these, I won't have the heart to tell anarchists that this system is good and just or that they're wrong in tearing it down. And that is something I'd very much like the ability to say.

By Rowan Millar Rowan is a Gen Y'er living in Silicon Valley. He has a personal interest in history of the 60's and Boomers Generation. Rowan will be writing articles for us and representing the voice of Generation Y on Boomers International Web Site.

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