For a #TPP Photo Gallery, visit Kit O’Connell’s Approximately 8,000 Words
After a weekend of protest and controversy, it’s clear that the TransPacific Partnership, the secretive and far-reaching international trade deal negotiated in Addison, Texas is under fire. The more sunshine we let in, the less attractive this deal looks to world leaders.
From a direct action perspective, the highlight of the week was the major disruption caused by Yes Lab pranksters with support from Occupy Dallas. Their efforts, which included replacing the toilet paper in the hotel with special ‘TPP’ message paper, culminated in a major infiltration and the presentation of a fake “Corporate Power Tool” award to US Trade Representative Ron Kirk:
The first action began when a smartly-dressed man approached the podium immediately after the gala’s keynote speech by Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative and former mayor of Dallas. The man (local puppeteer David Goodwin) introduced himself as “Git Haversall,” president of the “Texas Corporate Power Partnership,” and announced he was giving Kirk and other U.S. trade negotiators the “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award,” which “Haversall’s” partner held aloft.
Citizens on Twitter from around the world bombarded political accounts in the US with demands to halt the deal:
On Saturday, I livetweeted and liveblogged from the TPP: Out of the Shadows rally. A collection of activists from around the country (and even a handful of international visitors) gathered in Addison Circle Park. The coalition, organized by the Texas Fair Trade Coalition, ranged from unions like the Teamsters to multiple Occupy groups like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. I was dropped at the park around noon on a bus with about 40 occupiers and activists; I’d greatly enjoyed the quiet company of the National Nurses United contingent who were proud of their victory in the upcoming Chicago rally and Tom Morello concert. A lunch had been provided for some, but with no vegetarian options a few of us went in search of other food.
By the time I got back, the rally had grown to over 300 people. Red TPP balloons dotted the crowd, along with signs and banners. Occupy Austin had brought our banner from May Day, “Workers of the World: Occupy!” Anonymous supporters were even present among the crowd, a sign of the major push that movement has been making against the trade deal on social media. The only mainstream media I spotted were from Japan, but I didn’t catch which network they represented.
At about 2pm central time, we marched on the Intercontinental Hotel. This march had a permit; we were to remain on the sidewalk until we reached the roads immediately around the hotel. Teamsters assigned as parade marshals tried to enforce this, but occupiers led a surge into the streets some blocks ahead of schedule. We’d been told not to enter hotel property, even the parking lot, or risk arrest. Simple wooden barricades were placed at the entrance. A couple dozen cops were present, but none of the riot gear reported earlier in the week was visible, although dark suited federal police lurked around.
After just a few moments, three women from a union led the crowd around the barricade and into the parking lot, where the now outnumbered police formed a line blocking us from further ingress. Drumming and speeches began, and the energy of the crowd built. Some of us who had been to a few actions glanced at each other with a certain gleam in our eyes — things seemed about to get exciting.
Unfortunately, the action fell prey to bad planning or communication. Though the permitted area outside the hotel was ours for a few hours, the same women who led the group onto the property led the march back to the park after less than 30 minutes on site. I’ve since been informed that other events were planned there, including more speeches and a dance party, with the hopes of inspiring further civil disobedience.
As the crowd streamed away, only 40 or so of the most radical activists remained — mostly obvious occupiers, but there was also a mother in a Guy Fawkes mask and an End the Fed t-shirt with her toddler napping in a stroller. However, the police now had the power to force us out of the parking lot and did so easily; one smirking officer grabbed me by the shoulder and pushed me back firmly. Those that remained marched around the hotel, repeatedly pushing onto the property only to be escorted back by police. We spent the last 30 minutes or so by the main entrance, chanting and harassing traffic as it entered but lacking the numbers to cause major disruption.
Had we remained at full strength at the site as long as intended, I believe more civil disobedience may have occurred. Each time we attend an action like this, we learn more about how police secure a site from free speech and develop new tactics to use in the future, and this time was no exception. We gathered for food and drinks while we waited for the bus home, and I heard many clever ideas I expect to see in action someday.
The next round of negotiations are reported to occur in early July, but the deal may be threatened:
Of even more concern, however , is the sudden questioning by the Chileans of the value of the deal as presently being constituted. Chile had been considered a slam dunk supporter. So its raising of questions is a red flag danger signal. Beyond that it seems that the Malaysians are also questioning whether any benefits they may be getting are worth the trouble of further liberalization of their domestic economy. And just to put the icing on the cake, it is becoming ever clearer that the Vietnamese, whose economy resembles that of China with large segments controlled by state owned companies, are going to have great difficulty in actually meeting the high standards being proposed.
Firedoglake user juliania spotted this interesting insider’s view of the negotiations, which shares what it was like when the meeting was disrupted. It also features a photo of some of the negotiation’s sponsors and supporters: mega-corporations like Walmart, Texas Instruments, Pfizer, AT&T & Cargill.
Anonymous has already announced negotiators should “Expect Us” at the next stage and beyond. As the Occupy movement looks toward its one year anniversary in September, one thing is clear — the powers that be can no longer expect to hold their meetings without a visit from the people, despite their best efforts.
Update: Here’s another great video of the march and rally.
Video info: Video 1: Yes Lab pranksters at TPP rally. Video 2: Mic-check by Arthur Stamoulis. Video by Kit O’Connell.