SEATTLE — The National Guard was called in to help maintain order and city officials imposed a nighttime curfew Tuesday following a day of riot-tinged protests that delayed the opening ceremonies of the four-day World Trade Organization meeting here.
Many of the 3,000 WTO delegates and observers from more than 135 countries were prevented from reaching meetings by the protesters, who ringed hotels and clogged streets and key intersections.
An estimated 50,000 protesters have assembled in the city to protest WTO authority to override national laws considered an impediment to trade. Protesters say that authority threatens U.S. environmental law and a variety of worker and consumer protection laws.
The WTO is scheduled to address a number of issues that affect the entertainment industry, including Internet distribution of U.S. films, copyright protections and government film subsidies.
Tensions escalated Tuesday after police used pepper spray to disperse crowds that had stalled the meeting’s opening ceremonies at the Paramount Theater.
Some angry demonstrators smashed downtown windows at a McDonald’s, an FAO Schwartz toy store, a Joan and David shoe store and U.S.Bank. “Barbie Kills” was sprayed on a toy-store window full of Barbie dolls.
Activists upended garbage bins in the streets to serve as blockades and barricades. Some vandalized police vehicles, methodically slashing tires, kicking in doors and scrawling graffiti,
Mayor Paul Schell said using gas was “the last thing I wanted to have to do.”
“I think it’s something some of the protesters wanted us to do,” he said, though he added that the vast majority were “respecting their pledge to be peaceful.”
Adding to the chaos in the city center was a sympathy strike by 600 taxi drivers, and the cancellation of bus services in the city center where the four-day meetings were to be held.
An estimated 20,000 protesters gathered at a stadium near the Space Needle where Teamsters union prez James Hoffa Jr. vowed “We’re going to change WTO or we’re going to get rid of WTO.”
Activities outside the downtown core area were continuing normally.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)