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Think globally, protest locally

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The last time opponents of unfettered free trade gathered in Detroit, the protest was a bit underwhelming. Coming on the heels of massive demonstrations in Seattle and Washington, D.C., the Organization of American States meeting in Windsor last summer was expected to produce a big hullabaloo on this side of the river. Emergency ordinances were passed. Windows were boarded up. News racks were pulled from the streets. And an army of cops decked out in newly purchased riot gear occupied downtown.

All for … nothing, really. A couple hundred protesters turned out. A few speeches were made. People marched back and forth along Woodward. And everything was peaceful.

If nothing else, there should be a bigger crowd of demonstrators in Detroit on April 21 for what’s being billed as a “Hemispheric Day of Action.” In border towns across the country, people will voice their collective displeasure with the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement, which has been described as NAFTA on steroids. The protests will coincide with an FTAA meeting in Quebec City, Canada, where representatives from 34 countries in this hemisphere negotiating the pact will gather.

“There’s a lot of interest in this protest,” says Scott Heinzman, co-founder of the Metro Detroit Alliance for Democracy and one of the demonstration’s organizers.

The same sort of coalition that came together in Seattle— environmentalists, labor, student anarchists — is re-forming to battle the FTAA, observes Heinzman.

“The loss of local control that results from these trade agreements is huge,” says Heinzman. “They are anti-democratic. And nobody in the mainstream is talking about it.”

In Detroit, the action will coincide with a biennial conference sponsored by the publication Labor Notes, which means there likely will be more than 1,000 committed lefties from across the country in town, most ready to hoist a placard.

“A big focus of this year’s conference will be the new social alliances that are forming” in response to these trade agreements, says Reyes. More than 60 workshops will focus on everything from sweatshops to privatization of government services to how unions can avoid making massive concessions during the economic downturn we’re experiencing.

For more information call Labor Notes at 313-842-6262 or Heinzman at 734-462-2423. To learn more about the problems associated with NAFTA-like agreements, visit the Public Citizen Web site at www.publiccitizen.org.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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