The Battle of Seattle

The Battle of Seattle

The Battle of Seattle refers to street protests organized by social movements in Seattle in 1999 to champion for an anti-globalization course (Barnett, 2011). Various social movements organized the protests to coincide with the World Health Organization biennial Ministerial Conference held in Seattle. Nonetheless, not all of the social movements participating in the protests were rallying for anti-globalization – some were against the capitalist system. Some of the protest groups employed disruption and engaged the police in street fights, a deviation from the peace protests planned by Public Citizen social movement and led by Mike Dolan (Barnett, 2011). The government reacted by declaring a curfew and outlawing the protests.

The social movement contains elements of formal organization. One of the elements is clear policies and objectives (Ferrante-Wallace, 2005). The activities of the organization follow the outlined policies and aim to accomplish the set objectives. From the case study, the policy for Public Citizen Organization was to engage in a peaceful march with the objective of opposing free trade. Formal organizations have well-defined rules and regulations that they follow (Ferrante-Wallace, 2005). The organization, in this case, has officials such as Mike Dolan who are in charge of coordinating protests. Another trait in formal organizations is that each employee is assigned a specific task. Public Citizen gave Mike Dolan the responsibility to coordinate the march (Grady & Macmillan, 1999). This indicates assigning specific responsibilities to particular individuals.

The social movement also shows traits of an informal organization. There is no deliberate creation of informal organizations, but they emerge out of the mutual interests of individuals (Ferrante-Wallace, 2005). Public Citizen comprises of members who have mutual interests, such as opposing free trade. Informal organizations do not have stability. This means that members can interact with different groups or even become part of other groups. During the march, Mike Dolan works with other groups such as Direct Action Network (DAN) and others although they have different interests and approach. In informal organizations, it ‘s hard to establish the source of information since there are no established lines of communication (Ferrante-Wallace, 2005). Lastly, there is the element of spontaneous relationship, whereby informal organizations can develop or end relationships with other organizations at any time of their will. During the march, Mike Dolan establishes relationships with various social movement groups such as DAN, Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, and others.

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Social movements can use many strategies to air their grievances. Citizen Public Organization utilized peaceful marches to rally their call for opposing free trade. Marches fall under the category of demonstrative and economic tactics. The main idea is to demonstrate the power of numbers (Barnett, 2011). When there are many demonstrators, the visibility of the group increases. This raises the chances of the group succeeding in calling for action. Other social movements utilized confrontational tactics. For instance, DAN activists used confrontational tactics by blockading the roads leading to the venue of the conference. Confrontational tactics involve causing disruptions without being violent. At noon, violent protests emerged. Violent protests include damage to property and violence against persons. Teach-ins and street theater strategies were applied. Teach-ins involve giving of lectures and speeches about a particular concern, and are action-oriented (Barnett, 2011). Street theater is the use of theatrical performance to draw attention.

Marches help in demonstrating the power of numbers. When many people participate in marches, there is a high possibility that their call to action will pass. Marches help in drawing the attention of the media as well as that of the public (Barnett, 2011). The media helps in spreading the news across the entire country. This can make the government of those concerned take action. Marches help in demonstrating the unity and strength of the people. On the downside, marches lead to loss of time and even energy (Barnett, 2011). This is because the marchers spend a lot of their time organizing and participating in the marches. The state may term marches as unlawful, hence leading to arrests of those participating. Another disadvantage is that when marches drag on for a longer time, those participating may become demoralized. The public may also get tired, and the number of those participating may fall.

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The main advantage of confrontational strategies is that they draw media attention, which helps in spreading the information across the country (Johnston, 2009). Confrontational strategies are utilized as a way of showing the citizen’s right to justice. The main disadvantage is that those involved in the march may be arrested. Confrontational marches may also become violent. Another disadvantage is that confrontational marches may significantly affect businesses, leading to losses. Violent protests help in drawing media attention. On the other hand, arrests, injuries, and damage to property are likely to occur (Johnston, 2009). Public support may wane with time due to damage to property and injuries. Teach-ins can help in drawing more people towards the course of the protesters. Teach-ins may fail to get government attention especially if those delivering speeches are not convincing (Barnett, 2011). Street theater can help draw the public’s attention towards the issue. However, they may fail to be effective if not carefully orchestrated.

The most effective strategy was the confrontational strategy. This is because it prevented delegates from reaching the venue through blockading the major intersections. Such an action would capture the media and the public’s attention. Marches were also effective. The strategy that was not effective is the violent protests. This is because it resulted in the government declaring a curfew, which means that protests could not continue. Violent protests attract heavy security presence, which disrupts the protests.


Barnett, G. A. (2011). Encyclopedia of social networks. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Ferrante-Wallace, J. (2005). Sociology: A global perspective. Belmont, Calif: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Grady, P., & Macmillan, K. (1999). Seattle and beyond: The WTO millennium round. Ottawa: Global Economics [u.a..

Johnston, H. (2009). Culture, social movements, and protest. Farnham, England: Ashgate.

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