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This Happened

This Happened—November 30: The Battle For Seattle

The sometimes violent protests against the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle is considered the birth of the No Global movement, which sought to bring attention to the harmful effects of globalization, especially on the most vulnerable.

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What was the Battle for Seattle?

The 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, sometimes dubbed the Battle For Seattle, was a series of protests surrounding the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference of 1999. The Conference was set to be the launch of a new millennial round of trade negotiations, but the clashes between demonstrators and the police and widespread destruction of private property soon took over everyone's attention.

What happened in the aftermath of the WTO protests

On November 30th, after the first day of protests when downtown streets and intersections could not be cleared and many businesses were vandalized, the Governor declared a state of emergency. The protests were publicized worldwide, and the city was criticized for mishandling the protests and for being unprepared. Months of analysis followed, exploring issues surrounding the rights of free speech and assembly, abuse by law enforcement officers, and the mistreatment of individuals taken into custody. An estimated $20 million of damages were reported by private property owners.

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Economy

Why Are Zimbabwe’s Gold Miners Risking Deadly Mercury Exposure

Mercury exposure can be deadly. So why are gold miners in Zimbabwe using the dangerous chemical — and risking their lives and the health of their communities in the process?

Photo of a group of miners digging for gold.

A group of miners searches for gold along the Odzi River.

Linda Mujuru

The young men brace for the first shock of cold water as they enter the river, easing their way into another day of illegal gold mining.

David Mauta and Wisdom Nyakurima, both 18, stand knee-deep in the Odzi River near the eastern Zimbabwe mining city of Mutare and shovel gravel onto a woven mat. They hinge their hopes on finding flakes of shiny gold. But it’s another metal whose dangers they don’t recognize that may have a more lasting impact.

Every day, they touch and breathe mercury, a silverly chemical element that carries deadly implications. The toxic liquid metal is key to their gold-mining efforts, as is the government, which purchases their gold even as officials vow to eliminate mercury’s use. The young men are unregistered artisanal miners, freelance workers who don’t have a license to operate. They sift through rocks in the river and dump beads of mercury over the sediment, which clings to gold. Then they light a match, using the flame to separate the mercury from the gold, a process that shoots toxic vapors into the air.

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