The move by police came after protesters chained themselves together in an intersection near the convention center where the conference is set to take place.
The summit, which was scheduled to begin at 10:00am, has been delayed because of the protests because delegates from the group’s 135 member nations could not reach the convention center.
Anti-WTO activists had threatened a “Battle in Seattle” between protesters and police over the WTO conference. Those protesting the international trade group’s summit say the WTO’s policies are bad for labor and the environment.
According to police, several separate demonstrations have flared up in downtown Seattle. Demonstrations that blocked city intersections, police say, required intervention, but a large labor march led by the AFL-CIO several blocks away remained peaceful.
“This is not the sanctioned march,” police officer David Ellithorpe told the Associated Press, referring to the intersection protest. “These are Direct Action Network and Earthfirst and … nonaffiliated individuals… They’re doing things ranging from assault on delegates to property damage — breaking windows, popping tires, climbing on buses.”
According to wire reports, some demonstrators threw tear gas cannisters back at police and some arrests were made, but it was unclear how many had been taken into custody.
At a different intersection, protesters in sea-turtle costumes strung up thousands of feet of yellow police tape labeled “Unseen Crimes.”
Demonstrators were still blocking other intersections throughout the city, many bearing signs and shouting anti-WTO chants.
At the sanctioned AFL-CIO demonstration kickoff point at a football stadium near the Seattle Space Needle, Teamsters union President James Hoffa said his organization wanted to keep the WTO focused on human concerns.
“We’re basically putting a human face on the WTO. It has to consider human rights and worker rights along with trade,” he said.
Speaking to reporters before the clashes in Seattle, President Clinton said he sympathized with many of the issues protesters want addressed.
“I also strongly, strongly believe that we should open the process up to all those people who are there demonstrating on the outside. They ought to be a part of it,” he said.
Clinton added he thought labor and environmental interests should be given a larger consideration in trade negotiations.
Clinton is scheduled to speak to the WTO on Wednesday. White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart told reporters the president would talk with some of the groups protesting the summit, but declined to name specific organizations.
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in town for the summit, told protesters Monday the WTO “must not be distracted from their vital task — which is to make sure that this time a new round of trade negotiations really does extend the benefits of free trade to the developing world.”