Story & Photos by Nadin Abbott
July 7, 2012 (San Diego)– The mood at the Civic Center was defiant. The marchers were getting ready to take to the streets once again. They were protesting the Trans Pacific Trade Negotiations (TPP) happening at the Bayfront Hilton Hotel.
Among them was Kathy Mack-Burton, a resident of La Mesa, who told me, that she was “interested in stopping this secret negotiation that is not in the interest of the American people.” This treaty will come to a surrender of our sovereignty. Given the Finance Chapter that was leaked to Public Citizen has found arbitration will indeed move away from regular court systems, this fear is not unfounded.
She was not alone. According to Kim-Holmgrin of the Green Party, “the TPP pushes advantages away from the common person and expands corporate power. It even weakens our sovereignty.” He added that the Greens are also “really concerned about environmental and global warming,” and that the tribunals will be a violation of International Environmental treaties. He added that labor is at risk as well, with the weakening of labor standards.
Ivan Penetrante of Bayan USA, an alliance of Progressive Filipino groups in the United States, the TPP is “NAFTA on steroids.” It is a treaty “Of the global 1%,” and an imperialist agenda. It is no coincidence that the US Governemnt is pivoting it’s armed forces to the Pacific, since they will be needed to enforce this treaty. It is not just about China and containing China, but about making sure this treaty can be enforced. He later alluded to the fact that there are armed uprisings in the Philippines, just like the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas after NAFTA came to be.
According to Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign, what is needed is to “drag the TPP out of the shadows, 600 Corporate lawyers have access (to the treaty) while our representatives are denied access.”
We know that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) was denied access, when he asked for it with the Office of Trade Representative,. Senator Wyden had this to say about the trade negotiations from the floor of the Senate back in May:
“If agreed to, TPP will set the tone for our nation’s economic future for years to come, impacting the way Congress intervenes and acts on behalf of the American people it represents. It may be the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) current job to negotiate trade agreements on behalf of the United States, but Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress – not the USTR or any other member of the Executive Branch – the responsibility of regulating foreign commerce. It was our Founding Fathers’ intention to ensure that the laws and policies that govern the American people take into account the interests of all the American people, not just a privileged few.”
According to Stamoulis the fact that elected officials have been denied access, but lobbyist are free to have input, should worry all of us.
Marching through downtown
Once the march proper started, the groups formed in ranks by their different organizations. The march though downtown took an all but direct route from the Civic Center, to the Hilton Bay Front Hotel, where the negotiations are taking place.
The protesters did not go down third and C, since there is trolley construction, (The Civic Center Station is currently closed). They made their way to the Horton Plaza Shopping center, and walked through the center, to the curious looks of bystanders, chanting all the way. Some bystanders were given fliers explaining what this was about.
Then they moved out into the streets again, and moved through the gas lamp quarter at a good pace, at times blocking intersections for a good five minutes, before moving on.
At one point, the protesters, about three hundred of them, moved through traffic, to the annoyance of drivers. But it was a cheerful, full or energy and without any provocations to bystanders.
Once they reached the Convention center they marched down the street to the Bayfront where a rally was held.
Jane Kiesley, an activist that came all the way from New Zealand, spoke to the assembled company. Kiesley started her statements by reminding people that indeed, “you know about NAFTA. TPP is for the most part a license for U.S. Companies to plunder our country.”
The “is a bill of rights for foreign companies. They got a right to sue in secret off shore tribunals.” She told the audience how Phillip Morris is doing precisely this right now, since both New Zealand and Australia have started using clear labels in cigarettes. These lawsuits will lead to a “chilling effects if governments don’t do what corporations want.”
Kiesley also said that Mexico and Canada have signed on to the negations without checking the fine print. Some of these statements were followed by the screams of “SHAME” from the crowd.
She reminded people that there is a lot of resistance in all TPP countries, telling them that this is an attempt to take the power of the people away, and people will not stand for it.
Brother Hex from Occupy San Diego reminded people that nine months ago people came together, people who before this would never give the time of day to each other. He added, “oppression lets the global corporations stay on the driver seat.”
Hex spoke on how humans realize what is at stake, but corporations do not. “A corporation fueled by capital can never understand these things.” This is now a race between corporations and popular uprisings. This (The TPP) needs to be stopped in it’s tracks.
He reminded the people that there is no more powerful a weapon than apathy. This is also driving people into a new form of slavery. He ended with a poignant line, as he is not experienced in organizing people. “I can see bullshit when I see it.” There is now global dissent and it is “time to rise…the time to be polite is over, they’re not listening.”
Enrique de la Cruz of the Colectivo Zapatista told the crowd that it is time to stop being nice. “Just call this what it is, Capitalism.”
We need to continue the struggle, what we are fighting for. “We need to fight locally and link up with people around the world.” There is a great need to build bridges among communities. It is at the community level where we know what the needs are. He ended with a common chant in Mexico, “Zapata vive, la lucha vive.”
It must be noted that the people present came from Labor, family farmers, Occupy San Diego, Women Occupy San Diego, and other progressive groups. This is no longer just an Occupy thing, as some may believe. Bridges are now built, and getting stronger.