Police have been lining up outside the hotel where President Clinton is staying, keeping groups of marchers away from the building.
Clinton, who arrived in Seattle last night, will address the 3,000 delegates from 135-member and 30 observer nations today.
Officials have banned protesters from about 50 blocks surrounding the convention center where the conference is being held.
According to Seattle’s police chief, up to 200 people have been arrested today.
“Anyone who goes into that area [around the WTO summit] will be arrested immediately,” Assistant City Police Chief Ed Joiner told a press conference today.
Seattle’s mayor declared a civil emergency yesterday and ordered an early overnight curfew after protests against the WTO became violent.
The governor of Washington has also sent two unarmed National Guard units to the city to assist Seattle authorities.
Though protesters have returned to Seattle’s downtown area and groups say demonstrations will continue today, Seattle police chief Norm Stamper said those “choosing to willfully violate the state of emergency” would be dealt with “appropriately.”
Police arrested about 60 people yesterday, three of them for felony charges of assault and incite to riot. Many had participated in breaking the windows of several downtown businesses, including outlets for the corporate giants McDonald’s, The Gap and Starbucks Coffee.
Police fired canisters of tear gas to disperse the massive crowds, who had formed human chains that barred the way of many WTO delegates into the Washington State convention center.
The opening ceremonies of the four-day long trade talks were canceled because of the protests.
“Clearly in hindsight the approach we adopted yesterday did not work,” Joiner said.
Thousands of delegates, including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, were stranded in their hotel rooms or in crowds on the street yesterday. The Jordanian minister of industry and trade said it was “very sad” that he had traveled thousands of miles only to find “no organization.” Another delegate, the ambassador to the United States from the Caribbean nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines described the protests as “one of many” embarrassments for the Clinton administration.
But Mike Moore, WTO director general, insists that the trade talks will continue because the issues are too important to be ignored. Some delegates, in fact, did begin discussions yesterday with other nations via telephone.
Not all of the demonstrations–intended to voice concerns that the WTO puts profits ahead of human rights, labor safety and the environment–turned violent. About 25,000 members of the AFL-CIO and their families marched peacefully a few streets away from the convention center. A dockworkers union shut down the movement of cargo from West Coast ports in a show of solidarity.
Protests also turned violent yesterday in London, where police arrested 40 people after hundreds attacked authorities and set fire to a police van at a busy rail station. They charged four protesters with causing public disorder at the anti-WTO demonstration. Seven people — including a police officer — were injured.