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Battle in Seattle Breathes New Life into Protest Movement

Aired September 25, 2000 - 2:41 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Czech officials have been working to ensure this week's IMF/World Bank meetings won't result in another battle in Seattle, as you will remember. But, as CNN's Maria Hinojosa reports, last year's World Trade Organization demonstrations helped breathe new life into the protest movement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA HINOJOSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many modern day activists, the movement began in the '60s, with protests led by the defining personalities on the issues.

But today, it's hard to know who or what propels masses of people to take to the streets.

L.A. KAUFMAN, PROTEST HISTORIAN: Instead of having charismatic leader figures and single national organizations, like Students for a Democratic Society, people organize on a decentralized, much more radically democratic basis.

HINOJOSA: There continues to be confrontation, but today's activists say they don't feel the need to be well liked.

ANN NORHTROP, ACTIVIST: We have committed ourselves to doing things that are provocative to get attention to the issues, but we're not trying to win personal sympathy for us.

HINOJOSA: Demonstrators still focus on turnout as a measure of any protest's success. Yet some organizers question whether even a million is enough.

KAUFMAN: Big marches with hundreds of thousands of people no longer really impress anyone. There have been so many of them that the scale that you need is enormous to have it seem like something very special.

HINOJOSA: Since last year, when protesters and police clashed over world trade in Seattle, the protest movement seems to have a new life, and a new name: direct action.

ERIC LAURSEN, N.Y. DIRECT ACTION NETWORK: This is something that has grown out partly of the fact that people are very disenchanted with the electoral process. There is a feeling that there is a whole range of issues that simply aren't going to be addressed if you wait to go to the voting booth.

HINOJOSA: The confrontations continued in Washington, D.C., and at the political conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, even as activists began to question whether violence was obscuring the message.

NORTHROP: After Seattle, there was a real discussion of tactics and what would be most effective, and whether that kind of property destruction was the way to go.

HINOJOSA: Some protesters believe quiet, non-violent activism can be just as effective as mass arrests.

Relatives of gunshot victims display thousands of empty shoes.

ELLEN FREUDENHEIM, SILENT MARCH AGAINST GUN VIOLENCE: I don't honestly think that the great divide in the protest movement is about violent or not violent, confrontational or not confrontational, I think the great divide is about meaning.

HINOJOSA: And how activists in the future can effectively take that sense of meaning to the streets.

Maria Hinojosa, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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