AFP Hypes Anti-Trade Crowd
Covering the anti-globalization protests during last week’s G20 meetings in Pittsburgh, AFP reporter Karin Zeitvogel reported on September 25:
Thousands of people peacefully demonstrated during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, but police reportedly arrested 40 as they clashed with a smaller group late Friday.
Waving banners and chanting slogans, protesters on Friday flooded into city streets lined with police in full riot gear, still tense after violent anti-G20 protests in the eastern US city late Thursday.
Security forces in Pittsburgh said there were up to 4,500 marchers, but Peter Shell, president of the Thomas Merton Center which helped organize the march, estimated the number at twice that.
It was the biggest protest march in Pittsburgh since the 1970s protests against Vietnam,” Shell told AFP.
Zeitvogel’s story depicts a large and important anti-capitalism rally full of colorful, well-intentioned protesters. But missing from her coverage of the protests in Pittsburgh was any discussion of their size relative to earlier iterations of the anti-globalization protest movement. Such a comparison would likely lead the reader to draw a much different conclusion.
The “grandfather” of the modern anti-globalization movement - the 1999 protests against the World Trade Organization’s Ministerial Meeting in Seattle - drew over 40,000 protesters, according to similar local police estimates. Those protests - featuring large, coordinated numbers of unionists, anarchists, environmental “advocates,” socialists, and “consumer groups” - really flooded Seattle’s streets and literally shut down both the city of Seattle and the WTO meetings themselves. The follow-up to Seattle - the April 2000 protests against the annual World Bank and IMF meetings in Washington, DC - featured at least 10,000 protesters, summoned about 1,500 additional police, and shut down most of the city (although the official meetings still took place).
Compared to these protests, the G20 ruckus was actually a pretty tepid display and probably signaled the decline of the anti-globalization movement, rather than its resurgence.