When “Teamsters and Turtles” Took to the Streets: Centering ourselves in Perilous Times

Twenty-four years ago, anti-globalization coalitions of labor, environmental, nongovernmental, socialist,and anarchist groups converged on Seattle Washington to protest and disrupt the meeting of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference. The result was the largest demonstration to date of diverse groups that did not normally find themselves together on the street. Photos of environmentalists dressed in turtle costumes marching with unionists in hard hats led to the phrase “Teamsters and Turtles” and hope that the fragile coalitions could continue. The day ended, instead, in what was later termed a “police riot,” but the coalitions are still working and finding common ground, as shown with the Green New Deal.

DSA member Travis Donoho, a member of DSA’s Buddhist Circle, was with a Buddhist group and remembers both the day and the strategies for staying centered and finding common ground:

We gathered in the home of Ruby Phillips, member of Seattle’s Plum Village sangha and co-creator of this guided meditation, in the wee hours of November 30.  After meditating in a circle, each individual announced their hopes and intentions for the day, and after sharing oatmeal, we filed  down the hill to the North Seattle College campus. There we joined a stream of 50,000 demonstrators from all walks of life and from all over the world to blockade the Seattle Convention Center to stop the World Trade Organization in the name of preserving nature and global democracy. The struggle to preserve nature continues, and as we participate in environmental and antiwar movements (and make clear the links between them), the wisdom of  those who came before still rings true. We read the following paper in preparation for our time at the demonstration, and over the years I have returned to it, offering it now as a resource to those who must confront anger and divisiveness in our current work.

Creating Shared Intent for Perilous Times

Editorial Note: For a report about the issues of  the demonstration at the time, see the Fall 1999 issue of DSA’s publication Democratic Left.


Image credit: Museum of History and Industry, Seattle, WA