Julliette Beck
Speech at Kent State
May 4, 2000

JullietteBeckCrop.jpg (15957 bytes)

Greetings. I come from San Francisco where I just came back from a successful protest in Washington D.C. And it is such a remarkable honor to be here today with all of you. Because I think it is so critical that we begin to understand and connect with our history. My generation really has very little concept, I feel I have no concept of what it's like to live in a country at war. And today we're starting to get a sense and trying to put the pictures together, the collage. the people, the experience so that we can understand what happened here on this university thirty years ago. And as a woman my age, that's been helping me understand these issues. I've asked practically everyone that I can, to tell me what was going on. "Can you explain? What was it like then?" And one of the people that has really inspired me and has embodied in one sense the spirit of Seattle.

Many people think of Seattle, puppets and laughter and joy in the streets as well as the protests. And Allie Star is one of these women that was instrumental in creating that festival of resistance on the streets of Seattle. And she wrote these words reflecting after the protests in Washington D.C. just a few days ago, "We are honored to be part of a long lineage on non-violent, direct action social change movements. We stand in solidarity with the tea throwers in Boston, with the women who fought for one hundred and fifty years to vote, with those who would not be moved from lunch counters and bus seats in the civil rights movement, with the folks of the labor movement who strike for the eight hour day and worker's rights, with students who burned their draft cards and resisted the Vietnam War, with the blockaders who prevented nuclear power plants from being built in all of our cities, with the gentle warriors who put their bodies on the line to protect our last remaining ecosystems (And Julia Butterfly is certainly one of them, honored to have her here today.). And all of the courageous people throughout history who have taken power into their own hands to fight for every ounce of freedom we are now struggling to preserve."

Those are the words of Allie Starr. If you notice her name, Allie, because she was named after Allison, the woman who lost her life here thirty years ago. And I think it's highly symbolic that her parents named her after Allison and that she has been an inspiration to us as we have developed our social movement around corporate globalization.

One of the things I have learned in trying to put together the picture and put together...piece together history of the past thirty years is that one of the reasons why the students here on May 4, thirty years ago, were protesting, was because Nixon and the United States had moved into Cambodia. My friend Tom, a gentleman, a reporter with the ILWU, reminded me that the reason the students were so outraged and took to the streets on that day, because, it's one thing for the United States to be fighting an undeclared war in Vietnam, but it was a whole other thing for the United States to be fighting an undeclared war on other countries in Cambodia and Laos where they were bombing and they were planting landmines and destroying the infrastructure of that region for decades to come, for decades to come. It's not known, not as well reported.

The other thing that I have learned in tracing back the history is that one of the people that was responsible for escalating the war was the Undersecretary of Defense. His name was Robert MacNamara. Robert MacNamara, as soon as he was done with the war in Vietnam that was stopped because, in large part, of the brave young souls, the student protests that drew the line against the violence in Vietnam and said, "We will not let this happen." and put their bodies on the line, sacrificed their lives for this. He went on to the World Bank. Robert MacNamara became the president of the World Bank.

And this is where my studies, my fight comes into the picture. When I look back on the fifty year legacy of the World Bank, an institution who supposedly dedicated itself to alleviating poverty, I realize this institution, at the hands of people like Robert MacNamara, have done one thing, increased control, U.S. control, U.S. economic interests over the countries in the rest of the world. The World Bank economic interests are merely disguising U.S. corporate interests. The World Bank has increased poverty. It has increased indebtedness. It has caused an ecosystem disaster, a natural disaster of unbelievable, incomprehensible proportions. We are living in a world where seven million children die each year from the economic policies perpetuated by the Word Bank,  the structural adjustment policies that MacNamara masterminded.We are living in a world where 250 million children go to work in sweatshops rather than school each day, where forty thousand people die each day of hunger. Every major ecosystem on the earth is in decline. By the year two thousand twenty it is possible that two thirds of the world's population will not have access to clean water. This is what's happening in the world around us.

Corporations like Nike and GAP, their stocks and their profits soaring while their workers are starving... while their workers are starving. And when young people learn that their shoes are being made in sweatshops by people who do not have the opportunity to go to school like they are, they say, "No way! That's wrong! That is just plain morally wrong!" and they are rising up against this injustice.

The students' sweatshop movement is the last five years has swept across this country like wildfire. It has took this country by storm. People are connecting the issue of sweatshops with their university campuses because they realize that all the clothes you guys wear, all we wear, these logos and everything. These are made in sweatshops. Right? And we have the power to change that.

We can go to our own administrations and say, "No! We don't want you buy our clothes in sweatshops. We want you to adopt these policies to assure that workers' rights are being respected, that workers are being treated decently." This is what the student movement is doing and they're doing it with direct action. They are sitting-in at their administrative offices. They are blockading offices. They are shutting these offices down so that their voice will be heard. They are people speaking for workers all around the world whose voices are silenced on this because they are too poor and they are too desperate and they are too weak to resist these corporations. It's our responsibility. It's our responsibility!

So, if the fact that people are making these connections, they're making connections to where our clothes are mad, where our food comes from, these agribusinesses that don't care if our food is nutritious, these genetically engineered foods and what-nots, where our coffee comes from...Some of these countries that I've visited...the workers who pick our coffee beans...are so poor their babies are dying from diarrhea. I mean...Hello! They can't even feed their children three meals a day and we're benefiting by drinking their coffee. Okay. It's time to put an end to that.

One of the campaigns that we work on at Global Exchange is a Fair Trade Coffee Campaign. We've had to go outside the World Bank, outside the IMF and the WTO to develop a system, a humane economic system that's called Fair Trade. It's a certification that assures that workers who are picking the coffee beans, who are growing the coffee, are making a living wage, they're able to feed their families three meals a day, the environment's being protected, it's shade grown coffee, it's a certification. And we went to Starbucks and said we're going to launch a campaign and put people on the streets and demand that Starbucks carry Fair Trade coffee.

Well, guess what? We didn't have time to launch a campaign because Starbucks agreed to our demands. They agreed to our demands before we even launched the campaign and that is the power of the student movements, of social justice movements against sweatshops. We said, "Starbucks! You don't want to carry sweatshop coffee now? Do you? You don't want to be synonymous with sweatshop coffee?" They said, "Un uh. No way."

So this is a rising power of the corporate accountability movement that's demanding that corporations be socially and environmentally responsible. We can and we are winning. What excites me most is that people are waking up to the reality of corporate globalization, the way that the World Bank and the IMF and the WTO are perpetration their policies.

And while the bombs have stopped dropping in Vietnam, I see bombs dropping now, larger bombs. What the United States couldn't do militarily, perhaps they have done economically through these institutions and through these bombs.
They're call Trade Agreements, Free Trade Agreements. The bombs have names like NAFTA. The bombs have names like AIPEC. The bombs have names like, a big one, called the WTO, the World Trade Organization. That bomb was dropped almost five years ago. And the legacy of that bomb means that, in one felled swoop, the World Trade Organization, perhaps the most powerful institution on earth, was able to undermine laws that social movements and the environmental movements spent decades fighting for. This is the Clean Air Act, The U.S. Endangered Species Act, protecting sea turtles, the act protecting dolphins. All of these things have been declared barriers to free trade by the World Trade Organization because they have the power to decide when our laws that we have fought for and democratically passed, are barriers to free trade. And they're able to impose sanctions, economic sanctions, to make that ruling enforceable. They are an incredibly powerful institution that has teeth and that's why fifty thousand people...fifty thousand people joined together on November 30th on the streets of Seattle to shut down the World Trade Organization, to shut down the WTO.

By the way, there's another bomb being dropped right today as we speak, the African Growth and Opportunity Act is being passed most likely by our Congress because we haven't taken this enough of their attention, that they realize there's a real political cost of voting for these free trade agreements.

That's what we have to do this summer folks. No more Free Trade Agreements. Congress should not be able to sell our democracy and perpetuate the interests of multinational corporations all over the globe with these agreements. It's time to start putting people before profits and that was the message we brought to the streets of Seattle.

For the first time we made headlines and got that message out. And it was because probably about ten thousand of those fifty thousand people came actually to shut down thee WTO through non-violent, direct action. We started training for months beforehand doing non-violence trainings. How many of you folks have done non-violence training here? Yeah! Okay. We should all do some non-violence training. These trainings totally train you and prepare you for the streets. But they prepare you for life because we live in a very violent society. There's violence all around us. We need to learn how to cope with that on a daily basis. And that's what these trainings are about.

We started doing non-violence trainings to prepare people for the streets of Seattle and on November 30th ten thousand people organized into affinity groups, marched into the streets. It was early dawn. We woke up at the crack of dawn and gathered on the streets of Seattle in two different locations and through the mists I see the puppets rising up and I see the people starting to gather and I hear songs, freedom songs being sung. And we marched out on the streets. Within about an hour, by eight a.m., we had secured a fifty block area around the WTO convention center. We had physically shut down the WTO meeting.

Well. Guess who couldn't get to the meeting? The master of ceremonies herself, the U.S. Trade Representative, Charlene Barchesky was stuck in her hotel. So was Madelaine Albright, Secretary of State, couldn't get to their meeting. So you know what happened? It's very clear what happened. The White House got on the phone with the Seattle police and said, "Do what you gotta do but bust those lines open."

They weren't prepared for the sheer number of people who could come out to do this action. They didn't take us seriously that we could pull it off and we were doing it! We were shutting it down! People like Madelaine Albright weren't getting to their meetings. So the White House threw a hissy fit and that's when the tear gas was fired. That's when the Seattle police unleashed with a torrent of tear gas and rubber bullets and all of the violence that you heard about. The Seattle police flung it out onto the non-violent protesters who were standing arm-in-arm, linked arm-in-arm shutting down the WTO.

I, at this point we were comforting some young people who where tear gassed and them wanted to check out what was going on inside the meeting. I had a badge and my badge allowed me to go inside the meeting. Well. I walked into the Paramount Theater, no meeting taking place there. In fact, the halls were empty. The chairs had all the names of the country's representatives who were supposed to be in on all the meetings and they weren't there.

And we said, "Ah." They're always encouraging us to have a dialog. They don't want us on the streets. Right? They want us at this table to have a dialog. It's much more civil or something.

So here's our chance. We walked up . I called my colleagues from Global Exchange. We walked up to the podium and by some fate of god or goddess the podium, the microphone was on. And we said, "Hello! We're from Global Exchange. We'd like to have a dialog about the way the World Trade Organizations undermining labor rights and human rights and the environment world wide. We'd like to have this dialog. You know. Make some good use of the time here." Well. Rest assured. The WTO didn't like that one bit and before too long we were yanked off the stage. I was dragged out of the building, wasn't arrested. CNN thought I was arrested and my image has now been recorded by CNN and shown all over the world. A friend of mine saw it in Cuba. Me on CNN being dragged out of the Paramount Theater. Our shot was heard around the world that day.

And I walked down the street after being thrown out of the Paramount Theater. One thing, the first thing I heard were the Teamsters coming in. And they were chanting to the turtle folks, "Teamsters love turtles." Like, huh? And then the turtle folks were yelling, "Turtles love Teamsters." Teamsters love turtles. Turtles love Teamsters. Things are changing. We're making connections here that we have common interests and that's the movement of movements that is taking place. The labor movement, the human rights movement. Heck , even the extension of the Civil Rights Movement who are fighting against police brutality in this police state we are living in with two million Americans in jail in prisons right now. It's out of control. And we've come together in this movement of movements to draw the line in the sand.

I want to invite you this summer to participate in a summer of action, a summer of action. If you don't consider yourself and activist, then you don't understand the meaning of the peoples whose lives were lost fighting May 4th. They were trying to create a better world around them. Very simple. They saw inhumane injustices going on and they wanted to put an end to it. Well. Look around folks. There are a lot of injustices going on right now.

It's the global economy, locally against the environment, against women, against human rights. And we've got to be working on this. We've got to be working on this. It's time to draw the line in the sand, to turn the tide for true democracy. To take back our government from corporations. The time to act is now.  The time is now. It's time to reclaim our power.

It's been a very disempowering over thirty years. It's time to reclaim our power, rebuild our communities, do these non-violence trainings, get together, find people who have common interests, rebuild out communities, restore the earth! Restore the earth! And fight for liberty and justice for all, for all people, for all life, everywhere. The time to act is now! Thank You.

For more information on globilization and the fight against corporate domination link below:
Democratizing the Global Economy-Global Exchange web site.
Z-Net's WTO Section-Much on the "Battle in Seattle" as well as many links to other sites on globilization.

Other May 4, 2000 Speeches
Barry Levine on Allison Krause | Ramona Africa | Wendy Semon-Introduction | Julliette Beck |
Julia Butterfly Hill | Vernon Bellecourt | Noam Chomsky

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