CHICAGO – Defying intimidating police presence, 2,500 demonstrators protested a meeting of the Trans Atlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) here, Nov. 7. The spirited rush hour march through the Downtown Loop took place just two days after the Republican takeover of the Congress and showed there will be no let-up in the fight for worker’s rights, peace and environmental justice.

“We are here to protest the attempt by transnational corporations to takeover public policy decision-making,” declared Sarita Gupta, director of Chicago Jobs with Justice and march organizer. “The TABD has enmeshed itself into our lives.”

Gupta, standing before Boeing Company’s towering headquarters, blasted the corporate mass media for creating a hysteria, suggesting protestors would lay violent siege to the meeting despite repeated statements by organizers that the protest would be peaceful. This sensationalism and massive police preparations nearly drowned out the demonstration’s anti-globalization message.

The TABD is a group established in 1995 by U.S. and European Union governments and represents 150 top transnational corporations in the U.S. and Europe. Related to the World Trade Organization, it works to integrate both economies and eliminate regulations protecting workers, consumers and the environment.

It seeks to accelerate privatize public policy decision-making and public services like gas, water and sewage. Boeing CEO Philip Condit and BAE Systems CEO Charles Masefield are co-chairs and represent two of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. The meeting included senior government officials.

The Anti-TABD Coalition, which includes Chicago Jobs with Justice, Student Labor Action Project, Illinois Peace Action, Chicago Coalition to Protect Public Housing and many trade union, peace, faith-based and community and youth organizations called the demonstration.

The Chicago Police Department was showing off their new state-of-the-art crowd surveillance and control system forcing demonstrators to march through a phalanx of police said to be twice the number of demonstrators. This included many police on horseback, large police prisoner detention buses, helicopters circling overhead and repeated attempts to provoke violence. The march became a defense of the right of free speech and assembly.

Many speakers drew the connections between the Bush administration’s right-wing agenda of eliminating funding for people’s needs and the funneling of tens of billions of dollars to a massive military build-up as it prepares for war in Iraq.

“We are here to protest the undemocratic war that Bush and Boeing want to jam down our throats,” said Andy Thayer of Chicago Committee Against War and Racism. Bush has the gall to say he’s fighting for democracy. The world rejects this war! What kind of democracy is that?”

Angela Garcia of Illinois Peace Action said that huge profits resulting from militarism are a driving force in the economy. Military sales now account for over 20 percent of Boeing’s profits and one-third of its total sales are due from foreign military sales.

“Boeing’s profits from military contracts don’t stop mass layoffs,” said Garcia. “Boeing is a builder of weapons of mass destruction. People before profits!”

“We will expose the secrets at the Sheraton (site of the meeting),” declared Michael McConnell, Midwest Region Director of American Friends Service Committee. “They are scheming behind the world’s back to roll back the rights of workers and consumers. They are committing one of the seven deadly sins – greed!”

“The TABD speaks of ‘harmonizing’ regulations [between Europe and the U.S.] they don’t like. Think of Wal-Mart being in charge of worker’s rights or Boeing deciding issues of world peace,” he said. “Instead they should harmonize with Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights for food, clothing medical care, a living wage and worker safety laws.”

Rene Maxwell, president of the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, noted that Boeing was given $64 million in tax incentives by the city to move its corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. “There are 42,000 people being displaced and another 50,000 people waiting in line for public housing yet funding is being cut.”

At the conclusion of the march another rally was held at Tribune Plaza. “We are here because Wal-Mart is participating in these dialogues,” said Moises Zavala of United Food and Commerical Workers Union, Local 881. Zavala said that workers at Wal-Mart were being fired for trying to form a union and urged solidarity. “They are discussing ways to violate workers rights. They don’t give a damn about the environment.”

A member of United Electrical Workers (UE) who has been on strike against Azteca Foods for six weeks declared, “We are here to end the abuse of workers. I have worked there eight years. People are less and less heard and more and more abused. The people united will win over the corporations!” A collection was taken for the strikers.

The demonstration included the presence of a large group of young people attending their first demonstration. Many were motivated by alarm over the outcome of the elections.

“It’s awesome to see all the people out together. It’s kind of scary after the elections with the Republicans in charge. It gives you hope to see people marching,” said Bryan Zink, a student at DuPaul University.

The author can be reached at jbachtell@pww.org

PDF version of ‘Protesters fight corporate rule’

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